Whether they have chosen to make their home in New York City or are just visiting for a few days, the Big Apple is a popular hangout among all generations of celebrities. There are endless opportunities for food and entertainment and, let’s face it, most of them have the money to do everything we can only dream of doing (also, nobody is making Beyonce wait in a line for anything - a luxury we will never know).
While there are still some sacred places where celebs can hide from adoring fans and paparazzi, it is very common to see a photog camped outside a hotel or restaurant trying to get a glimpse of the latest film star (and his or her plate, as well as his or her date). Some of the best sightings are of our favorite Hollywood stars out doing very regular things like working out or shopping. You might even catch an actress or two taking public transit.
If you’re really in the mood to spot a celeb, hit up one of these twenty Manhattan hot spots. You may not get the selfie and autograph you want, but you will forever be able to tell the story about how you were folding your socks next to Jake Gyllenhaal at the laundromat. Okay, that might not happen. But, you might run into Liv Tyler and her family in the West Village or Karlie Kloss out on a jog.
20 Rao's: An Exclusive Harlem Dining Experience
According to Vanity Fair, Rao’s is widely considered the hardest establishment to dine at in the entire country. With only a handful of tables for the last one hundred years, it’s easy to see why the reservations are slim.
To be offered a spot at Rao’s is the quintessential “know someone who knows someone who knows someone” story. The original eighty-five or so customers, most of whom were involved in show business, became co-owners in the restaurant and over time their tables have been passed down to family and friends. These individuals can show up as often or as little as they like, but they always have a table reserved. They also have the option to share the love with others, which is how celebs like Bo Dietl, Keith Richards, Celine Dion, and Jay Z have dined family-style at this exclusive spot.
19 Tribeca Film Festival: Roll Out The Red Carpet For A Movie Premiere
The Tribeca Film Festival takes over lower Manhattan every April for nearly two weeks of classic films, first-time premieres, and panel discussions. It’s a movie-lover’s dream and, with individual screening tickets selling for as low as twenty dollars, an affordable one.
A high-priced gala or private screening ticket will give you the most access to celebs, but there’s a good chance you can catch some of your favorites having their red carpet moment for movies they have directed or been cast in at any point during the festival. They might even be having a regular night out, just like you.
18 The Carlyle: A Classic New York Hotel
Not only is The Carlyle on Manhattan’s Upper East Side lauded for its accommodations (according to Vogue, it’s a favorite hotel for celebs during the Met Gala and the suites have baby grand pianos), it is also home to Bemelmans Bar.
Bemelmans offers patrons a trip back in time to its origination in 1930. To be a fly on those distinctly muraled walls is to have heard the music of some of the greatest musicians of all time and the conversations of some of the most well-known world dignitaries.
This little gem is open to the public which means your small table in a dimly lit corner could be situated next to Tom Hanks (his wife, Rita, has sang there).
17 Madison Square Garden: Fame Takes Over Front Row At Sporting Events
Even if you are in the very last row of seats (rendering the players the size of ants), you can still have a celebrity encounter at Madison Square Garden. For every sporting event, especially when the New York Knicks are playing, camera operators zoom in on “celebrity row”. Celebs sitting courtside give a little wave that is shown on the big screen.
Sting, Hailey Baldwin, John Oliver, Chris Noth (“Mr. Big” from Sex and the City), and the entire cast of Saturday Night Live are all big basketball fans. Bring a handmade sign for the home team...or for your favorite actor. Nothing is off the table in the concrete jungle.
16 The Bowery Hotel: Evening Cocktails In The Lobby
Walk past the Bowery Hotel in the East Village on any given day and the paparazzi will be crouched down near the bushes with their cameras at the ready. Situated in a once dodgy but now boutique neighborhood, the Bowery Hotel offers guests old world elegance with new world amenities.
Those that can afford it (ahem, celebrities) can aim for the penthouse which comes with floor to ceiling windows that point directly at the Empire State Building and a private outdoor terrace. Inside at the Lobby Bar, crushed velvet couches and ornate rugs invite you to sit down. Anyone utilizing the main entrance will have to pass through, so it’s a great space to occupy with a drink while you wait to see that day’s celebrity guest.
15 Central Park Reservoir: Where The Famous Go To Exercise
If you would rather try to spot a celeb outdoors and the price of “free” is speaking to you, head over to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (more commonly known as the Central Park Reservoir).
