We in Austin like to pride ourselves on how “chill” we can be around celebrities. Matthew who? Oh yeah, that McConaughey guy lives here. Elijah Wood? Heard he’s pretty short. Gary Clark Jr.? Yep, we went to high school with him.
But let’s be real, there’s a little fangirl inside all of us, and when there’s a celeb spotting during SXSW, we secretly freak out. Take a deep breath, y’all (especially you, out-of-towners), and remind yourself that stars are just like the rest of us — just with million-dollar bank accounts and millions more watching their every move.
To help you prepare for the inevitable sighting, here are 12 of the best places in Austin to spot celebs during the festival.
Austin Convention Center
An obvious selection, but an important one. As one friend pointed out, you haven't really experienced SXSW until you get the stink eye from a movie star who catches you reapplying deodorant in the bathroom. (Whatever, it needs to be done.)
Dirty Sixth Street
Usually we avoid it, but during SXSW if you want to be near the action you better embrace the Dirty. As you traverse the crowds, keep an eye out for Big Boi, Anthony Bourdain, or Kerry Washington (we heard Maggie Mae’s is her fave). Grab a burger at Casino El Camino or a cheap brew from Jackalope, and you’re bound to run into someone famous.
Across from the convention center is a guaranteed celeb hub. Shaq recently stopped in at Moonshine (undoubtedly for the legendary portions that are as large as the athlete himself), and the oh-so-sexy John Legend has also been seen multiple times here over the years.
This barbecue joint has a reputation for a reason. Visitors and celebrities alike will flock to our ‘cue offerings come SXSW, and do you really need an excuse to eat smoked meats? If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get to see President Obama give daps and cut the line at Franklin. Also worth checking out: La Barbecue and Micklethwait Craft Meats.
Whole Foods Market
For fresh food, celebrities seek out the flagship for hearty sustenance. Nothing comes between a rapper and his leafy greens, apparent in the time we saw Kendrick Lamar building a meal from Whole Foods’ salad bar. Head here and pretend to shop for kale as you keep an eye out for the health-conscious superstars.
W Austin Hotel
With the stellar KGSR broadcasting lineup, the DoIt2It Lounge, and its proximity to ACL Live, the W is the perfect place to scope out the elite. Keep in mind that fame attracts fame, and Wild Belle, Chvrches, and White Denim are just a few of the bands that will be hanging out here.
Get a glimpse at Hollywood by stopping in at The Townsend. Located across from the Paramount Theatre, home to all the major premieres during SXSW Film, The Townsend will likely be the go-to spot for A-listers who want a well-made cocktail and tasty snack. You can also stand right outside and watch the red carpet arrivals at the Paramount. Just down the street, the Stephen F. Austin and Driskill bars are popular among the stars.
Four Seasons Lobby Lounge
A lot of celebrities in town stay at the Four Seasons, so take a seat at the hotel’s Lobby Lounge and keep those peepers alert. Plus, KUTX Live is happening March 16 through 19 in the downstairs ballroom — just another excuse to hang out at the hotel and people watch to your heart’s content.
The White Horse
Everybody wants a taste of East Austin, and this hipster honky tonk sums up the vibe pretty well. Show off your Texas two-stepping prowess with Lone Star in hand. Who knows? Maybe you’ll win over the affection of a celebrity.
The SoCo area receives a lot of love during SXSW for a slightly more laid-back experience away from the downtown cluster. Get borderline stalker-status and grab a seat in Jo’s parking lot or on the Hotel San Jose patio. Disguised with dark sunglasses (you’ll fit right in with those famed entertainers), scope out who’s who with a drink or two.
South Congress Hotel
This boutique hotel will be bustling with activity during the 10-day fest. There’s a ton of nooks and crannies to hang out in, and the last time we ate at the hotel’s restaurant Café No Sé we ran into Jack Black who was on his way to meet up with Austin’s own Richard Linklater.
Rainey Street has become a hotbed for celebrity sightings over the past couple of years. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd here, so keep your eyes peeled for some of the bigger names in town, including Mike Birbiglia, Kirsten Dunst, Tracy Morgan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Seth Rogan, and Renee Zellweger (that is, if you can recognize her).