MONEY Travel

163 Free Things to Do in America’s Top Travel Destinations

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Travelpix Ltd—Getty Images San Francisco skyline at sunset as seen from the Bay Bridge.

Great spots to visit that don't cost a dime.

They say the best things in life are free, and for every avid traveler, it’s a sentiment worth keeping in mind. We combed the streets of some of America’s biggest tourist destinations, keeping a list of our favorite gratis activities in each one. The biggest takeaway? You can enjoy the spoils of just about anywhere without spending a dime.

Read on for our ever-expanding list, or jump ahead to your city of interest: Chicago; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Nashville; New York City; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.

Chicago

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Izzet Keribar—Getty Images

1. Get up close and personal with the new Mangalitsa piglets at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s “Farm-in-the-Zoo.”

2. Experience the sounds of the Chicago Jazz Festival in Millennium Park.

3. Squeeze in a workout in the sun on Saturday mornings, with free yoga, tai chi, and pilates classes on the Great Lawn in Millennium Park.

4. Check out one of more than 200 free concerts that the Chicago Cultural Center hosts every year.

5. Make an appointment with a Chicago Greeter, and get one of three dozen insider tours of neighborhoods throughout the city.

6. Look over the three millennia of Middle Eastern treasures at the Oriental Institute, part of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.

7. Learn about social reformer Jane Addams at the Hull-House Museum on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

8. There’s flora for everyone at the Garfield Park Conservatory, which contains spectacular aroids, a lush fern room, and a fine children’s garden, complete with play area.

9. Experience a sunset along The 606, Chicago’s elevated park, which has excellent views of the skyline.

10. From ancient Chinese pottery to Picasso, the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago is a great place to spend an afternoon.

11. Located just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo, theAlfred Caldwell Lilly Pool is a perfect respite from the surrounding bustle in any season.

12. With galleries profiling everything from North Korean society to monumental architecture from around the world, the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College is a gem.

13. To explore the National Museum of Mexican Art is to know the breadth of the Latino experience, in Chicago and beyond.

14. Visit the Crystal Gardens on Navy Pier. Look up and view 80-plus palm trees, “leapfrog” fountains, and a range of distinctly non-native foliage.

15. The original Water Tower’s City Gallery is a tiny marvel on Michigan Avenue, and you might find a photographic tribute to Charlie Trotter or an exploration of Chicago’s printmaking traditions within.

16. Inside the Harold Washington Library Center, visitors can make their way through more than 50 pieces of public art.

17. You can hear John C. Reilly as Abraham Lincoln or David Schwimmer as the Bean (a.k.a. Cloud Gate) via the Statue Stories Chicago program. Just swipe your phone on the statue’s tag to hear more than two dozen sculptures come to life as you visit them around the city.

Want to know more about the above? Read the full scoop here.

Nashville

18. The honky tonk bars on Lower Broadway offer live music daily. Favorites like Robert’s Western World, Rippy’s, and Legend’s rarely, if ever, charge a cover.

19. Hike the high trail at Radnor Lake—the site has 1,200 acres and hosts canoe floats, wildflower walks, and aviary tours, all free and open to the public.

20. Located within the Country Music Hall of Fame, the legendary letterpress studio Hatch Show Print offers tours for $15 a person, but if you stop by the shop, you can see right into the work space and watch the posters printed, free of charge.

21. Built in 1897 as part of Tennessee’s centennial celebration Nashville’s Parthenon is an exact copy of the Athenian one. While there’s a charge to enter the museum inside, viewing the façade is free.

22. Take in the Bluebird Cafe Early Show. Reservations are free and tickets become available online about a week before the show.

23. Meet your favorite author at Parnassus Books, Ann Patchett’s neighborhood bookstore. Free readings, signings, and children’s events happen near daily.

24. Make the pilgrimage to CMA Music Fest, a weekend-long celebration of country music’s biggest fans that offers of a plethora of budget-friendly things to do, from free concerts to meet-and-greets, giveaways, and more.

25. Open-house days at Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory (the first Tuesday of every month, from 9 a.m. to noon) offer visitors the chance to try out the site’s solar telescope, free of charge.

26. Stop by a practice of the Nashville Predators, the city’s hockey team, at the Centennial Sportsplex, which are always open to the public.

27. Live on the Green happens every summer in Public Square Park, and features established performers as well as emerging artists.

28. The Tennessee State Museum is a must-see for Southern history buffs. It’s open six days a week, and admission is always free.

29. Nashville’s Centennial Park has several free entertainment offerings, from plays to outdoor film screenings.

30. Come the holidays, keep your eye on the Nashville government website. In early December, that’s where they’ll announce the winners of the Ann Chapman Holiday Lights Contest, which you can visit for free.

Want to know more about the above? Read the full scoop here.

