XOXO: The Gossip Girl Experience

As I say at work when I’m being professional: For the sake of transparency, you should know that I spent waaaaaaay more time going down a blackhole of Gossip Girl gifs for this post than I did actually writing it. So if this is 99% pictures, 1% actual words that make you laugh, blame Blair Waldorf’s majestic eye rolls.

Blair Waldorf eye roll

So… Hi. Like any female who was under 50 in the late 2000’s, I LOVE Gossip Girl. Like, love love Gossip Girl. The same way that so many of us love Gilmore Girls and O-Town. (Side note: I just realized how… bizarre and perhaps icky the name “O-Town” is for a band. So I Wikipedia’d it to see it’s etymology, and I was NOT disappointed: “The band was named after Orlando, Florida, despite the fact that none of the band members came from the city.” Sure.)

Anyway, back to the point… When I was planning a trip to New York City earlier this year – and sadly, not staying at the Four Seasons – I jumped at the opportunity to experience Manhattan as only Chuck Bass, New York’s hottest hotel heir, and the rest of the Core Four could.

The Empire Hotel

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 6.56.18 PM

Recall if you will, when Chuck Bass decided he was going to strike out on his own and buy his own hotel in season three. Much like we all did at age 17.

Empire Hotel front

The Empire served as a major setting for the rest of Gossip Girl‘s run, with Chuck Bass living there most of four seasons.

As an experienced TV watcher, I just kind of assumed that The Empire was a cool fake name assigned to a random hotel in New York that they hung Empire signs in front of while filming, and all the internal scenes were shot on a stage.

… Not so much. The Empire Hotel is definitely a real place, and all of the scenes that take place in the lobby or bar of Chuck’s hotel were shot right there in the real lobby.

Gossip Girl filming
I believe this scene was filmed right around the time they had that ridiculous “Chuck sold Blair to Uncle Jack” storyline.

The lobby of The Empire looks exactly the same now as it did on the show. Same dark colors, same gold and brown mix, same animal print pillows and chairs. During my visit I made it a point to just hang out in the lobby just to get the full Blair Waldorf effect, and I definitely sat exactly where that dude wearing flip flops in the above picture is sitting. (Also… Flip flops, dude? Really?)

I don’t think I really realized just how clear the details of this hotel were ingrained in my brain from my repeated viewings of GG, because I keep getting excited over the smallest things.

Empire entranceEmpire rug

The Empire has fully embraced their small screen fame, by the way. Apparently they used to have a full Gossip Girl inspired bar menu, but in the years since the show ended they’ve only retained one key drink, the Chuck Bass.

Empire Hotel GG menu
The original Gossip Girl-inspired bar menu

It’s worth noting that the current Chuck Bass on the menu is what used to be named the “S” on this original menu, so I guess that was the most popular drink.

Also worth noting is the fact that Nate Bait is exactly the perfect drink for that character – the name, the ingredients, everything.

Nate smile gif
Oh honey, you are so Bacardi Coconut Rum with pineapple juice

Besides the ~moody~ lobby and the bar chock full of drinks inspired by scheming teenagers, the most Gossip Girl part of the entire hotel is the rooftop with the iconic HOTEL EMPIRE red sign.

GG Empire rooftop

They’ve turned this rooftop area into a bar / event space that gives you this exact beautiful view of Lincoln Center and the Upper West Side.

On the left: a scene from GG, on the right: same view, taken by me, featuring a version of Nate Bait.

Upper West Side
I can’t tell if this is Lily or that rando European gf Chuck had when he faked amnesia.

Drink at the Empire Hotel

Empire Rooftop
When you visit The Empire, whether you’re staying there or not, there’s an elevator right at the front entrance – you don’t even have to enter the building – that takes you straight up to the rooftop. There, you can enjoy the amazing view, toast to the brilliance of Blair Waldorf, mourn the demise of Little J, and take super dramatic black and white pictures.

Empire sign BW.JPG

So, that’s life in the world of Chuck Bass. Just under a mile and a half away is his father Bart Bass’ hotel, where much of the action in the earlier seasons (particularly the first season) takes place…

THE PALACE

The Palace

Great news! Just like The Empire, The Palace is also a real place. It’s full name is the “Lotte New York Palace,” so there you go.

I was really excited to go to The Palace, the setting of so many fistfights, drunken mistakes, and weddings. (How many weddings did we witness in 6 seasons, btw? Every girl was married at least twice.)

Palace up close

I was unprepared for how excited simply walking through the front gates would make me. Previous to this trip, I hadn’t really sat down and watched Gossip Girl in several years, and just seeing this arch instantly brought to mind MULTIPLE scenes from the show.

Not content to simply stand outside The Palace, I ventured inside in hopes of finding the bar where Serena drowned her sorrows in the pilot, or the restaurant where they had The Wild Brunch. But it became very clear shortly after entering that a girl wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans, sweaty from walking all around the city (and a brief detour through Central Park where I proclaimed every single time I walked under a bridge, “This is where Chuck and Nate smoked in the pilot!”) was not perhaps dressed for the occasion.

Disappointed but accepting of my fate, I figured the next best thing would be to go eat yogurt on the steps of the Met and make witty but biting critiques of all the people sitting around me.

You know you love me… XOXO, Gossip Girl

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