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Old 08-10-2019, 08:55 AM
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People watching


What is the best spot in the world, or just in your experience, for people watching?

Here are my criteria for a good spot:

Comfortable and safe place to sit without being significantly hassled; diversity of people in all characteristics, including the obvious (age, gender, ethnicity) but also in appearance (the beautiful, the unusual, the bizarre, the eye catching, and more) and even behavior; decent air quality and a lack of revolting odors.

What are yours? What spots qualify? There are lots of places in NYC and DC that meet the first two criteria - the third is a bit harder in big cities.
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Old 08-10-2019, 09:32 AM
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Well, a park seems to tick all the boxes. I would imagine that even Central Park has significantly better air quality than the rest of the city. People are generally going to be doing their own thing and not notice you, or how long you've been there or what you're doing. I suppose the downside is that you're only going to be observing a subset of behaviours, as people are there mostly for enjoyment and recreation. Not that that's necessarily an issue.

You could couple that with a few hours people-watching at a train station. Again, everyone is going to be preoccupied with doing what they're doing, and unlikely to give you a second glance. Different behaviours to observe than a park too, as people are more likely to be stressed. Air quality though; maybe not so good!
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Old 08-10-2019, 09:34 AM
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P. S. My particular favourite spots for people watching are Hyde Park and Waterloo Station. Both of which I've had cause to be in with time on my hands and nothing else to do.

By the way, I read that as "decent air quality and a lack of revolving doors"

Last edited by RobDog; 08-10-2019 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 08-10-2019, 09:49 AM
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The Boardwalk in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 08-10-2019 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 08-10-2019, 10:01 AM
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They're not casually accessible any more, but like RobDog's train stations, airport waiting lounges where you can see the corridor.

Everyone's in the middle of doing something so you're getting a three-second snippet of their lives. Some are running late or otherwise hassled so there's drama. Some are excited to be on vacation, some are flying to Detroit for the umpteenth time because Marketing can't pull their head out of their ass, so there's variety. Dress is also variable, from practically bathrobe and flipflops to Armani. You do get the occasional whiff of half-burned kerosene.
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Old 08-10-2019, 10:07 AM
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People watching as a way of life rather than an occasional past time can happen anywhere. I have lived in the same neighborhood for 70 years. I have watched young men and women get old and die. I have seen their ups and downs and struggles in life, divorces, career highs. I have watched young people come into their own and find themselves then struggle with their new success. People are fascinating. Most of us are always changing, some of us remain remarkably stable and the same throughout their lives.
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Old 08-10-2019, 10:19 AM
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I lived in central Florida for a short stint in the late 90s and had a Disney annual pass for a couple years. On a few occasions I went by myself to the Magic Kingdom just to sit on Main Street USA just to people watch. I was always amazed for being the supposedly “happiest place on earth” how many people were so angry looking and miserable. Crying kids. Parents yelling at crying kids. Spouses fighting. People looking stressed and edgy.
It gave me a better perspective and mindset for when I returned there a decade or so later with my wife and kid about how to relax and really enjoy the place.
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Old 08-10-2019, 10:28 AM
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When I was a teen we went for a week to Atlantic Citevery summer (pre-casino days) and used to sit on the boardwalk to people watch.
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Old 08-10-2019, 11:19 AM
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What I would like to know is, who is watching the watchers?
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Old 08-10-2019, 11:56 AM
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Another good place is any bus stop. People come and go and many are willing to have conversations with you while they wait.
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Old 08-10-2019, 12:06 PM
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Right where I'm at right now.

I sit at my desk, and I can see the parking lot of my strip mall, with all the people going in and out of the various stores and restaurants (including mine). I can see down the road a ways in both directions, and there's a park where people play the game of the season.
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Old 08-10-2019, 12:13 PM
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Waterloo Station, London.
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Old 08-10-2019, 12:25 PM
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The beach on a pleasant summer's day.
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Old 08-10-2019, 02:17 PM
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A Paris café.
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Old 08-10-2019, 03:34 PM
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Venice beach
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Old 08-10-2019, 03:46 PM
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Jackson Square, New Orleans. Hands down.
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Old 08-10-2019, 04:20 PM
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Venice beach
Seconded. The variety is impressive.
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Old 08-10-2019, 06:45 PM
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A farmer's market, from the farmer's side of the table.