Los Angeles

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Naphat Photography—Getty Images/Flickr RMGriffith Observatory Museum

31. Immerse yourself in art and music at LACMA, where during the summer they offer open outdoor jazz concerts on Friday nights, as well as gratis access to the museum on the second Tuesday of every month.

32. Indulge your inner birder and take a complimentary bird walk with the L.A. Audubon Society in the city’s many woodlands, lakes, shrubs, and salt water marshes.

33. Pay a visit to the magnificent Central Library in Downtown L.A.

34. Ears will be happy and wallets will be full, thanks to the countless free concerts offered during the summer all across town.

35. Take a stroll or bike ride down a portion of theMarvin Braude Bike Trail—a mostly-flat, well-paved 22-mile beach path running along the Pacific from Will Rodgers State Beach to Torrance.

36. Hit up one of the many donation-based yoga classes around the city, like those at Runyon Canyon or Bryan Kest’s Santa Monica studio.

37. At the Downtown L.A. ArtWalk the blossoming community convenes on the second Thursday of the month to showcase art, music, and more.

38. You can help counteract the effects the local car culture has on the environment by planing trees with the folks at Tree People, then spend the afternoon hiking Fryman Canyon.

39. Head over to Venice for Abbot Kinney First Fridays, to support locally owned businesses and peruse one of the city’s top art walks in one of its hippest neighborhoods.

40. Crane your neck at the historic Watts Towers, a series of 17 interconnected sculptural structures built over 33 years by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia.

41. There are free Metro Station art tours put on by the department of transportation called Metro Art Moves, which highlight murals, architecture, digital installations, and more.

42. Zen out at the donation-based morning meditations at Zenshuji Soto Temple in Little Tokyo, then stroll the 120-year-old neighborhood’s streets to see its restaurants, galleries, and indie clothing shops.

43. Capitalize on the complimentary, docent-led tours that take visitors through the interior space and gardens at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry.

44. Take a self-guided tour of the up-and-coming galleries in the unassuming alleyways of Chinatown’s Chung King Road on various Saturday nights, when they fling their doors open to the public.

45. One of the city’s most-filmed commercial buildings is also one of its oldest. The Bradbury is recognizable by its open cage elevators, marble stairs, and ornate iron railings.

46. The Los Angeles Conservancy website offers plenty of maps for self-guided walking architectural tours of the city, from locations spotted in “500 Days of Summer,” to the DTLA Arts District and more.

47. Built in 1899, the Hollywood Forever Cemeteryis the resting place for some of Hollywood’s greats, like Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and more.

48. The Annenberg Space for Photographyshowcases digital and print photography from some of the world’s most renowned photographers alongside up-and-comers.

49. Angelenos love to climb the city’s staircases—originally designed to connect steep-streeted communities in the 1920s—to fit in a workout. Use the Secret Stairs app to get sweat like the locals in Echo Park, Silverlake, Santa Monica, and beyond.

50. The sights and sounds at the Original Farmers Market are a feast for the senses, and entry is free.

51. The stunning Malibu property at the Getty Villa, part of the Getty Center, focuses on Greek, Roman and Etrurian art, is also free to visit.

52. The La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park are home to the largest discovery of Ice Age fossils in the world. You can always wander the outdoor grounds, and on the first Tuesday of the month, they also offer free museum and active archeological site visits.

53. Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the country. They offer free access to the building and grounds, as well as complimentary entry to their star parties and guided sunset walks.

54. The Broad Museum in Downtown L.A. opens September 20 and plans to make art democratic by extending complimentary general admission.

55. Get a dose of local Latino culture and history atOlvera Street while shopping, listening to mariachi music, and watching traditional folkloric dances.

Want to know more about the above? Read the full scoop here.

New York

56. The Museum of Modern Art offers free admission every Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 pm., and you can visit the sculpture garden for free every morning from 9:30 to 10 am.

57. The Financial District’s Federal Bank of New York holds more than 6,500 tons of gold. Anyone can sign up for a free tour of the gold vault on weekday afternoons.

58. Visit the bucolic Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Tuesdays, when its admission fee is waived

59. For a peek inside a preserved historic home, head to Hamilton Grange in Harlem, Alexander Hamilton’s former home.

60. The Dia Foundation has several art installations in New York City, but the most impressive are the New York Earth Room and the Broken Kilometer. Though closed for the summer, they will reopen in September.

61. You can go stargazing on the High Line every Tuesday starting at dusk. The Amateur Astronomers Association sets up telescopes on the section between West 15th and West 16th Streets.

62. Bryant Park is one of the city’s liveliest spots during the summer, with lots of free activities. Yoga fans should head there on Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m., or Thursday evenings at 6 p.m., for free classes.

63. A handful of NYC parks offer free outdoor movies during the summer. There’s still time to catch the end of the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival and Syfy Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

64. During the summer, there are few things more pleasurable than taking a ride on a boat, and theStaten Island Ferry is absolutely free.

