You're Most Likely To Spot A Celebrity At These New York Gems

Everyone likes spotting a celeb, especially when visiting New York. Even if the encounter was more of a quick glimpse across a crowded street, that's often enough to provide cred at your next dinner party. Want to lock in a celeb encounter during your Big Apple visit? While I can't promise you'll set eyes on Taylor Swift, I can recommend a few New York gems where you're most likely to spot a celebrity. While many stars flock to chic eateries, high-end shops, and glitzy neighborhoods, you'll also spy them in more low-key New York locales, including quiet corners of Central Park, city playgrounds, and museums.


As a former local and current neighbor, I'm well-versed in NYC hangouts beloved by A-listers. I bumped into Queen Latifah on 6th Avenue, spied George Clooney filming a movie in Mid-town, and saw Ryan Reynolds grabbing lunch on the Upper West Side, to name a few. I crafted this list of the best spots to see a celeb in New York using my experiences plus knowledge gained from celebrity-obsessed chat forums and news coverage.

Before rushing out the door to hunt down your favorite star, remember this important note: Always be cool when you see someone famous. Celebs are just like us! They don't want to be bothered. If you see a star, act like a New Yorker and feign ignorance. Locals follow an unwritten rule to leave A-listers alone. So should you. Walk by like they're any other person, then text your BFF to share your brush with fame.


Central Park is a favorite filming location and celeb hangout

Central Park is one of New York City's most famous landmark attractions. Peppered with green fields, sparkling lakes, and romantic stone bridges, it is the most filmed location in the world. In addition to spotting a celebrity on a movie shoot (Amy Schumer filmed scenes for her flick, "Kinda Pregnant" at Wollman Rink in March 2024), tourists may rub elbows with film- and music-industry elite throughout the area. Central Park provides a relaxing sanctum from Manhattan's hustle and bustle, so it's no wonder people flock there daily. The best part? It's free.


I had a quick chat with Vince Vaughn near the Alice in Wonderland statue early one summer morning (he's much taller than you'd think). Matt Dillon stood on the grass beside me during the New York City Marathon, and Kiera Sedgwick passed me at Strawberry Fields. Other celebs who frequent the park include Jennifer Lawrence, Harry Styles, Austin Butler, Drew Barrymore, and Orlando Bloom. U2 frontman Bono, a long-time New York City fan, was involved in a bike crash in the park. He broke an arm, hand, shoulder blade, and eye socket in the accident. He once lived in the famed El Dorado building on Central Park West.

Celebrities love dining at Nobu

It's no secret that Nobu is a gastronomic sanctuary for celebrities in New York. If you crave a side of celebrity with your delectable yellowtail jalapeño, you've chosen the right place. Iconic Oscar-winner Robert DeNiro, famed Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, and movie producer Meir Teper own the city's two Nobu restaurants (the other, Nobu 57, is located in midtown). Diners have spotted DeNiro at both locales. I've seen DeNiro multiple times at Nobu 57, where he ate with Tiki Barber, John Travolta, and Kelly Preston (RIP). I also saw Martha Stewart there enjoying a meal with a friend. 


Other celebrities who salivate over Nobu's beloved dishes include Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Mariah Cary, and Kate Winslet, who once described Nobu's food as "heaven on earth and sex on a plate" (via You can't go wrong with a meal at this famed eatery but expect to pay a lot for the privilege. My favorite meal includes its succulent black cod with miso washed down with a lychee martini. 

Broadway attracts stars both on and off the stage

Broadway attracts all sorts of people, including celebrities. While some stars perform on stage, others sit in the audience to enjoy a show or cheer on a friend. According to The New York Theater Guide, celebrities like to sit in the orchestra. So, the extra fee may be worth it for a closer view of the performance and the potential to rub elbows with a famous person. Otherwise, the best way to catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrity up close is to hang out by the stage door.