You get not only to watch, but also to talk to people. Well, some of them, anyway. You get to say 'good morning*' to all of them, and some of them will join in.





*I've done this so often at one market that on the less common occasions when I do an afternoon one I have a tendency to say "good morning" at four in the afternoon. This may lead to other conversation, of course.
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Old 08-10-2019, 07:45 PM
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I'll add a third vote for Venice Beach in California. Totally safe place to be. On a pleasant day, year round, the spectrum of people can't be beat. And you can even walk along the strand to heighten the experience. Then it's a short walk to the Great Western Steak & Hoagie Company on Lincoln for a decent (replica) Philly cheesesteak. Yum!

And if you want a beer, visit Hinano Cafe on Washington. Yowza!
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Old 08-10-2019, 07:57 PM
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Any amusement park anywhere; best place ever. And if its a free admission and parking park such as Knoebels even better; best show, even had background music, and it doesn't cost you a dime.

Second choice would be outside a non-university art school; one of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh type places.
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Old 08-11-2019, 04:50 AM
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What I would like to know is, who is watching the watchers?
Big Brother.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:11 AM
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I lived in central Florida for a short stint in the late 90s and had a Disney annual pass for a couple years. On a few occasions I went by myself to the Magic Kingdom just to sit on Main Street USA just to people watch. I was always amazed for being the supposedly “happiest place on earth” how many people were so angry looking and miserable. Crying kids. Parents yelling at crying kids. Spouses fighting. People looking stressed and edgy.
It gave me a better perspective and mindset for when I returned there a decade or so later with my wife and kid about how to relax and really enjoy the place.
Among other things, DesertWife and I attended the 1986 World's Fair in Vancouver. It was August and hot and humid, especially for Vancouver. I remarked, "Funny how cranky is cranky no matter what the language."
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Old 08-11-2019, 12:53 PM
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There is this park between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia with benches. You can see both sites from there. There's a park area that has kids playing. It's (obviously) a tourist area, so there are tourists from all over the world doing the tourist thing. (really, all over. there were people from everywhere there when I was touristing) It's close enough to the non-tourist routes so there are non-tourists going about their normal daily life. (there are people using the mosque to worship in - not just to take selfies near) There's street food so you can get something to snack on and eat while just enjoying the people.

And the view is insane.

Last edited by amarinth; 08-11-2019 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 08-11-2019, 01:37 PM
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Bookstores and malls. I have this weird sort of thing where I enjoy watching people read, or shop, or do something totally unself-consciously. It's endlessly fascinating and very soothing. Supposedly, there is a YouTube video genre of people who film themselves studying - I've searched, but I can't actually find any such videos.

Plus there's the intellectual satisfaction of seeing someone, especially a child, completely immersed in a book. I occasionally see a kid walking down the street with her nose in a book and think, "There goes my childhood".
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Old 08-11-2019, 05:28 PM
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By the way, I read that as "decent air quality and a lack of revolving doors"
OMG...I did that, too!
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Old 08-11-2019, 05:55 PM
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Any beach on the Nevada side of Tahoe. You can sit and drink beer.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:30 PM
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+1 on airports. A friends swears by the Oklahoma State Fair.

One of the best parts of visiting Las Vegas is strolling around with a beer to take in the world class people watching.
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:47 PM
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Either of the casino strips in Las Vegas would probably top my list. A bit cliche, but Walmart has some world class people watching as does most any Waffle House, especially between midnight and 4 AM.

ETA: Times square in NYC, but from a second story window of an air conditioned room to eliminate the odors and improve air quality.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 08-12-2019 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:22 PM
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Magic Kingdom hands down.

There's a good blend of "what would you like to represent in your clothing" mixed with a whole lot of "why in the hell would you wear that".

Lots of colleges and sports teams for the former, long-sleeved black cotton shirts and jeans on a hot summer's day for the latter...interesting as can be.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:51 PM
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Vegas, baby. With Venice Beach as a runner up.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:42 PM
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Almost any state or county fair. The odors can be a bit problematic, but still...
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Old 08-12-2019, 06:26 PM
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A Paris café.
The next best thing: Mon Ami Gabi Las Vegas.