65. There are hundreds of art galleries in Chelsea, mostly located between W. 14th Street and W. 29th Street around 10th and 11th Avenues. They’re free to visit during opening hours, and many put on museum-quality exhibits (check out Gagosian, David Zwirner, Milk Gallery, and Pace).

66. New York has plenty of public beaches that are free to visit. Brighton Beach, is near Coney Island, but is more under-the-radar and full of Russian restaurants. The Rockaways draw surfers to Queens, and Fort Tilden is a favorite among hipsters.

67. It’s easy to overlook the public library, but the Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue is one of the city’s architectural gems. It’s not only free to visit, but it also hosts exhibits, docent-led tours, and talks with acclaimed authors.

68. One of the most alluring aspects of Grand Central Terminal is the Whispering Gallery under the Guastavino-tiled arches near the Oyster Bar. When two people stand at diagonal arches and whisper to each other, their voices ring through like an old game of telephone.

69. Central Park is free and open to the public, but not many people know that the Central Park Conservancy offers free guided tours of Manhattan’s largest park.

70. SummerStage concerts in the city’s parks are ending soon, but the Harlem Meer Performance Festival will continue into September.

71. Occupying 8 out of 16 acres where the World Trade Center once stood, the 9/11 Memorial honors the lives of those lost during the terrorist attacks on the site in 1993 and 2001. While the museum is complimentary only for 9/11 survivors and their families, the outdoor memorial is always free.

72. Brooklyn Bridge Park curves around the waterfront in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, and is chock full of activities, from basketball to bocce, and a pop-up pool made of recycled shipping containers.

73. Stop by the pioneering Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg to learn about the fine art and science of beer making. There are free tours every half hour on the weekends.

74. One of Brooklyn’s best craft distilleries, the New York Distilling Company, opens its doors to the public for free tours and tastings on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

75. Fans of the Tonight Show can watch a taping with Jimmy Fallon at NBC’s studios in Rockefeller Center with a bit of advanced planning. Free tickets are released a month in advance, though if you’re lucky you can get standby tickets the night of the event.

76. Until mid-October, you can take a kayak out on the Hudson River at Pier 26 in Tribeca, or the Manhattan Community Boathouse locations at Pier 96 in Midtown and in Riverside Park at 72nd Street.

Want to know more about the above? Read the full scoop here.

Washington, DC

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Henryk Sadura—Getty Images/Tetra images RFUSA, Columbia, Washington DC, Thomas Jefferson Memorial at dusk

77. Nearly everyone who comes to D.C. plans to stroll around the city’s famous National Mall and Memorial Parks. While the monuments are free anyway, you might not know that the National Park Service offers free tours at most of these sites on the hour.

78. One of the best things about visiting the city is its abundance of free museums. The Smithsonian Institution operates 17 museums in the D.C. Metro area that offer free admission.

79. The drum circle at Meridian Hill Park is one of the city’s longest-running traditions.

80. Just north of Georgetown, the Washington National Cathedral is one of the more recognizable landmarks in Washington; tours are free on Sundays.

81. Rock Creek Park spans more than 2,000 acres in Northwest D.C. with hiking trails, picnic grounds, an ampitheatre with a summer concert series, bicycle paths, a tennis center, and more.

82. Another key member of the free museums in the Smithsonian Institution is the National Zoo, located in the southern end of Rock Creek Park.

83. For a quick fix of nature and beauty, the U.S. National Arboretum has colorful azalea gardens in the spring, a holly and magnolia garden in the fall and winter, the Bonsai & Penjing Museum, and the National Grove of State Trees.

84. The most popular spot for watching planes land at Reagan National Airport is Gravelly Point, located just next to the airport in Arlington, Virginia.

85. Anyone can take a free tour of the White House with some advance planning.

86. The Shakespeare Theatre Company shares the famous playwright’s work with as many Washingtonians and visitors as possible through its Free For All shows.

87. Tucked among the Smithsonian museums near the Capitol building, the U.S. Botanic Gardenfeatures plants from all over the world, from desert-friendly succulents to a tropical rainforest, to regional mid-Atlantic plants.

88. Free outdoor movies are a favorite summer event in the city, especially the 17-year-old Screen on the Green on the National Mall, which generally shows classic movies.

89. The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center also offers tours of the Capitol, including the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall.

90. The Folger Shakespeare Library offers free tours of its collection, reading rooms, and Elizabethan garden.

91. Just across the Memorial Bridge from the Lincoln Memorial lies Arlington National Cemetery, which honors America’s fallen men and women of the military.

92. For an especially scenic tour of Georgetown, hop on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail.

93. Every summer, the National Gallery of Art hosts a concert series in its sculpture garden called Jazz in the Garden.

94. At the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, there’s a free performance very day at 6 p.m. at The Millennium Stage; there are also free guided tours of its theaters, artworks, and the Hall of Nations.

95. One of the most beautiful buildings in town is the Thomas Jefferson building at the Library of Congress, open since 1897. Free walk-in tours discuss the art and architecture of the building, its contents, and more.