The reservoir consists of a large body of water surrounded by a 1.5 mile circular dirt path that is used for running, jogging, and dog walking. Its stellar views of the Manhattan skyline, including the double-spired Dakota (the former apartment building of John Lennon), make it one of the best routes in the city for a little exercise. Celebrities mix with locals and tourists here daily, but especially during training in the lead up to the New York City Marathon. Kevin Hart, Tiki Barber, Karlie Kloss, and Prince Royce all ran in the 2017 installment.
14 21 Club: Dinner With A Side Of Star Sightings
Half of living in New York City is just acting like you know what you’re doing. This is exactly how to see and be seen at 21 Club. 21 is a restaurant and speakeasy born out of the prohibition era that houses an original Remington painting that you need to pretend you’re not surprised by or else it will look like it’s your first time (and nobody wants to admit it’s their first time at 21).
The toys and trinkets hanging from the ceiling have all been gifted by guests. Contributors include Salvatore Ferragamo, Willie Mays, and Bill Clinton. John McEnroe even handed over one of his used (and very broken) tennis rackets. Below ground, Elizabeth Taylor stored her private collection of wine, according to Thrillist.
13 Rainbow Room: A Celeb-Worthy View
Unless it is booked out for a private event (Jim Parsons recently reserved the entire venue for his wedding), you can visit the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center for drinks, dining, entertainment, or daydreaming. The outdoor terrace is the perfect setting to watch the city transition from day to night.
The iconic venue sits atop the city on the 65th floor and plays host to Live! From The Rainbow Room, an intimate concert setting featuring some of today’s best performers. You’ll have to dip into the piggy bank to get a ticket to Live! but come any other day to feel like a celebrity (and maybe even see one).
12 The Polo Bar: Pull Up A Seat With The Paparazzi
In 2015, Ralph Lauren opened a low-key yet sophisticated midtown restaurant for fans of his designs, the sport of polo (oil paintings of horses and jockeys abound), and classic US food. This joined his other dining-centric options in Chicago and Paris. From its grand opening to present day, the Polo Bar has been a meeting place for celebs like Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Chris Hemsworth.
You will need to plan fairly far in advance if you want to eat while you are there (reservations for tables are booked out for every reasonable time slot on every upcoming weekend) or you can just slide up to the bar and hope for the best.
11 Fashion Week: Book Your Ticket To The Runway
New York City is basically one large fashion show and it’s hard to keep up. Men and women casually walk around with the latest designer trends, which seem to change every day.
It can feel like you’re constantly front and center on the runway in NYC, but the real runway (lined with celebrities) comes during Fashion Week. Each fall, designers like Tom Ford, Christian Siriano, and Michael Kors flock to the city to display their most recent work.
You don’t even have to know someone just to get in the door as many of the shows sell tickets to the public, including some that have a charity fundraising component. This means you can feel good about your hunt for celebs.
10 Delmonico's: Nearly Two Hundred Years Of Reservations
Serving a delicious cut of meat is their priority, but catering to the famous is their specialty.
Delmonico’s opened in 1837 as the first fine dining restaurant in the country. With its tall columns, oil paintings, and gilded ceilings, it could easily be mistaken for a museum or art gallery from the outside or inside. That is, until the signature dishes begin emerging from the kitchen to silent applause from the Wall Street crowd.
With enough space to comfortably host parties, Delmonico’s is admired by celebrities. The chef will even throw in a free picture or two after your steak is served, as Bryan Cranston learned at his birthday party.
9 Ear Inn: Serving Drinks To Notable Guests In A Historic Location
You might not have heard about the Ear Inn before now, but consider it your new go-to.
Despite its peculiar name (it has nothing to do with ears, aside from your ability to hear live music there), Ear Inn has been thriving on Spring Street for hundreds of years. It is frequently referred to as one of the oldest bars in Manhattan still in operation, an accolade for watering holes that is hard to come by.
The lunchtime crowd is quiet and consists mainly of neighborhood locals or employees looking for a quick bite, but by night the nautical-themed space is nearly bursting. The sailor vibe suits Jude Law, according to In Style. He is often spotted there with a pint.
8 Soul Cycle: Tap It Back Next To Hollywood Elite
The camaraderie and calorie-burning power of Soul Cycle has turned stationary cycling into the fitness class of the decade. Each spin session is led by motivational instructors with awesome music playlists in a candlelit room. You’re guaranteed to feel uplifted and at least a little tired after. It is addicting for just about anyone that tries it, including some people that we usually only see on the big screen.
