Here are some of the best chances you’ll have to catch celebs in their natural habitats: Austin festivals. And don’t forget, they need to eat, drink, and sleep while they’re in town, so even if you don’t make it to the fests, be sure to keep your eyes peeled out there on the streets! You never know…
SXSW — March
We don’t even have to begin to tell you how many celebrities are in town for the epic SXSW film, music, technology, sports, food, gaming, and education conferences. This year alone we had the biggest celebrity in politics, President Obama, in town, so there’s that. Other big names over past years have included Lady Gaga, Christian Slater, and Anthony Bourdain. Our friends over at ATX Gossip usually put out a pretty comprehensive list of confirmed celebs before the festival each year, for those of you who like to plan ahead.
Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival — April
If you’re a big fan of comedians, the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Fest will make you lose your mind with excitement with its “90ish performers” on the lineup. Any given year (though he’s not on the lineup this year) your chances of seeing Doug Benson walking around downtown streets high as hell are always good, though that seems to be the case no matter what is happening that weekend. This April keep an eye out for Maya Rudolph (I’ve seen her walking on deserted West Sixth on a Sunday with her family before, possibly trying to find baked goods at Walton’s Fancy and Staple) and Kevin Smith (fun fact: Smith was inspired by Richard Linklater setting Slackers in Austin to set Clerks in his hometown), among many others.
Austin Food & Wine Festival — April
If you’re a big fan of culinary competitions and cooking shows, the Austin Food & Wine Fest is one of the best chances you have to rubbing elbows with celebrity chefs as they deliver speeches, dishes, and perform cooking demos. Some food events even see these celebrity chefs handing you food from their own hands like multiple James Beard Award winner Susan Feniger at the Rock Your Taco event a few years ago. Graham Elliot fans can occasionally find him hanging out with his good buddy, Nakia. A few years ago Elliot jumped on the mic with the Austin crooner at one of his shows during the festival weekend. Elliot is slated as part of this talent for this year’s event along with Andrew Zimmern, Antonia Lofaso, Aaron Sanchez, and more. I’d expect Tim Love to be spending some time in his new Austin restaurant, Lonesome Dove, and inviting a few of his chef friends along with him.
Unfortunately, this year’s Food & Wine Festival has been nearly rained out. Only the indoor Cheers to 130 Years and Social Hour will still happen.
ATX Television Fest — June
One of Austin’s newest festivals has already proven its ability to bring big celebrity names to town. Last year’s “Gilmore Girls” reunion made waves throughout the entire entertainment community, bringing back together stars like Lauren Graham, Milo Ventimiglia, and Austin’s Jared Padalecki, of course. This year’s “Ugly Betty,” “West Wing,” and “Rescue Me” reunions will all be pretty great, but it would be pretty hard to outdo that Star’s Hollow family get-together. ATX Television Fest has also taken up the habit of offering programming throughout the year, so be sure to follow what they’re doing.
X Games — June
Fans of extreme sports should make sure to get their sports celeb fix in this year, since it’s the last time that the X Games will be in Austin. Chances of running into the musical acts are slim, but you never know who you may run into while walking around. Yet another incidence of me needing to pay a little more attention to my surroundings, I also knocked into Tony Hawk on my first day of the X Games last year. Oops.
Fantastic Fest — September
The best celebrity moments from the quirky horror/sci fi/fantasy/action film festival, Fantastic Fest, usually involve Alamo Drafthouse owner/Fantastic Fest founder Tim League. League likes to take his celebrity and festival guests to do unusual things like shooting guns in the Hill Country and watching live versions of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots (Guillermo del Torro seemed to really enjoy that). There’s also the traditional red carpet moments where you’ll find actors like Matthew Fox and directors like Tim Burton.
Wizard World Comic Con — September
Wizard World brings some of the best geek fodder to Austin in the fall every year with their weekend-long conference. We’ve seen nearly the entire cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” cult hero Bruce Campbell, and Stan Lee, himself. One year, my first five steps into the Austin Convention Center landed me smack into the chest of Kevin Sorbo-there’s not much to say after ramming into Hercules himself, so it was certainly not one of my best celeb moments (but also, it kinda was). Don’t miss our upcoming list of 10 Older Male Actors We’d Love to Welcome to Austin in Lieu of Harrison Ford to find out more about where you might be able to catch Bruce Campbell when he’s here in September.
Austin City Limits — September/October
If you can figure out where the VIP sections are at each Austin City Limits stage, do your best to keep an eye out there to catch plenty of celebrities taking in the shows. Last year Austinite Jared Padalecki and his BFF Jensen Ackles were spotted multiple times enjoying the festival. They were also spotted enjoying many shots this past weekend enjoying quite a few shots and time with fans on Dirty 6th. ACL was also the backdrop for filming for Terrence Malick’s unnamed Austin music film where fans saw Christian Bale running around filming (wondering whatever happened to that film? We’ve got an update coming soon).
Austin Film Festival — October
The Austin Film Festival is unique because its focus is on screenwriting, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t get to catch some of Hollywood’s starlets walking red carpets outside of the Paramount Theater. Recent years have seen James Franco, Julia Stiles, and Johnny Depp in front of festival crowds.
Fun Fun Fun Fest — November
This festival combines music with comedy, alternative sports, and more, giving fans a chance to run into a variety of less-than-household names. They’re the types of celebs who typically garner niche fanbases who are rabid about them, and the festival probably wouldn’t have it any other way. FFFFest also played host to the Malick band of misfits in 2012, where Michael Fassbender stood out wearing all black and Rooney Mara and Val Kilmer took to the Blue Stage to film some scenes with The Black Lips. This is another festival you’re likely to catch a glassy-eyed Doug Benson hanging out at.