July 2, 2012

The Great Muppet Road Trip, part 1: New York City

Filed under: Feature — Tags: — Joe Hennes @ 10:29 am

Part 1: New York CityPart 2: Middle AmericaPart 3: Los Angeles

For all you Yanks out there, it’s Fourth of July week!  (For everyone outside the states, I guess it’s October 12th or something.)  In celebration of everyone else’s celebration of our country’s birthday, we’re celebrating the same way the Muppets would: With a road trip!  Didn’t you see their first movie?

But it’s not just any road trip!  There are lots and lots (and lots and lots) of Muppet displays, attractions, filming locations, and otherwise awesome stuff to see all across the United States.  We want to catalog it all, giving you the almost-complete guide to seeing everything Muppet related for your next vacation.

To tackle this epic task, we’re putting together a dream team of writers to cover the entire nation.  New York City resident Joe Hennes (that’s me!) will be gassing up the car and starting us off in The Big Apple.  Chicago native and brilliant artist Ivan Guerrero will be taking care of Middle America, and our West Coast Correspondent Matt Wilkie will be taking you on the scenic route of Los Angeles.

So, pile in your multicolored buses, Sloppy Jalopies, or frog-sized bicycles and let’s hit the road!


View Muppet Walking Tour of NYC in a larger map

Kaufman-Astoria Studios
Location: 34-12 36th Street, Astoria, NY 11106

What better starting point for our road trip than Sesame Street?  And we can finally tell you how to get there.  Just head over to Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens and see the building where Sesame Street is filmed.  Unfortunately, it’s impossible to actually see that familiar stoop and cul-de-sac, but it may be enough to know you’re in the vicinity.  (Don’t worry, this is the only location on the list you won’t be able to visit.  It just didn’t seem right ignoring such an important piece of Muppet history, especially when it’s in our own backyard.)


Museum of the Moving Image
Location: 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106
Travel Time: 1 minute (walking)

Just a block away from Kaufman-Astoria is the Museum of the Moving Image, where the Jim Henson’s Fantastic World exhibit was recently housed.  While you can’t see Rowlf and Piggy and Jim’s artwork on display anymore, there are still two pieces worth checking out.  Just inside the entryway, next to the gift shop, is a Muppet version of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, which was performed by Dave Goelz at the exhibit’s debut night.  Upstairs, you can find a miniature model of the locker scene from Muppets Take Manhattan, with tiny Muppets in the front and crouching Muppeteers in the back.  And as you can tell, nobody has room for Janice’s jacuzzi.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Location: 6 East 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028
Travel Time: 32 minutes (via subway)

Although you weren’t able to see the set of Sesame Street, you can see where the classic Sesame special, “Don’t Eat the Pictures” was filmed!  Many of the pieces in the video are still on display at the Met too.  The best part is if you manage to stick around after hours, you might even get to meet the Egyptian Prince Sahu!  Don’t worry, it’s actually pretty easy to stay in the museum overnight.  There’s only one security guard for the whole building, and he’s portrayed by a rotund, mustachioed Paul Dooley.

Central Park
Location: Come on, it’s the big green thing in the middle of Manhattan
Travel Time: 0 minutes

The Muppets have a long history with Central Park.  It’s served as a set for certain episodes of Sesame Street and it’s where Miss Piggy’s purse got stolen in Muppets Take Manhattan.  But there are some, uh, more specific things worth seeing there too, like the rustic Belvedere Castle, which served as the model for The Count’s castle.  But the coolest thing to see is most definitely a bench.  No really.  On the east side of Central Park’s Literary Walk (which runs from 66th St. to 72nd St.), you can find a bench dedicated to Jim Henson, and right next to it a bench dedicated to Jon Stone.  Both men were very fond of that part of Central Park, so it seems appropriate that they find a little immortality there in the form of a small nameplate.

Henson Townhouse
Location: 117 East 69th Street, New York, NY 10065
Travel Time: 5 minutes (walking)

This might be the most iconic New York City landmark for any Muppet fanatic.  I’m sure we’ve all pored over the photos of Jim in front of the Muppet mural, the Hot Air Balloon sculpture over the spiral staircase, the Muppet Workshop in the basement, the Ernie and Bert stained glass window.  Unfortunately, the building has been empty for a few years now, and is devoid of any trace of Muppetiness.  But it may still be worth a looksee.  On my last visit to the Townhouse, I took a peek through the mail slot and got a great view of the lobby, including the spiral staircase and window to the back yard.  It may not be much anymore, but it still stands as a quasi-Mecca for us Muppet fans.

