Best Hotels for People Watching in New York

New York is one of the best cities in the world for people watching -- whether that means looking for eccentrics in Times Square or celebrities strolling the streets of SoHo. Just about every hotel in New York affords some opportunity for interesting people watching, but some hotels attract crowds that are a bit more fun to spy on than others.

  • Located in the trendy Meatpacking district and straddling the busy High Line park, The Standard is well positioned for some of the best people watching in the city. But the hotel itself is as exciting to watch as the surrounding neighborhood is: Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for views from the outside in, making for some interesting exhibitionism.

  • The South Gate Bar's floor-to-ceiling windows and comfortable leather seats make it a supreme vantage point for watching the stream of shoppers, joggers, camera-toting tourists, and carriages on Central Park South. You'll likely see some interesting people inside as well -- our reporter spotted former baseball player Reggie Jackson during his stay.

  • Ashley Olsen, Blake Lively, and Rachel Bilson have all reportedly stayed at the hotel recently, and our reporter shared an elevator with comedienne Sarah Silverman, who told her she always stays here when visiting from L.A. The lobby bar draws a young, fun hipster scene that's fun to watch even when celebrities don't show up for drinks.

  • The W's giant lobby windows let in a lot of sunlight and afford some incredible people-watching opportunities as the crowds from Union Square stream by -- everyone from protesters to college-age skateboarders -- and incredibly well-dressed poodles.

  • Hotel restaurant 540 Park is a city institution. Gotham's power brokers and financiers -- such as Mayor Bloomberg and the Tisch family (who, incidentally, own the Loews hotel chain along with the NY Giants) -- have been known grab a coffee and an omelet in the handsome dining room. The lobby and Library Lounge are also a good places for sightings of the rich and powerful -- this is the hotel, after all, where Rielle Hunter first spotted John Edwards.

  • A choice hangout for the hip, beautiful, and famous, Gramercy Park hotel has three happening bar/lounges, including the velvet-heavy Rose Bar, currently the epicenter of the New York bar scene.

  • The Waldorf Astoria lobby is the best place in the city to go for a taste of old New York -- a bygone era before jeans or flip-flop sandals proliferated. They still don't at the Waldorf, which is the only hotel in the city to enforce a dress code: jeans, T-shirts, tank tops, and baseball hats are not allowed in public areas. Plump leather chairs dot the room, frequently filled with people reading the paper or working out of briefcases; indeed, it's like another century here. But the crowd is mixed, drawing as many honeymooners as families and business travelers.

  • Fans of Gossip Girl will appreciate that the show films here on average twice a month, and from time to time you'll see other celebrities strolling through the gilded lobby.

  • Celebrities, European tourists, West Coasters, business travelers, and members of the beautiful, skinny downtown crowd gravitate to this downtown hotel, known for its hip boho-industrial design and thrice-weekly DJ party. As this is a pet-friendly hotel, you'll also see hipsters with their pooches. (Downtown hipster emeritus Lou Reed was recently spotted in the lounge having an afternoon beverage with his dog.)

  • 60 Thompson is known as a favorite hangout for models -- especially during Fashion Week -- so it's a great place to people watch for the very, very beautiful. Fashion industry icons also frequent the hotel -- Diane von Furstenberg hosted a fashion week afterparty here. But be warned: the exclusive rooftop bar A60 is only available to hotel guests and the rich and famous. Thom Bar packs in well-groomed young professionals.

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