By Maude Standish

People watching is practically a competitive sport in New York. We post photos of the men holding their end-of-the-world crumpled signs on Facebook, recount street fashions to friends from the elderly lady with the perfect Pucci print suite to the girl with her two-foot-high, hot pink Mohawk, and practically battle over dinner who saw the oddest stranger on the street. Not only is street-stalking an important part of New York culture – it’s one of the few things other than breathing that you can do for totally free. Here are some of the best people watching spots in New York; just remember, bring your camera so you’ll have proof for later.

Photo Credit: Roger Kisby/Getty Images

McCarren Park

780 Lorimer Street
New York, NY 11211
Hours: Daily 6am-1am
(718) 965-6580

Yes, hipsters are everywhere, having stormed the streets of New York in their skinny jeans almost a decade ago. And while we residents haven’t put up much of a compelling resistance – how many pairs of Buddy Holly glasses do you own? – there are few places in the city where they as highly-concentrated than this Williamsburg park. Come on a Sunday around noon, and you’ll see hungover hipsters reading the paper, drinking Vita Coco, playing soccer, munching on kale chips and smoking hand-rolled on Pendleton blankets. Be careful about how much hipster hating you do though – you’re on their home turf now.

Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Union Square Greenmarket

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Union Square Pavilion – North end of Union Square, btwn Union Square West & Park Ave.

Go for the good veggies, stay for the pretzel boys. Seriously, can someone please explain how year after year the pretzel boys are so dang attractive? It’s like they import the bearded rustic men of every city girl’s dreams. It’s not just the pretzel guys, with all the well-dressed girls tottering in high heels filling their antique woven baskets with the makings of raw food diets – the aisles between the stalls could function as high-fashion runways.

Photo Credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Steps of the Met

1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Stairs are open daily, all day
Website & Reviews

A classic icon in New York movie montages, as well as the “throne” of Blaire Waldorf in early seasons of Gossip Girl, the steps of The Metropolitan Museum of Art are perhaps the most well-known stranger spying location in the city. Grab a hot dog, don’t hold the sauerkraut, perhaps even wear a “I heart NY” shirt to further blend in and start staring. You’ll catch glimpses of everything. Keep an eye out for the the New York sophisticate, the type of person who makes “real use” of the city by going to an art show every chance they get and carries with them a Moleskin, and the Tourist. They come in all shapes and unusual sizes and can be spotted by the way they wear backpacks on their chests, their comfortable shoes, USA pride shirts they’re not wearing ironically.

Photo Credit: The Ace Hotel

The Ace Hotel

20 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Open Daily 12pm-2am
(212) 679-2222
Website & Reviews

This house of hip has turned into a meeting ground of wannabes and the “real thing.” You’ll see models and actresses, and the business moguls they cavort with. You’ll see Midtown types trying to “snazzify” their typical button downs with an unnecessary vintage hat, there to show a client that are really “with it.” You’ll see recent Midwestern transplants, straight out of college wearing H&M pants that came with faux suspenders and big, untainted-by-New-York smiles. You’ll see Jersey Shore types, wearing tight Tees and there because they heard that the lobby was practically grenade-proof. Grab a drink and nestle up into one of their cozy seats for hours of endless eye-candy.

Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

New York Port Authority Bus Terminal

33rd. St., bet. 7th and 8th Aves.
Hours: Open daily
(212) 630-6401
Website & Reviews

Hanging out in the flickering florescent light halls of the Port Authority, is like witnessing Intervention in real time. You have your junky suburban punks asking for money to take a bus home, your post-recession struggling business men downing pre-bus beers in the TGIF Fridays restaurant, and your over-worked moms trying to keep track of their whining children while running to make the bus. Sure, it’s depressing. But just like watching Hoarders or Intervention for hours, you leave with a newfound zeal for getting your life together and a sense that comparatively you are doing a-okay.

Maude is the research director for trend forecasting company Trendera and writes daily for The (T) Files. In her spare time she tries to enjoy New York on a budget and is writing a screenplay.