6 tips to spot celebrities in NYC

Seeing a TikToker in the park made the NYU tuition feel worth it.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Sarah Whitacre, Staff Writer

Nothing hits quite as hard as that pang of jealousy when a mutual friend posts a picture with a C-list celebrity in Washington Square Park. Sometimes, I feel like everyone has seen Sarah Jessica Parker strolling through the Upper East Side or passed by Dominic Fike on the streets of SoHo except me. Last year, I only saw Rowan Blanchard from “Girl Meets World,” and I just stared creepily until I recognized who she was. So, this year, I made it my goal to see more stars, and I’ve figured out several tactics to successfully spot celebrities.

1. Social media is your friend

Hearing from a friend of a friend that a celebrity might be in the park is not as reliable as pulling up real-time, pictorial proof on social media. On Twitter, you can search keywords like “Met Zendaya” or “Zendaya New York City” and sort the results by the latest to find the most recent updates. Also, many popular celebrities — like Timothée Chalamet or Kim Kardashian — have fan-run pages on Twitter that update where and when the idols were last spotted. This helped me on my journey to find Chalamet last semester, but alas, when he was spotted in Washington Square Park, I was in math class.

2. Look everything up

Have a favorite show? Search their filming schedule. Award show coming up? Find the address. You’d be surprised how much information is available online. Whenever you walk past a set sign taped to a post, take a few seconds to Google the name; though you may not recognize the name on the sign at first, it may be because many sets use false names. For example, a sign posted by the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts a few weeks ago said the project’s name was “Sourdough Productions LLC, Paul.” I snapped a quick picture, looking it up on my way to Peet’s Coffee. The search revealed that the name on the flyer is just a code name for HBO’s “Succession.” I stuck around and saw two cast members that day.

3. Don’t be afraid to lurk

Say you find that set location, a New York Fashion Week afterparty or post on social media that says your favorite celebrity is in the park — now it’s time to play the waiting game. If you have time and you’re dedicated to the cause, sticking around a celebrity hotspot is the best way to increase your chances of seeing a celebrity. I might embarrass myself by sharing this one, but I sat on the Skirball balcony for two hours studying and observing the aforementioned “Succession” set. It’s my favorite show, and I had two hours to spare, so why not lurk a little? 

4. Events are important

There is no better place to be than New York City when it comes to celebrity events. A great place that NYU students flock to every year is the Met Gala. Though you may need to cut your classes short in order to camp outside the event, you’re almost guaranteed to see some stars. NYFW is also an excellent time to see celebrities, and many students find ways into fashion shows and after-parties. If you can’t get into any shows, most event location information is public online, so you could always wait outside, with a camera in hand. Events like the New York Film Festival also draw celebrities to the city, and tickets to many screenings are available to anyone. Stay in the know of when and where major events will be held, and it might just pay off.

5. Keep your head up — literally

When you’re living in a city with a population of over eight million, you can see hundreds of people just on your daily walk to class. Though my parents told me to stay off my phone when on the street for safety reasons, it also doubles as good advice for celebrity spotting. You never know who you’re going to pass by on a crowded street, and one of these days, it might just be a celebrity. Another good tip is to take walks around places that might be a little out of the way. After all, it’s more likely that a celebrity will walk by a designer store in SoHo than in Gould Plaza.

6. Don’t miss your chance

Every time I’ve seen a celebrity, I’ve been terrified to go up and ask for a picture. For the ones I haven’t gotten a picture with, I’ve regretted it since. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a picture, or to go up to them and tell them that you love their work. But just remember, celebrities are people too, so be mindful and respect their personal space; not everyone wants to be photographed.

I hope these tips and tricks help you on your celebrity-spotting journey. My unhealthy obsession with finding the people I saw on television has enriched my life, and seeing celebrities in person makes it all the more worth it that I chose to go to NYU. 

Contact Sarah Whitacre at [email protected].