Hugh Jackman starred in "The Music Man" in 2022, while Steve Carell, Rachel McAdams, Daniel Radcliff, Boy George, and Daniel Radcliffe graced the stage in other shows during the 2023-2024 season. You could request an autograph if you're there at the right time. When perusing the area, skip the tourist traps in Times Square but keep your eyes open as stars can be seen walking around and often frequent nearby restaurants. My daughter and I spotted Ryan McCartan at RA Sushi Bar & Restaurant during his run in "Frozen." He seemed genuinely happy to speak with her.

The Bowery Hotel is an A-lister hotspot

One of Taylor Swift's favorite NYC stomping grounds, The Bowery Hotel attracts enough celebs to give it serious clout. Whether they live it up at the hotel's bar, dine in the on-site restaurant, or get cozy in a swanky suite, this is the place to be for many visiting celebs. Among the famous faces spotted at this New York gem are Ashley Olsen, David Beckham, Kiefer Sutherland, Sarah Silverman, Michael B. Jordan, Sting, Jennifer Lopez, and Blake Lively. According to Vogue, Diane Kruger dressed for the 2018 Met Gala in one of the hotel's classy rooms.


In addition to top-notch service, fabulous food (the Italian restaurant Gemma has fed Emma Stone and Justin Bieber), and an ideal East Village location, The Bowery offers elegant interiors so comfy that you'll want to melt into the overstuffed velvet furniture and curl up by the cozy fireplace. If you stay the night, expect to be wowed by marble bathrooms, sophisticated linens, and light-filled rooms thanks to giant windows. Bo the teddy bear will await your arrival, as he does for all guests.

Multiple TV shows film at Rockefeller Center

There are so many fun things to do at Rockefeller Center – shopping, dining, drinking, ice skating (in winter), and people-watching are just a few exciting activities. Spotting celebrities also tops the list. Known locally as 30 Rock (like the television show of the same name), this central plaza houses NBC Studios, which means you're bound to spot a famous person if you stick around long enough. Popular shows that film in this area include "The Tonight Show" and "Saturday Night Live." "TODAY" films there on weekday mornings, and staff suggest arriving by 6:30 a.m.


Sometimes, you may have random good luck. One Sunday, my daughter and I grabbed breakfast from Black Seed Bagels (we give this place two thumbs up!) before spotting a TV crew in the plaza. My daughter sang karaoke for them, and they interviewed her on the spot. She appeared twice during an episode of "The Kelly Clarkson Show" a couple of weeks later. Are you visiting during the winter? Perfect. Time your trip with the Rockefeller Tree lighting ceremony. You'll have to elbow through crowds, but this popular event attracts big names like Cher, Rob Thomas, John Legend, Seth McFarlane, and Trisha Yearwood.

Balthazar is a top restaurant for celebrity guests

You never know who you'll see while tucking into a fresh croissant at SoHo's popular French restaurant, Balthazar. It probably won't be James Corden, though. Restaurant owner Keith McNally temporarily banned Corden and labeled him "the most abusive customer" in 2022. McNally reportedly lifted the block after Corden apologized for his uncouth behavior (via The Independent). According to the article, McNally instituted a rating system for celebrity guests. AAA is the highest ranking, granted to Vogue's illustrious editor, Anna Wintour, and film producer, Mark Settembre. Leonardo DiCaprio and Bill Nighy have AA status.


Other celebs known to dine in this popular eatery include Ralph Fiennes, Eddie Redmayne, Natalie Portman, and Olivier Sarkozy. Way back in 1999, comedian Jerry Seinfeld proposed to his then-girlfriend, Jessica Sklar, at the restaurant. Balthazar opened two years before this proposal and has tempted New Yorkers' tastebuds ever since. Grub Street once named the restaurant's sticky bun one of the best in New York, so be sure to try it when in town.

Many stars live in West Village

While New York wasn't one of the cheapest places to catch Taylor Swift's Eras Tour, you may glimpse the megastar herself while wandering the streets of the West Village. A trendy destination for fashionistas and home to upscale restaurants and designer shops, it's no surprise this has become a haven for A-listers. Speaking of Tay Tay, the chic and tasty Waverly Inn and Garden is a must-visit for anyone embarking on a Taylor Swift-themed NYC walking tour. She's been spotted there with girlfriends and enjoyed one of her early date nights at this exclusive spot with Travis Kelce, says Page Six.


