If you’re a fan of the Princess Diaries movie (and really, is there a higher form of perfection?), you’re probably thinking “wait, wasn’t it set in San Francisco?” It was! But fans of the book series know that all TEN of Meg Cabot’s books were actually set in New York City.
I love books (and movies) with a strong sense of place and Cabot makes good use of the city’s backdrop by using a ton of real life locations around NYC.
So I scoured the books and pulled together a pretty comprehensive list of places from the books. Now some of these spots were pivotal to events in the book, and some were just mentioned in passing.
Princess Diaries in NYC
On my latest trip to NYC, I did a little Princess Diaries tour to some of the big spots around the city so if you’re a fan, follow along and maybe you’ll even pick up some inspiration for your own tour of Mia Thermopolis’ New York City…
In the books, Mia and her mother (Helen Thermopolis) live in Greenwich Village in an “artist loft.” The area has long been known as a bohemian hub and it still has that vibe today. The books don’t mention the exact location of Mia and Helen’s loft, but it’s easy to imagine it as you wander the neighborhood.
Also, don’t miss Washington Square Park! The scene of an early episode of Lilly Tells It Like It Is where they filmed a Blair Witch Project spoof making fun of the tourists who call it “Green Witch Park.” The area is also the scene of the (as far as I can tell fictional) Village Cinema where the whole gang dressed up for a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show on Halloween in the second book.
The Plaza Hotel
The Plaza Hotel is probably the most central real life location in the entire book series. It’s where Mia’s “Grandmere”, the Dowager Queen of Genovia, and her father Prince Philippe (yes, he’s actually alive in the book series) live when they’re in NYC.
Mia’s father revealed to her that she was a princess over tea in the Palm Court (stunning!) and then she promptly locked herself in the ladies’ room to write in her journal.
Grandmere planned a lavish affair for Helen and Mr. G’s wedding in the White and Gold Room at the Plaza (before they eloped and skipped town).
And it’s where Mia attended princess lessons every day after school.
The Plaza hotel sits right on the corner of Central Park and it’s such an icon. At high traffic times during the day, sometimes there’s a doorman posted to discourage looky lous.
My mom and I booked afternoon tea at the Palm Court for a fun treat. It’s not cheap ($385 for two including tip), but you wouldn’t expect it to be. It was such a fun time, and pretty much the whole place seemed to be filled with other groups having “once in a lifetime” experiences.
The Penguin House at the Central Park Zoo
After shockingly finding out that she is in fact a princess, Mia runs away from the Plaza Hotel and goes to the Central Park Zoo where she hides in the penguin house trying to process the news.
It’s a quaint little zoo with the penguins and the sea lions being the show stoppers. But I’m partial to the snow leopard and the red panda.
Albert Einstein High School
The private school Mia and her friends attend is on the Upper East Side (quite the commute from Greenwich Village) at 75th & Madison. While Albert Einstein High School (AEHS) is a fictional school, the Hewitt School (a private K-12 girls school) is actually located on that block as well as the Frick Museum.
Beauty and the Beast on Broadway
Mia’s favorite Broadway show, she mentions it quite often and she went to a performance with JP (blech) right after Michael left for Japan (so questionable Mia!).
Beauty and the Beast is no longer of Broadway, but there are sooooo many other shows to choose from if you want to see one when you’re in town.
The lights and sounds around Times Square are really something else.
Shopping on 5th Avenue
Whether it’s Bergdorf Goodman with Grandmere or (the now closed) Henri Bendel with Lana and Trisha, even though she hates shopping, Mia has been known to frequent some pretty noteworthy spots on 5th avenue.
So many scenes from the books happen in or around Central Park, which really isn’t surprising given the location of Mia’s school and the Plaza Hotel.
Some specific spots: running around the Reservoir in gym class, graduation at Sheep Meadow, lunch with Michael at the Boathouse when he came back from Japan followed by that scandalous horse and carriage ride, and post graduation lunch at Tavern on the Green.
Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
The whole gang went ice skating at Rockefeller Center in the third book. Mia had a pretty awful time…she fell over Kenny and slit her tongue and then thought Michael and Judith were a couple. Yikes.
But if you’re in NYC during the holiday season, it’s pretty magical. And if you’re there during warmer months, you can roller skate!
Empire State Building
After Grandmere’s poodle Rommel causes a disturbance at Mia’s birthday dinner at Les Hautes Manger and Jangbu the busboy gets fired, it led to a citywide busboy strike and the prom was inadvertently canceled.
But Grandmere came through by snagging the Empire State Building at the last minute and Mia convinced Michael to go by getting his band a slot to perform.
Now, I can’t imagine going to a prom at the top of the Empire State Building, but it must’ve been pretty magical because the ESB at night is pretty dang magical.
After graduation from AEHS, Michael moves uptown to Columbia University where his dorm is in Engle Hall.
Hotels Fit for a Princess
The Plaza is the mainstay, but when it underwent part of the hotel underwent it’s famous conversion to private residences, the Queen had to briefly endure a series of horrendous stays at around luxury hotels in Manhattan like the W Hotel and the Ritz Carlton ; )
The SoHo Grand is also where Philippe paid to put up Helen’s parents (Mawmaw and Pawpaw Thermopolis and Mia’s cousin Hank when they came to visit).
And the Waldorf Astoria was the location of Mia’s Senior Prom.
Fictional Places from the Books
Ho’s Deli: The bodega across from AEHS school is often reference (especially in the first book where Lilly tries to organize a boycott) but appears to be fictional. But don’t worry, if you want the bodega experience, there’s one on practically every corner.
Paolo’s International House of Hair: Paolo from the books isn’t quite as exciting as Paolo from the movie, but nevertheless he was responsible for Mia’s transformation.
Other Places Mentioned Briefly
(Mostly in Order of Appearance)
D’agostinos: Family owned specialty grocery store chain.
Bigelows: Pharmacy located near AEHS.
Jefferson Market: Gourmet grocery store in business since 1929 (now closed).
Gristedes: Supermarket chain
Monte’s: The spot where Mia’s mother Helen and Mr. G (her Algebra teacher) go on their first date.
Hard Rock Cafe: The scene of Josh & Lana’s breakup after everyone finds out Mia is a princess and Josh wants to take her to the big dance.
Nobu: Mia’s dad offers to send his limo driver to Nobu to get Mia some blacked sea bass when she finally comes home after she ran away from the Plaza.
Balducci’s: Grocery store where the Moscovitzes’ housekeeper gets Mia vegetable lasagna
Big Wong Dumplings: They order takeout from here for lunch at school.
Four Seasons Restaurant: Grandmere tips off the press about Mia before they have dinner here.
Emerald Planet: Mia likes the veggie wraps here.
St Vincent’s Maternity Ward: Where Mia’s little brother Rocky is born.
Great Shanghai Dim Sum in Chinatown: A spot where Mia, Kenny, Lilly and Boris go before finals.
Manhattan Muffin Company: Michael brings Mia cinnamon mini muffins for her birthday.
Wu Liang Ye: They order cold sesame noodles takeout for Mia’s birthday lunch at school.
Ray‘s Pizza: Mia goes with Lilly after a soccer game in Central Park.
Cafe 212: Dinner with Michael.
Number One Noodle San: Where Michael tells Mia he’s moving to Japan.
Corner Bistro: For burgers in West Village.
Magnolia Bakery: From Lazy Sunday on SNL
Lunch at Nobu 57
Blue Ribbon Sushi with JP
Pinkberry and Nobu with Lana and Trish
Caffe Dante for coffee with Michael when he comes back from Japan
Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa to prep for prom
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