96. See the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights at theNational Archives, which houses all three as well as exhibit rooms, a theater, and a learning center.

97. Located on the National Mall, the National Gallery of Art and its various events are free to the public, as are guided tours of the museum’s many collections.

98. There aren’t any guided tours of the Supreme Court, but visitors can hear arguments, walk around the first and ground floors of the building, and on weekdays can attend free 30-minute Courtroom Lectures.

99. Many Washingtonians have a serious love for the free Fort Reno summer concert series that features local punk bands in a relaxed park in Tenleytown.

100. As part of Passport DC, countries including Japan, Belize, Qatar, Ghana, and Costa Rica offer free admission to their embassies in the city, along with exhibitions, performances, and cooking demonstrations that highlight their culture and traditions.

101. It’s free to enter two of D.C.’s major marketplaces. There’s the more than 130-year-old Eastern Market, and newcomer Union Market in the NoMa neighborhood.

Want to know more about the above? Read the full scoop here.

San Francisco

102. Catch Off the Grid’s popular Twilight at the Presidio campfire party every Thursday, from April through October from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

103. Every Tuesday at 6:15 p.m., Grace Cathedralfloods with urbanites toting neon yoga mats for a soothing, free yoga class that sprawls throughout the entire cathedral.

104. Several free film screenings happen in parks across the Bay Area each summer, spanning from the Mission to Napa.

105. Once a month the city’s globetrotting literati convene at the Hotel Rex bar for Weekday Wanderlust, a chance to mingle and swap stories of their travels.

106. One of the most renowned museums in San Francisco, the de Young, is free on Friday evenings.

107. There are many urban hikes throughout the city. One of the best is the Lands End trail, which begins near the ritzy Sea Cliff neighborhood, then winds around the craggy coast along the Pacific.

108. From Sansome Street, make your way up the Filbert Street Steps, a steep wooden staircase that leads to to the top of Telegraph Hill, where you’ll find Coit Tower and a 360-degree view of San Francisco and the Bay.

109. At Oakland’s monthly Art Murmur event, dozens of local galleries open their doors to the art-curious, while food trucks and street performers take over the streets.

110. Not many people know about the Wave Organ, an acoustic metal sculpture that the Exploratorium installed nearly 30 years ago.

111. In the Outer Sunset district, the aptly named Grandview Park provides vistas that span downtown to the Golden Gate Bridge and, on a clear day, even Pt. Reyes.

112. Giants Stadium is the only stadium in the U.S. that offers a designated space where fans can watch the games for free.

113. The Cal Sailing Club hosts an open house almost every month, giving free rides on their fleet from the Berkeley Marina.

114. Local figure Deleano Seymor is famous locally for his immersive and informative free tours of the Tenderloin (by appointment; donations appreciated).

115. Inside the Presidio are stunning works of art crafted from natural materials by famed artist Andy Goldsworthy.

116. You’ll find frequent live readings by best-selling authors from across the country (and globe) at City Lights, Green Apple Books, and Book Passage.

117. Every second and third Tuesday of the month,Milk Bar, a small trendy bar in the Upper Haight, hosts a free comedy night with local and national comics.

118. From July to October, the annual People in Plazas festival kicks off at squares across the city, offering more than 140 free lunchtime micro concerts.

119. The best way to see the Bay Area’s bounty of heirloom produce and flowers is at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

120. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is coming up October 2 through 4 in Golden Gate Park. The annual festival sets up multiple stages for three days of totally free musical fun.

121. Get a free crash course in the lore of San Francisco’s most Instagramable transport system at the Cable Car Museum.

Want to know more about the above? Read the full scoop here.

Las Vegas

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Mitchell Funk—Getty Images

122. Beginning in late August, the KA Theatre in MGM Grand opens its doors to the public every Tuesday between 11 a.m and 11:30 a.m. for the ultimate insider tour of the mechanics of this $165 million production.

123. The world’s largest permanent circus can be found at Circus-Circus, where you can watch death-defying stunts by unicyclists and acrobats high above the casino floor at no charge every half hour.

124. On weekends starting at 7 p.m., join the Carnival-like parade of dancers and acrobats dance down the Rio’s main course hourly during the Masquerade in the Sky at Rio.

125. The largest gold nugget in the world is right here in Las Vegas—at The Golden Nugget.

126. Local chocolatier Ethel M sits right in one of the largest botanical cactus gardens in the world, and you can take factory tours (free samples!) after a stroll of the unusual gardens.

127. Don’t want to leave the strip? Don’t missM&M’s World, a four-floor chocoholic’s haven, with a free 3-D movie starring Red and Yellow.

128. Right across the street, Hershey’s Chocolate World has opened in New York-New York, a two-story flagship featuring an 800-pound chocolate Statue of Liberty.