At $40 or so per class you probably want to focus on yourself and what you’re getting out of the instruction, but that doesn’t mean you can’t peak around the room to see who else is there. Taraji Henson, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman, and many others swear by Soul Cycle and regularly attend, according to Shape.
7 1 Oak: The Nightclub Where Everybody Is Somebody
The owners of 1 Oak didn’t want a place where celebrities could gather exclusively, they wanted a sophisticated and warm place for their friends (who happen to be celebrities) to hang out. These friends include Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd.
Located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, 1 Oak is a celebrity go-to for award show after parties and has the social media following to prove it. The rest of us can get in, too, if we can manage to get past the bouncer. The advice from owners Richie Akiva and Ronnie Madra is to keep trying. We can only assume the reward is worth the hassle.
6 The Spotted Pig: A Restaurant With A Reputation
The Spotted Pig is as British as they come, including in its preferred moniker as a “gastropub” rather than a restaurant. The 100-seat dining room and bar serves people on a walk-in only basis, but we imagine there are some exceptions.
Nearly every Yelp reviewer has commented on the delectability of the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi, but The Spotted Pig menu also boasts tasty fried treats like shoestring fries and lots of bacon. And because celebs love fried foods just as much as we do (secretly or not so secretly), this West Village staple is highly regarded within celebrity circles.
5 Bergdorf Goodman: A Favorite Shopping Destination
If we need to buy an extra shirt we’re probably not thinking Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue as our first stop, which is exactly why it’s the perfect place for celebrities to do their shopping.
The opulence of the luxury goods available at this department store has long attracted those looking to spend a little extra on designer fashions (or check on the sales of their own fashions, like in the case of Victoria Beckham).
Pro tip: saunter past to try to spot some celebrities out for a day of shopping during the month of December. The holiday window displays will be up so you look less conspicuous as you stare.
4 Bar Pitti: Ladies Who Lunch
On the weekends, Bar Pitti will be crawling with New Yorkers trying to secure one of the last remaining no-reservation-tables for the end of brunch service. However, weekdays are the perfect time to snag a sunny outdoor seat for lunch and enjoy authentic Italian dishes (specifically the veal meatballs) while people-watching.
Instead of staring at the surrounding Greenwich Village sidewalk, turn your gaze inward and take a look at the other diners. You might spot Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez, or Michelle Trachtenberg. Models Alessandra Ambrosio and Heidi Klum have also been seen there with their gal pals.
3 Streets Of The West Village: Take A Stroll Through A Star-Studded Neighborhood
With its tree-lined, cobblestone streets winding in front of quaint shops and restaurants, there’s a lot to love about the West Village. This is probably why celebs are willing to pay the high prices to live there, though the amazing views of the Hudson River probably don’t hurt, either.
Taking a stroll through the Village might lead you past the homes of Claire Danes, Liv Tyler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Hugh Jackman. Taylor Swift has a place in nearby celeb-heavy Tribeca (at 443 Greenwich Street, to be specific, which is also where Justin Timberlake lives), but is often seen in the West Village.
2 New York City Subway: Getting Around Isn't Always Glamorous
There’s no getting around Manhattan traffic no matter who you are, so sometimes it’s just fastest to give in and swipe your Metro card for a slightly steamy, slightly crowded ride on the subway.
According to AM New York, Fergie was caught in a rainstorm and hopped aboard the 2 train to dry off on her way down to Wall Street. In a surprising turn of events, fans started singing “Glamorous” and Fergie joined in.
AM New York has also captured Kevin Bacon (barely recognizable in a hat and sunglasses), Nick Offerman (staring down intently at an e-reader), and Katie Holmes all riding the subway.
1 Strand Bookstore: A Literary Haven
In addition to the rare book room and over eighteen miles of books, there are many other reasons to visit Strand (New Yorkers don’t have time with all the fast talking to add “bookstore” to the end, but everyone knows what they mean).
One such reason is that authors and musicians are often there to promote their recent writings and albums. The likes of Patti Smith, David Sedaris, Salman Rushdie, and even Grace Coddington (of Vogue fame) have stepped into the multi-storied building. One very memorable (albeit confusing for employees, according to Bedford and Bowery) experience was Russell Brand performing an unscheduled reading from his book, Revolution.