To stare at something is to gaze at it fixedly and intently, with eyes wide open as from surprise, wonder, alarm, or impertinence. To gawk at something is to stare at it openly and dumbly, and a little intrusively. Gawking has negative connotations and implies a lack of politeness when noticing or observing another person. You’ll find it used often of tourists gawking at attractions or at celebrities, or of nosy onlookers who, in their oblivious behavior, are perhaps causing a scene themselves. Gawk is similar to the verb gape, “to stare with the mouth open, as in wonder,” though gape is less used of people and more of sights and scenery that stirs amazement or disbelief.