129. Incredible public artworks on the 67-acre CityCenter campus include 15 works by artists such as Nancy Rubin, Claes Oldernburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

130. Within Crystals, CityCenter’s high-end mall, light artist James Turrell has installed Shards of Color—four recessed geometric shapes lit in neon.

131. But the best secret in Crystals is Turrell’s Akhob—an enormous permanent installation inside the Louis Vuitton Maison flagship.

132. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas houses some of the best free art around: there are the so-calledWallworks—murals by artists like Kenny Scharf and Shepard Fairey—on the concrete walls of the parking garage, and much more.

133. P3 Studio has hosted artists from Fab 5 Freddy to Shelter Serra, who work there for several weeks; passersby can wander in and often take part in an interactive art piece.

134. At Wynn Las Vegas, look for the 7-foot-tall, 2,000-pound Popeye sculpture by Jeff Koons right on the shopping esplanade that Steve Wynn purchased for $28 million.

135. Love Pawn Stars? Line up early to get a look inside the real Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Downtown Vegas.

136. This fall, Rick Harrison opens a kingdom for his devoted followers in the form of Pawn Plaza, a giant shopping center made out of shipping containers with retail and restaurant tenants.

137. You could hold your dream nuptials at Denny’s, on Fremont Street, or just gawk at it with your family between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., when kids eat free.

138. The best way to drink for (nearly) free is to play the slots at older downtown casinos, such as El Cortez, Golden Nugget and The D, where the play amounts are lower. (Still, make sure you tip, or your server will mysteriously become unavailable.)

139. The 9-foot-tall chrome Lucky Cat at the Cosmopolitan dispenses fortunes free to those who put their hand on his paw. They vary from fortune cookie messages to free drinks and room nights.

140. You’ll inevitably end up at the Fountains of Bellagio, which recently added a three-song electronic medley by Tiesto to its lineup of Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli and Tony Bennett.

141. Some of the best gawking in Las Vegas happens inside the Bellagio’s 14,000-square-foot, skylit conservatory, where 120 horticulturalists, engineers and designers create incredible displays.

142. Similarly, the waterfall atrium at Palazzo, with a two-floor waterfall and seasonal flowers, is a great place to experience imagineered nature, at the entrance of the Grand Canal Shoppes.

143. Inside the Forum Shops at Caesars, the newly revamped Fall of Atlantis show’s giant talking statues and pyrotechnics are fun to watch …

144. … but the nearby 50,000-gallon aquarium is even better. Enjoy this water-tainment without guilt: Vegas resorts account for just seven percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s water use: overall, some 80 percent of the Strip’s water is returned to Lake Mead.

145. The open-air Grand Bazaar Shops has opened across the street from Bellagio, mashing up the outdoor dining and retail concepts from Seattle to Marrakesh.

146. Don’t miss the massive new Swarovski Starburst, a 14-foot LED-lit crystal starburst that lights up the Grand Bazaar Shops at night.

147. Nearby you can stroll along the new LINQ entertainment corridor, which runs perpendicular to the Strip, all the way to the High Roller.

148. Don’t miss The Polaroid Fotobar, one of the best free hidden gems in Las Vegas—a museum open until 2 a.m. on the weekends, and midnight on other days, that showcases great work of photographers working in the format.

149. On the south end of the Strip, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, a symbol of excess once perched on a perilous median, is now solar powered and has plenty of convenient parking.

150. There’s the spewing volcano in front of the Mirage—now with flame shooters, a soundtrack, and water and lighting effects. It starts each night at 5 p.m., erupting every 30 minutes until 11 p.m.

151. Check out the Downtown Container Park, a retail, dining and play park made entirely of shipping containers. Find the free entertainment calendar, including a new outdoor family movie series, on the park’s website.

152. Do a self-guided tour of the Fremont East Entertainment District, whose refurbished vintage neon lights include the famous horseback rider from the Hacienda Hotel, a red slipper and a martini glass—and the newest addition: a new neon sign of a 30-foot-tall Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Portland, Oregon

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Cultura RM/Wonwoo Lee—Getty Images/Cultura RMShop sign for Outdoor Store, Portland, Oregon, US

153. Hike in Forest Park, one of the largest natural areas in any city in the U.S., filled with fiddlehead ferns, 112 bird species and 62 types of mammals.

154. Tour the International Rose Test Garden, inhaling blooms that are being developed and evaluated for scent and color, and can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.

155. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening is from Portland, and named some of the show’s major characters after streets in Northwest Portland. From NW 2nd Street to NW 24th Street, and from Burnside to Vaughn, there are roads named Flanders (Ned Flanders), Lovejoy (Reverend Lovejoy), Quimby (Mayor Quimby), and Kearney (one of the bullies).

156. Flip through hardbacks in the Rare Room at Powell’s City of Books, the country’s largest independent bookstore.

157. Mount Tabor is a volcanic cinder cone that’s now home to a city park, where you can walk on paved or dirt trails, enjoy a picnic, or take kids to the playground. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood from the top.