Best for breakfast so you can see the various Walks of Shame.
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Old 08-13-2019, 03:53 AM
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Sidewalk terraces in Spain. Of course they're likely to be more interesting in a big town than in a medium-sized one, but for a townie, sitting down on the terrace of the only bar in a one-bar town can produce sightings of combines, tractors, children who are not homeless running in packs, dogs of unknown parentage and merry disposition, and other sights uncommon in the large cities.

One that's particularly famous is the terrace of Café Zurich on Barcelona's Plaça Catalunya. Watching famous artists who happen to be in town watching their fans watching them is always good for a few giggles.
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Old 08-13-2019, 05:55 AM
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At a table of an outdoor bar in Bologna, Italy's city centre on one of the pedestrianized streets. Locals, tourists, students and various others. People engaging in everything from a quiet stroll to an animated vocal discussion to dashes to catch their bus or train.
  #35  
Old 08-13-2019, 10:33 AM
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I don't do much people watching these days as it seems I spend an inordinate amount of time either in my car or at work. One of my favorites used to be the lobby of a huge hotel at the waterfront in Maryland.
They have ample benches and chairs for quick meetings so you don't stick out and since this hotel basically caters to business people, I can focus on watching adults going about there day.
The business part makes it more interesting for me as you get a greater variety and also they have different groups (conventions etc) who make watching interesting.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:20 AM
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When we were living in San Jose there was a hotel there that was a perennial favorite for BayCon, a large regional con. Since we lived there, we never went to the hotel except for BayCon, until one year, the company Christmas party was there. Being heavily into the holidays, not only was the lobby much less crowded than we were used to, they were all stuffy business-types. We commented on how different it looked without the fen.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:48 PM
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From the comfort of an Ikea restaurant with a plate of swedish(-ish) meatballs, looking down on the loading zone, and taking wagers on whether the laden trolley will fit into the compact car, with or without unpackaging.
  #38  
Old 08-15-2019, 09:23 AM
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Sturgis motorcycle rally. Sit anywhere in the vicinity for hours of jaw-dropping people watching. You can see some hilarious things. For example, sit on a wooden walkway in Keystone, SD and you'll see the jarring disposition of a family of four, enjoying a family vacation, attempting to cover the eyes of their two young children as women walk by wearing thongs, leather chaps and electrical tape covering their nipples. Every summer.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:37 AM
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I have the type of intent resting insane face that puts people off. Any time I've tried people watching, or just spacing out in a public place to enjoy a breeze and gentle sunshine, there's always someone who wants to take me up on the fight I'm clearly instigating. Or maybe I just look like an easy target for some random stranger abuse. Now, I'm not a fast thinker and I learned a long time ago to avoid physical or verbal altercations because I always make a mess of myself. So my alternative is to not go out unless I'm on a mission, and to actually see as few people as possible.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:49 AM
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Any outside bar on Walking Street in Pattaya, Thailand.

Last edited by manson1972; 08-15-2019 at 10:49 AM.
  #41  
Old 08-15-2019, 11:10 AM
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The people watching potential was one of the major perks of working in an airport landside coffee shop. Excited people, exhausted people, ecstatically happy, scared, drunk (OK, could generally have done without them), bored, and, of course, all kinds of stressed. People going on honeymoon, to funerals, on their first ever flight or even an inflight wedding. Or missing same. People meeting up with friends and family they'd not seen in years, meeting grandkids and inlaws for the very first time, or dropping their kid off for a year-plus trip.

It had the particular advantage that, although many people were stressed and even furiously angry, almost none of them were angry at me. I was the sympathetic angel of caffeine, not the person who just told them they couldn't take their puppy on a flight without any kind of reservation or cage.

Plus the gossip from the crew and bus/taxi drivers based there was great, when there weren't many passengers to watch.
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Old 08-15-2019, 11:21 AM
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Washington Square Park — either the one in Manhattan or the one in San Francisco.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:55 PM
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How is the Mall of America doing these days?
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