According to a Forbes article about the trendy neighborhood's "anonymous luxury," stars like Ben Stiller, Daniel Radcliffe, Andy Cohen, Hugh Jackman, Matthew Broderick, and Sarah Jessica Parker live in this historic region. Former residents include Liv Tyler, who sat on the steps outside her West 11th Street brownstone and smiled at my kids as we walked by one sunny afternoon. It's easy to smile in this bougie area, well-known for its charming townhomes and maze-like streets. When you aren't star gazing, walk the High Line, an elevated oasis bursting with blooms and photo ops galore.

Carbone restaurant is known for its celebrity sightings

There's more than mouth-wateringly good pasta to entice those with deep pockets to dine at Carbone. Celebs like Beyoncé and Jay-Z frequent this upscale Greenwich Village eatery, as do Ed Sheeran, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Adele, and Justin and Hailey Bieber. This go-to celebrity haven was opened in 2013 by Major Food Group. Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick, and Rich Torrisi run Carbone as part of a chain of Italian-American restaurants with other locations in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, and Miami.


While it's unclear why so many VIPs flock to this joint, it could have something to do with the dark and intimate aesthetic, their desire to visit places other trendy A-listers frequent, or perhaps because of the impressively delicious fare. A New York Times food critic raved about the Tortellini al Ragu and agreed with a staff member who claimed the lemon cheesecake is "the best you'll ever have in your life."

Celebs live near Columbus Circle

Tourists have an increased chance of seeing a celebrity when visiting Columbus Circle. This large traffic circle sits in the center of New York, between The Shops at Columbus Circle and Central Park. It acts as a pretty respite, as highlighted by a monument to Christopher Columbus. You'll spy stars there for a few reasons. First, A-listers like Howard Stern, Anderson Cooper, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z have lived in the glass condo buildings overlooking the Circle.


Second, Columbus Circle is the site of the 59th Street Columbus Circle subway station. Many flock to the hub connecting the 1, A, C, B, and D trains for a trip through New York's underbelly. Finally, Columbus Circle sits steps from the Southwest entrance to Central Park. While living on the Upper West Side, I saw many famous faces, including Joan Rivers (RIP), Wolf Blitzer, and Andy Garcia. Once home to CNN (the famous news station moved headquarters to 30 Hudson Yards in 2019), celebrities went in and out for interviews.

Many famous individuals like to drink at Ray's

Ray's boasts tiled floors that evoke an '80s feel, a disco ball, a pool table, and enough American flags that you won't forget what country you're in. It's also peppered with famous folks like Gigi Hadid, Dave Chapelle, and Antoni Porowski looking to quench their thirst in a vibey atmosphere. Zoë Kravitz and Dua Lipa have also been spotted here. This eclectic dive bar opened on the Lower East Side (LES) in 2019 and has become so popular that a Brooklyn Ray's opened on Lorimer Street in 2023. Vogue calls this a "bona fide hotspot."


Part owners Justin Theroux and Nicholas Braun draw in celebrities. This isn't a polished and chic destination, but that only adds to its charm. As another owner, Jon Neidich, told Vogue, "We wanted to create something that was a great hometown hangout-a place for people to go without any pretension." There's even a basement speakeasy featuring shag carpet. According to Vogue, the bar's poor cell service adds to the charm for celebs and others who don't want to be seen or worry about posting on social media.

Several celebrities call Tribeca home

Tribeca (a.k.a. the Triangle Below Canal Street) has numerous places to spot a celebrity. In addition to Nobu, organic grocery chain Whole Foods is frequented by local A-listers like Beyoncé, Jay Z, Josh Groban, Justin Timberlake, Larenz Tate, and Jennifer Lawrence. Speaking of JT, he and Jessica Biel lived in a penthouse apartment above my friend's for a couple of years. She enjoyed numerous sightings, obviously, and refused to leave her apartment without full makeup on in case they bumped into each other in the elevator. While I wasn't so lucky, I did watch a One Republic concert at Hudson River Park for free from her rooftop patio.