158. Tour the Oregon Rail Heritage Center; there’s no entrance fee to see the museum’s vintage steam locomotives.

159. With 140 vendors, the Portland Farmers’ Market on the grassy campus of Portland State University is one of the largest and best greenmarkets in the country, running every Saturday of the year.

160. Tilikum Crossing opens September 12, the first bridge in the country made to carry walkers, bikers, and public transportation—but no cars.

161. Pop into galleries with the First Thursday Gallery Walk each month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with more than 20 participating galleries downtown.

162. The beloved young adult author Beverly Cleary grew up in town, and Grant Park has bronze sculptures of three of her characters: Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry’s dog Ribsy.

163. Cruise along the Eastbank Esplanade, a paved 1.5-mile path with awesome downtown views. It runs along the river and links up to the 20-mile Springwater Corridor trail, if you want to go farther.

Want to know more about the above? Read the full scoop here.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure and was written by Andrea Bennett, Max Grinnell, Caroline Hallemann, Laura Itzkowitz, Amy McKeever, Jenna Scatena, Krista Simmons and Sarah Z. Wexler.

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MONEY renting

6 Cities Where Rent Eats Nearly Half Your Paycheck

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Mitch Diamond—Getty Images Los Angeles freeway in the evening

Renters in Los Angeles spend 48.9% of their monthly income on housing.

No matter if you’re a homeowner or a renter, paying for your living space is probably the biggest monthly expense you have. Depending on where you live, you may need to fork over nearly half your income every month, just to pay that bill. People who spend such a significant portion of their money on housing aren’t necessarily living in fancy homes — more likely than not, they’re renters.

In the second quarter of 2015, the average renter spent 30.2% of his or her monthly income on rent, while homeowners only spent 15.1% of their paychecks on mortgage payments, according to an analysis from Zillow of regional income data, rental data and the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. A good rule of thumb is to put no more than 25% of your monthly income toward monthly rent, but depending on how much you make and where you live, that may be difficult to do.

Of course, plenty of people who give their landlords more than 25% of their paychecks could probably reduce that cost by downsizing, sacrificing certain amenities or trading an expensive location for a longer commute. But it may not be so easy to do, especially in places that are particularly expensive. That not only can make it a challenge to budget for day-to-day expenses, but it can also present a significant obstacle to people who want to eventually own a home and must save for a down payment to do so. The higher your down payment and the better your credit score, the more likely it is you’ll get a lower interest rate and ultimately a more affordable mortgage.

Poll: If You Could Make Enough Money to Live, Would You Go Freelance?

Unfortunately, until you’ve saved up, reduced or paid of your debts and improved your credit, you may be stuck with the rental market.

Here are several cities where the average person spends nearly half his or her paycheck on rent.

6. New York/Northern New Jersey

Percentage of monthly income spent on rent (Q2 2015): 41.3%

When talking about pricey places to live, two locations tend to come to mind: New York and California. If we were to list cities outside of those states (and with New York, it’s really the NYC metro area that’s so costly), the three most expensive places to rent would be Miami, Denver and Boston, where people spend an average of 45%, 35% and 34% of their income on rent, respectively. The average NYC metro area homeowner spends 25.6% of monthly income on a mortgage payment.

5. San Jose

Percentage of monthly income spent on rent: 41.5%

Whether you rent or own in San Jose, you’re paying a lot of money to do so. Mortgage payments soaked up 41.9% of homeowners’ paychecks last quarter.

4. San Diego

Percentage of monthly income spent on rent: 43.7%

The Bay Area gets a lot of attention for its high cost of living, but southern California can also be incredibly expensive. Homeowners in San Diego don’t have it much better, with a mortgage payment amounting to 34.1% of monthly income last quarter.

Read next: The 5 Best Big Cities

3. Miami/Fort Lauderdale

Percentage of monthly income spent on rent: 44.5%

Buying a home in Miami is a much better deal than renting, as far as monthly payments are concerned, according to the Zillow analysis. Last quarter, homeowners spent about 20% of their monthly income on mortgage payments, as opposed to the nearly 45% of income renters threw at their living arrangements.

2. San Francisco

Percentage of monthly income spent on rent: 46.7%

Even with the insane rents paid by San Francisco apartment-dwellers, budgeting isn’t much better for homeowners. Mortgage payments took up 41.4% of incomes from homeowners with Silicon Valley salaries last quarter.

1. Los Angeles

Percentage of monthly income spent on rent: 48.9%

Homeowners are in a slightly better position in L.A., with mortgage payments taking up 39.9% of monthly income. However, if mortgage rates go up, that wouldn’t necessarily hold true. Zillow projected how much a mortgage payment would cost if rates increased to 6%, and that would put L.A. homeowners in a position where they spend 50% of their income on mortgage payments. The projections were worse for San Francisco and San Jose, where mortgage payments would gobble up 54.7% and 55.3% of homeowners paychecks, respectively, if and when the average mortgage rate reaches 6%.

