Celebrity sightings are increasingly common in Florida. Whether you're visiting Central Florida's theme parks or strolling Miami's South Beach, you are more likely to spy a celebrity; but, it's still not an everyday occurrence.
Of course, there are other places in Florida that you might see a celebrity. If you're the star-struck fan that would "just die" if you caught a glimpse of your favorite movie star, music performer, television reality star or professional athlete, these are the 10 ways you can increase your chances of seeing a celebrity in Florida.
You can visit theme parks during attraction openings, attend theme park special events, see celebrities on stage, visit movie location sets, be in town during special events and festivals, go to a big sports event, or visit places and communities where celebrities are known to live.
Visit Theme Parks During Attraction Openings
Central Florida's theme parks usually bring in a ton of celebrities for the opening of new attractions. Planning a theme park visit during the grand opening or a day or two before or after may net you a glimpse of a celebrity in town for the festivities.
In 2013, Steven Spielberg was among the famous celebrating the opening of Universal Orlando's TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3D.
On December 12, 2012, Walt Disney World Resort opened its newly re-imagined Fantasyland. On hand for the well-publicized event were “Dancing with the Stars” professional dancers Tony Dovolani and Chelsie Hightower; American Idol winner Jordin Sparks; “Once Upon a Time” star Ginnifer Goodwin; actress and singer Jodi Benson; actor Andy Garcia; legendary actress and comedienne Jo Anne Worley; and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” host Meredith Vieira.
In 2014, Florida welcomed new rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (Falcon's Fury); an expansion to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando; and, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Disney's Magic Kingdom.
In 2017, Disney's Animal Kingdom opened Pandora: the World of Avatar and Universal Studios opened the Volcano Bay water theme park as well, and both openings brought celebrities and eager fans to the events.
Attend Theme Park Special Events
Florida's theme parks bring in nationally recognized talent for many of their special events. Celebrity chefs cook up international flavors at Epcot's Food & Wine Festival each fall, expert gardeners hold workshops at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival each spring, and on weekends in May and June, the magic of Disney and the power of the force combine for the awesome Star Wars Weekends. Additionally, many of these and other special events also include concerts by award-winning performers.
Many times, when not working in an official capacity, these celebrities will be seen enjoying the theme parks. More often than not, they will be whisked around with security that will keep fans at bay. Other times they may brave the crowds on their own or with their families. Do try to give them some privacy and don't ask for an autograph or to pose for a photo. After all, the thrill is in just saying you've seen them. Remember, they are trying to enjoy the parks, too.
Theme park events where you may see celebrities:
- Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs March through May and features expert gardeners (including HGTV stars) who host workshops for guest plus weekend Flower Power concerts.
- Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras happens February through April and include jazzy parades and concerts by performers on multiple stages.
- Star Wars' Weekends happen in May and June, and Star Wars movie celebrities are on hand for meet-and-greets and autograph sessions.
- Disney's Night of Joy and Universal's Rock the Universe are in September and feature award-winning Christian performers.
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival happens September through November and features celebrity chefs cooking up international cuisines plus nightly Eat to the Beat! concerts.
- Epcot's Candlelight Processional occurs November through December and features celebrity guests narrating a special Christmas program.
See Celebrities on Stage
There are many concert and show venues located in Florida where award-winning performers take to the stage throughout the year. Snagging concert tickets may take a bite out of your wallet, but it is by far the easiest way to see a celebrity in Florida—although it may not be up-close.
Visit Movie Location Sets
The hit movie "Spring Breakers" (rated "R")—starring Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and James Franco—was shot in St. Pete Beach. People who knew about the filming were able to catch a peek at the stars and even act as background extras in one of the movie's scenes.
Florida is often referred to as Hollywood East because more and more movies and television shows are being filmed in the state. The popular "Burn Notice" wrapped up its last season of filming in and around Miami, and the inspirational kid-flick "Dolphin Tales"—starring Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman and Kris Kristofferson—was filmed in Clearwater, as was its sequel "Dolphin Tales 2."
While the Tampa Bay area sees a good share of movie activity, Miami seems to be the epicenter for both television series and movie production. Check local newspapers and online for shoot schedules and whether it is a closed set or open to fans.
Be In Town During Special Events and Festivals
Florida is home to several film festivals that bring celebrities to town. If you can snag tickets to attend any of the screenings you're sure to be in good company; however, just showing up and standing behind the ropes to see who will be walking the red carpet is fun, too.
Annual Film Festivals in Florida:
- Central Florida Film Festival — Orlando
- Florida Film Festival — Maitland
- Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival — Fort Lauderdale
- Gasparilla Film Festival —Tampa
- India International Film Festival of Tampa Bay — Tampa
- Miami International Film Festival — Miami
- Palm Beach International Film Festival — Palm Beach
- Sarasota Film Festival — Sarasota
- Tallahassee Film Festival — Tallahassee
Additionally, there are several events held throughout the year that bring celebrities to town. The DirectTV's annual Celebrity Beach Bowl, a celebrity flag football game, has been held in the past at Miami's South Beach and Jennifer Lopez was a familiar face among the famous in attendance. Additionally, the Candlelight Processional at Epcot brings a wide range of personalities to narrate the inspirational show.