Flipper Prints
Location: 201 East 67th Street, New York, NY 10065
Travel Time: 5 minutes (walking)

The Jim Henson Company headquarters weren’t always at the Townhouse (see: two inches above this paragraph).  For a while, they were at 201 East 67th Street, which is now home to a gym.  Again, you won’t find anything Muppety inside, but if you go, stop at the front door and look down.  You’ll see two familiar flipper prints right in front of the entrance, put there by Jim to stand as a reminder of the historical work that once went on in those walls.  Or you can pretend that Kermit got a little stuck in the threshold before the cement dried.

FAO Schwarz
Location: 767 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10022
Travel Time: 11 minutes (via subway)

We talked up FAO Schwarz’s Whatnot Workshop a lot back when it first debuted, but we’re happy to see that it’s still there in all its Muppety glory.  Stop by and you’ll see the Muppet-themed facade, a few shelves of merchandise, and a looping video of Kermit and company hanging around the toy store.  Oh, and you can make your very own Muppet Whatnot.  Not a bad deal, really.

Bergdorf Goodman
Location: 754 West 58th Street, New York, NY 10019
Travel Time: 1 minute (walking)

I’ve never been to Bergdorf Goodman, so I’m just gonna assume that you can buy some “Quelle Difference” (to get you one of those rotten stinkin’ men) from a lady pig wearing way too much makeup.

The Paley Center for Media
Location: 25 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019
Travel Time: 8 minutes (walking)

Over at the Paley Center (formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio), you can watch any TV show or special in their archives.  That means stuff like The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, John Denver and the Muppets’ A Christmas Together, Muppet appearances on early episodes of The Tonight Show, and literally hundreds of hours more.  Sure, it seems like a waste to stay indoors and watch TV when you’re in the Big City, but it’s totally worth it if there’s that one Muppet special you’ve always wanted to see, but never had the chance.

Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
Location: 301 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022
Travel Time: 9 minutes (walking)

You may think that Statler and Waldorf were named after New York City hotels, but that’s just a myth.  Those guys are so old, the hotels are named after them!  Stop by the Waldorf-Astoria to see the namesakes of Waldorf and his wife, and visit the Hotel Pennsylvania if you want to see what used to be known as the Statler Hotel.  And if you want to see something else named after an old man Muppet, go see the New York Pops.

NBC Pipes at 30 Rock
Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020
Travel Time: 6 minutes (walking)

Who knew that a little paint on some hidden pipes in a closet would ever become such a phenomenon?  The NBC Pipes have a long history, not just because they’ve been around since 1964, but because they’ve been shown in interviews with Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Kermit the Frog, Walter, Gene Shallit, etc etc etc over the years.  And now they’re a permanent part of the NBC tour, so you can see them in the flesh (or metal or whatever) yourself!

Disney Store
Location: 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
Travel Time: 9 minutes (walking)

Before the Whatnot Workshop at FAO Schwarz, The Disney Store used to be the main destination for finding Muppet merch in New York.  The bummer is that they rarely had anything worthwhile, aside from a few goofy-looking plush and overpriced pins.  When it was still at its 5th Avenue location, they had the Hot Air Balloon art installation from the Henson Townhouse on display, but that didn’t make the movie to the new Times Square store.  When The Muppets premiered in theaters, the new store had the giant “M” display, as seen above, and now it can proudly be known as the place to go for any and all Muppet merchandise once again.  I mean, besides the internet.

Sardi’s
Location: 234 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036
Travel Time: 3 minutes (walking)

One of these days, I’m going to enjoy a nice, fancy meal at Sardi’s and start a whispering campaign.  Actually, I’ll more likely go to Sardi’s to check out the Kermit the Frog painting, which temporarily replaced Liza Minelli’s caricature in Muppets Take Manhattan, and now resides next to the bathrooms, because why not.

Empire State Building
Location: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118
Travel Time: 12 minutes (via subway)

No trip to New York City is complete without a midnight trip to the top of the Empire State Building to shout, “You hear me New York? The frog is staying!”

Everything, Everywhere
Location: See above
Travel Time: Don’t patronize me

The Muppets are the new official ambassadors to Family Fun in NYC, so no matter what you do in the city, it’s bound to be approved by one of them.  Click here to get travel tips like shopping spots from Miss Piggy, concert series from Dr. Teeth, historical landmarks from Sam the Eagle, and much much more.

For example, check out the Muppets having fun in the city in this MasterCard commercial from 2002:

Stay tuned for part two of our Great Muppet Road trip as we leave New York and start the long drive to Hollywood to get that Standard Rich and Famous Contract!

Click here to start spreadin’ the news on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com



Powered by WordPress