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TIME legal

Prosecutors: Uber Hired Drivers With Criminal Records

An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.
Andrew Harrer—2015 Bloomberg Finance LP An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.

Prosecutors say Uber has knowingly continued to mislead consumers about the thoroughness of its screening methods

Uber hired 25 drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco with criminal records ranging from property crimes, sex offenses and murder, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

“We are learning increasingly that a lot of the information that Uber has been presenting the consumer has been false and misleading,” George Gascon, district attorney of San Francisco, where Uber is based, said at a news conference, the New York Times reports.

The comments came after the attorneys announced they were filing a 62-page amended complaint to the original civil suit, filed in December, that claims the ride-hailing app has knowingly continued to mislead consumers about the thoroughness of its screening methods.

Gascon, who has led investigations, noted that the records Uber uses to check applicants for sex offenses are missing 30,000 individuals whose convictions occurred more than seven years ago, allowing them to escape the company’s notice.

Uber has said in the past that the limited scope of its background-check providers is required by some state laws, and is in fact a way for the company to help rehabilitate offenders. “We understand that there are strongly held views about the rehabilitation of offenders,” Uber said in a blog post dated July 15. “But the California state legislature decided — after a healthy debate — that seven years strikes the right balance between protecting the public while also giving ex-offenders the chance to work and rehabilitate themselves.”

Uber has noted that Live Scan, another method of vetting drivers favored by many of the company’s critics, is not subject to seven-year limits. The prosecutors’ complaint asserts that a Live Scan system would have been more effective.

Uber said it disagreed that the screening process used by taxi drivers was better than its own checks. “The reality is that neither is 100% foolproof—as we discovered last year when putting hundreds of people through our checks who identified themselves as taxi drivers,” Uber told TIME in a statement. “That process uncovered convictions for DUI, rape, attempted murder, child abuse and violence.” Uber also noted that its rival Lyft had settled a similar case last year for $250,000.

While traditional cabs are required to use Live Scan, Uber is not, but prosecutors believe that the company has oversold the effectiveness of its own checking methods.

[New York Times]

TIME California

4.0-Magnitude Earthquake Hits San Francisco

There are no reports of injuries

(SAN FRANCISCO) — A short sharp earthquake rattled the San Francisco Bay Area, but there are no reports of injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 4.0 magnitude quake Monday morning was centered just north of Piedmont, near Berkeley, and felt in downtown San Francisco, along the Peninsula and in the East Bay.

The shallow quake at 6:49 a.m. was a sharp jolt, followed by a couple of gentle rolls. It was not immediately known if the quake caused damage.

Bay Area Rapid Transit is holding trains to check the tracks on the public transit system. Commuters should expect delays.

 

4.2 magnitude earthquake, close to San Francisco, USA
USGS/EPAA shake map released by the US Geological Survey on 17 Aug. 2015 shows the location of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake, close to San Francisco.
TIME Uber

This Uber Lawsuit Could Have Big Implications for the Sharing Economy

Marco Rubio Speech On Innovation At Uber's DC Offices
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Are drivers employees or independent contractors?

Uber heads back to court this Thursday in San Francisco to battle a case that has major implications for a sharing economy. The case is a class-action hearing that will determine whether its worker classification lawsuit will become a class-action suit.

The broader issue this case represents is whether Uber drivers are to be regarded as employees or independent contractors. In effect, Uber’s lawyers are going to be arguing that their drivers are so diverse — in regards to flexibility, working hours, etc. — that they cannot be considered as just one class.

The opposition, however, will be attempting to assert and validate the claim that Uber drivers are not different in ways meaningful enough to disqualify a class-action suit.

What this case can mean for the sharing economy — and for companies in this billion dollar industry, such as Airbnb and Lyft — is, as Arun Sundararajan, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of business, tells Bloomberg: “Classifying drivers as employees would result in higher prices, and fewer Uber drivers overall who must work longer hours. The higher costs would be passed on to consumers, with reductions in drivers’ income and Uber’s cut of their fares.” He added: “The effect on Uber’s global revenue would likely be small.”

The implications of this decision hold relevance in many sectors, especially with the sharing economy being a point of interest for presidential candidates.

Democratic front-runner Hilary Clinton, for example, has said: “This on-demand or so called ‘gig’ economy is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”

The decision will be released in the coming weeks with its influence catching the interests of many.

TIME California

Crews Say There’s Progress in the Battle Against California Wildfires

California Wildfires
Jeff Chiu—AP Plants burned in the Rocky Fire are shown near Lower Lake, Calif., Aug. 4, 2015

“These are our friends, our family and our neighbors”

(MIDDLETOWN, Calif.) — Firefighters are reporting some progress against a Northern California wildfire that has charred more than 100 square miles of terrain, destroying buildings, threatening many others and sending thousands of residents fleeing.