Other local celebs include Donald Glover, who has been spotted (and tweeted about) multiple times in the area. And Taylor Swift lives on Franklin Street, a two-minute walk from Bubby's, another of her favorite local restaurants. According to People, Swift and Lena Dunham enjoyed a meal together there. The magazine also claims Bubby's pies are "exquisite," so leave room for dessert during your visit.

Stars like to shop and eat in SoHo

You've already learned that SoHo's Balthazar restaurant is a magnet for hungry celebs. It's in fantastic company. According to reviewers on Yelp, two other SoHo hot spots cater to the more famously inclined. Jack's Wife Freda is a beautifully designed treat for all five senses and attracts stars like Joe Jonas, Anthony Kiedis, and Megan Fox to dine on chicken prego sandwiches. MAMO is the sister restaurant of Cannes-based MAMO Le Michelangelo, with seats often filled by celebrities like Rihanna, Samuel L. Jackson, Magic Johnson, and Diane Kruger. Don't miss the truffle focaccia.


Celebrities shop in SoHo's high-end stores like Bergdorf Goodman, the chichi vintage shop What Goes Around Comes Around, and the eclectic Chelsea Market when they're not eating. The elegant Soho Grand Hotel is another star-studded location favored by Susan Sarandon, Sofia Coppola, Sarah Jessica Parker, Reese Witherspoon, and George Clooney. Film and music elites Taylor Swift, Julianne Moore, Ted Danson, and Kelly Ripa have all been spotted in this neighborhood.

Celebs take their kids to Children's Museum of Manhattan

Known locally as CMOM, the Children's Museum of Manhattan is a hit with kids and parents alike. While it's not widely publicized, celebrities with young kids frequent this fun zone, looking for ways to keep them happily occupied. That isn't hard, given the five floors of exciting activities. From creating a band with Dora & Diego to feeding books to an alligator in PlayWorks to splashing in the summer's outdoor water exhibit, there are tons of things to do with kids.


While you're there, you might bump into a familiar face or two. When their kids were younger, Katie Holmes, Nicole Kidman, and Keith Urban were spotted at CMOM. I spent half an hour with Ben Affleck on a rainy day in late spring. My then-toddler daughter plowed into him after stealing a plastic cauliflower from his daughter, Violet. Affleck patted my kid on the head and chuckled after she bounced off his legs. Don't worry: I made her return the thieved produce.

Celebrities head to Madison Square Garden for entertainment

There's a lot to love about Madison Square Garden, most notably the captivating entertainment. Whether you prefer singing along to your fave musician or cheering for your number one team on the rink (The New York Rangers call this ice home), you're in for a night of excitement at MSG. The New York Knicks are also based there, attracting crowds of A-list fans vying for a coveted seat in the front row.


While model Emily Ratajkowski won't be granted a free seat in "celebrity row" any time soon (she left a nail-biting game just minutes before the end and spent too much time taking selfies instead of watching the action), myriad celebs flock to MSG to see their favorite stars. Keep your eyes peeled for famous folks like Spike Lee, Tracy Morgan, Rhianna, Alicia Keys, Roger Federer, Timothée Chalamet, Kevin Bacon, and Michael J. Fox. Their faces will likely end up plastered on the Jumbotrons, so you'll see them even from the cheap seats.

Billy Johnson Playground: a hidden gem for celebs and their kids

Expensive and primed for high-end shopping, the Upper East Side is also home to many celebrities. Among those who reside in this swanky neighborhood are Samuel L. Jackson, Drew Barrymore, Mariah Carey, Debra Messing, and Ricky Martin. If those celebs have kids or grandkids, you can bet they'll spend time outdoors, especially on a sunny day. Central Park's Billy Johnson Playground is a somewhat secret New York gem frequented by stars with their kids and grandkids.


You may not read about stars hanging out in this lesser-known spot, but I can promise they're often there. I passed Bill Murray a few blocks from this playground and pushed my son in a swing next to Linda Evangelista. My good friend was once there at the same time as Rod Stewart, and another friend spied Tom Cruise. Two granite slides are among the playground's biggest attractions, and you'll score points with the kiddos by coming prepared with cardboard for them to sit on for more speed.