Go to a Sport Event
If you're a sport's fan you've got a lot of opportunities to rub elbows with not only the sport's participants but those celebrities that attend the sporting events. As an example, celebs are spotted regularly in Miami at NBA and NFL games.
Florida has it all when it comes to sports, too. NFL teams include the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and college rivals from the University of Florida (Gators) and Florida State University (Seminoles) add fall excitement to the football scene.
Florida also has ice hockey teams, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of the NHL Stanley Cup in 2004. The NBA's Orlando Magic brings a court action to the Amway Arena in downtown Orlando, and the Miami Heat's home court is the American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami. Florida's Grapefruit League spring training games are the perfect place to grab an autograph of your favorite player.
Additionally, race fans can see their favorite NASCAR drivers at Daytona International Speedway or see Indy-series drivers at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Both venues usually offer special autograph events. Also, golfing—whether tournaments or charity events—is a great way to mingle with famous people.
Visit Communities Where Celebrities Live
Florida has long been a respite for the rich and famous on vacation, but more and more celebrities are now living in the Sunshine State—or at least have a second home there. When you visit the Miami area, take a boat tour of Biscayne Bay and Millionaires Row to see the homes of Shaquille O'Neal, Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias and more. While there are too many celebrities that call Florida home to list, there are some stories attached to a few celebs that are interesting.
There was a media frenzy when it was announced that John Travolta would buy a home in Ocala, Florida. Known by locals as "slow-cala" for its laid-back country ambiance, Ocala seemed like the last place a pair of movie stars would reside (his wife is Kelly Preston). Their $2.5-million home was constructed in a gated fly-in community called Jumbolair Aviation Estates in Anthony, just north of Ocala. The community features an extra long airstrip, which is perfect for the actor to take off and land his large private aircraft. In fact, when the family is in residence, Travolta flies to Clearwater to visit the Church of Scientology religious retreat and spiritual headquarters nearly every day. The Travolta's have been embraced by the Ocala community, but respectful of their privacy as well. They are often seen at nearby restaurants and even out shopping on occasions.
In mid-2000, Kirstie Alley purchased a waterfront Clearwater, Florida home from fellow Church of Scientology member Lisa Marie Presley for $1.5-million. The 9,800-square-foot, three-story mansion overlooking Clearwater Bay is in an older neighborhood called Palm Bluff, but she likely bought it because of its proximity to the downtown Scientology Center. The home features a waterfront pool, a spa, a large patio and a dock that Presley expanded 150 feet into the bay. There is also a 200-yard protective wall around the property that Presley added. In June of 2011, a local investigative reporter found that Alley owed more than $41,000 in back taxes from 2010 and could face losing the home if the matter wasn't resolved. She claimed her accountant never got the bill and promptly paid the taxes.
Of course, Tiger Wood's house on Jupiter Island isn't as well known as his previous residence in Windermere, in Orange County, Florida. The Windermere property was his first home, in the exclusive gated community of Isleworth, and was the location of his famed 2009 "car accident" that was widely covered by the media, as well as his affairs and subsequent divorce from Elin Nordegren. Woods' divorce was final in 2010, and about that time his Jupiter Island estate was taking shape. It was reported that he paid $40-million for the 12-acre property and approximately 9,000-square-foot beachfront house, which he tore down to build another. In mid-2012, another golfer, Bubba Watson and his wife Angie, purchased Tiger's Isleworth house and moved into it in the spring of 2013 after extensive renovations.
Visit Communities Where Celebrities Hang Out
Whether it's hitting the beach, shopping centers, or nightclubs, Miami and its South Beach are huge celebrity magnets and home to some of the best places to see the rich and famous. You might run into the likes of former talk show host Oprah Winfrey; singer-songwriter Christina Milian; fashion designer Donna Karan; Nashville star Hayden Panettiere; and hotel heiress and television star Paris Hilton. Of course, the list of possible sightings is endless.
Orlando is another area that at times seems to be teaming with celebrities. They are either vacationing with their families at the theme parks or filming specials. The problem is that unless you know where a celebrity is staying and what their plans are, getting a glimpse of them is unlikely.
If the celebrities you follow belong to the Church of Scientology, you might see some of them if you stake out the massive church in downtown Clearwater.
Daytona Beach also sees its share of celebrities during spring break, bike week and when NASCAR races are scheduled at Daytona International Speedway; and, celebs seem to stop by Tampa's and Hollywood's Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos on a regular basis.
Attend Charity Events
Celebrities are known to be altruistic and are quick to attend events that benefit good causes. Whether a charity holds a golf tournament, tennis match, fashion show, marathon, or baseball game, you're sure to find celebrities at charity events in Florida's biggest cities. It may cost you some money to attend, but remember it's going to a good cause.
Show Up at the Court House
The high-profile criminal court cases of Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman brought attention to the Florida courts, but we never heard of these people before they were accused of a crime. Celebrities on the other hand draw media attention for even the slightest infractions and Florida has seen its share of celebrity drama over the years. What better way to ensure you'll see a celebrity—they have to show up for court!
Actor and film producer, Wesley Snipes is a free man after serving a three-year prison term for a conviction of federal tax evasion. Snipes was born in Orlando but grew up in the Bronx in New York City. After trying unsuccessfully to have his trial moved to New York, he went on trial in Ocala in 2006. The highly publicized trial was rocked by Snipes' attorney's using a racism defense.