Tourists (and even the locals) in New York City for the holidays seem to have one area in mind: Grand Central Terminal straight to Fifth Avenue. In that tiny stretch, you’ve got the famed tree, festive shop-windows, Bryant Park’s Christmas market, and UNICEF’s larger-than-life snowflake, which is more than enough to send any vacationer reeling. If you’re looking to venture off the traditional path this year—which we fully support both to avoid crowds and get your celeb-spotting fix—we’ve rounded up the best ways to celebrate Christmas like a true star.
Hot Chocolate at Serendipity III
Stop by Serendipity III for a frozen hot chocolate (and a hot fudge sundae, while you’re at it) in true Blake Lively fashion. Lively’s a known fan of Serendipity III and their decadent concoctions, and even confessed to Extra TV how she feasted on their infamously over-the-top desserts after the last year’s Met Gala. “I went to Serendipity. Frozen hot chocolate, extra peanut butter sauce on the side. I closed that place down!” Lively said. Pro tip: if you’ve never been, the longtime establishment is always immaculately decorated during the holiday season, and it’s just a few blocks from all the other most notable attractions—which makes it the perfect spot to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Shibui Spa at Greenwich Hotel
Visit Shibui Spa at Robert DeNiro’s Greenwich Hotel, which is the ultimate NYC celeb-spotting destination. The ultra-relaxing, laidback vibes make this the perfect place to unwind. Don’t forget to warm up in the spa’s bath, which offers seasonal soaks (winter’s scent is a juniper infusion, which claims to release toxins, stress,and body tension.) If you’re in the mood for a rub down, opt for the Drunken Lotus massage which uses hot towels and essential oils equaling a near out-of-body experience. Hotel guests have included Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, Kate Hudson and many (read: MANY) more.
Cookie Baking Class at the International Culinary Center
Have a cookie baking party like Taylor Swift. Not all of us have Tribeca penthouses with multiple ovens at our disposal—but for those of you who are out-of-towners with Airbnb’s or friend’ s apartments to visit, why not make a night out of baking Christmas cookies and exchanging presents to get in the holiday spirit? For those of you staying in kitchen-less hotel rooms, never fear: the French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) is offering a holiday cookie baking class on December 3rd, where you’ll learn how to bake Christmas favorites like chocolate crinkles and ginger snaps.
Brunch at the Tavern on the Green
Chow down at Tavern on the Green like Jennifer Lawrence (and ex Chris Martin.) Multiple outlets were quick to pick up the gossipy news that the pair had dined there, with PEOPLE reporting that Lawrence ate a roast beef sandwich, while Martin opted for Eggs Benedict. If you’re looking for a classic NYC spot to enjoy a meal, Tavern on the Green (which reopened in May 2014) is an excellent choice. Tavern is another NYC establishment known to go all out with the Christmas decorations, so even if you’re not going to dine, it’s an excellent spot to take an Instagram-worthy shot featuring tons of white lights and (hopefully!) snow.
Brooklyn Nets Game at Barclays Center
Take in a Brooklyn Nets Game like Prince William and Kate Middleton. While attending a basketball game may not scream ‘Christmas,’ it’s a fun way to spend a night and get your sports fix all at once. Plus, chances of sighting some seriously famous stars are high—the fact that the Royals made time for a pit stop in Brooklyn during last year’s three-day winter tour of NYC should solidify the Barclays Center’s status as the new “it” destination to see—and be seen.
Dinner in the West Village
Skip the crowds in Midtown and venture downtown to the West Village instead, where ultra-famous residents include names like Sarah Jessica Parker, Daniel Radcliffe, and Marc Jacobs. The nearby Meatpacking District may be trendy, but strolling the quieter streets of New York’s most charming neighborhood during Christmas is nothing short of magical. SJP herself has often been spotted putting up her own decorations at her brownstone, and there are plenty of cozy restaurants and bars to warm up in—such as the Beatrice Inn (or, if you can get a reservation, opt for the Waverly Inn which is notoriously known for their celebrity clientele).
Shopping at Barney’s New York
Shop like a celebrity at New York’s most iconic destinations—such as Barney’s New York—where everyone from Jay-Z to Lucy Hale are fans (note: you can dine there, too, at one of the Upper East Side’s most exclusive restaurants, Freds). Even if you’re just browsing, it’s still an excuse to see some of the best-decorated windows in the city, and potentially get a glimpse of your favorite celebrities doing a little last-minute holiday shopping. Other popular shopping destinations known for their star-studded clientele include Bergdorf Goodman, Opening Ceremony, Jeffrey, and What Goes Around Comes Around.