As firefighters and equipment from outside the state poured in to battle the blaze burning about 100 miles north of San Francisco, more than 13,000 people were required or urged to leave their homes, vacation cabins and campsites.

Firefighting officials said crews made some progress Tuesday with some help from light rain. The blaze was 20 percent contained, but it was not expected to be corralled until at least Monday.

Teams were able to build a buffer between the flames and some of the estimated 6,900 homes it threatens. Despite the fire’s growth, no additional homes were consumed outside the two dozen already destroyed.

The fire, by far the largest of 11 burning in Northern California, started on July 29 in drought-withered brush that has not burned in years in the Lower Lake area. A cause has not been determined.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, has the wildfire listed as the nation’s highest priority for crews and equipment even as potentially destructive blazes burned in Oregon and Washington, spokesman Mike Ferris said.

He called the fire that has burned 101 square miles “one big monster.”

“In Northern California alone, all their resources are committed, and they are having to go outside the geographic area to get resources, whether it’s aircraft or firefighters,” Ferris said.

With more than 3,000 firefighters battling the smoky blaze and evacuees seeking shelter, motels were booked up for days within miles.

Margot Simpson, a manager at the Red Cross evacuation center set up at Middletown High School, said she hadn’t had any luck finding a room for a person in a wheelchair after searching four of the bigger nearby communities.

“I started in the phone book at the top of the list, and I started going down and I got nothing,” she said.

Many people not affected by the fires stepped up to help. Tabetha Atwood, the owner of Our Happy Tails Etc., a local doggy bakery, was helping to match frightened dogs with their owners at a command center at the Moose Lodge in Clearlake Oaks that was serving as a community assistance center.

Atwood also had dog treats on hand for people who came by with their pets while other volunteers gave out pillows, apples and piles of French toast to people displaced by the fire.

“These are our friends, our family and our neighbors,” she said.

By Tuesday afternoon, with 15- to 20-mph winds coming from the northwest, the Moose Lodge itself was being threatened and the people there asked to leave.

Layna Rivas of Clearlake Oaks tried to remain calm after checking the latest map showing the wildfire’sovernight progress. It showed the artists’ haven she has spent the last five years building directly in the flames’ path.

Rivas was thinking of her baby grand piano in a studio made out of straw bales.

“Worst part is I can’t get in to see what’s been damaged or no,” she said. “My heart is heavy at the thought of my once epic view of the valley that had an array of life and colors now grey and lifeless.”

Crews have conducted controlled burns, setting fire to shrubs to rob the blaze of fuel and protect homes in a rural area of grasslands and steep hills. Nearly a week into the fight, fatigue has set in.

“There were too many (spot fires) for us to pick up,” Battalion Chief Carl Schwettmann of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the San Francisco Chronicle. “With these drought-stricken fuels, it’s just moving at an extremely high rate of speed.”

Clear Lake, which at 70 square miles is the largest natural lake entirely within California, is a popular spot for boaters and campers. Despite the proximity of the fire, no homes around the lake were considered at risk on Tuesday, fire officials said.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the fire and has asked his aides to stay in close touch with California Gov. Jerry Brown and other local officials, the White House said.

___

Bender reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Lisa Leff in San Francisco contributed to this report.

TIME

Big Soda Sues San Francisco Over Beverage Warnings

<> on June 10, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan—2015 Getty Images Bottles of soda are displayed in a cooler at a convenience store on June 10, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

The soda industry’s largest trade body is suing the city of San Francisco over rules that would require mandatory warning labels on soda advertisements and ban their display on city property.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Beverage Association on Friday, claims the regulations due to come into force July 2016 are unconstitutional. The city, the complaint said, “is trying to ensure that there is no free marketplace of ideas, but instead only a government-imposed, one-sided public ‘dialogue’ on the topic—in violation of the First Amendment.”

The legislation was passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in June and stands among the strongest laws in the country relating to sugary beverages. The label, which must be affixed to all soda advertisements, would read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

The plaintiffs in the complaint say forcing signs to carry that label “violates core First Amendment principles.”

Other parties to the suit also include the California Retailers Association and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association.

TIME Economy

Here’s Every City in America Getting a $15 Minimum Wage

As New York is set to raise fast food workers' pay

When dozens of New York fast food workers walked off the job in 2013 demanding minimum pay of $15 per hour, their campaign seemed like a longshot. But two years, several nationwide strikes and new rules laws later, a $15 minimum wage is becoming a reality for millions of workers across the United States.

The workers’ campaign, known as Fast Food Forward and backed by the Service Employees International Union, has slowly gained momentum through a series of increasingly large one-day strikes targeting fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King. At first, the effects of the strikes seemed small, with individual restaurant owners conceding to minuscule wage increases for some of their workers. But even as businesspeople were doing their best to ignore the movement, politicians were paying close attention.

Over the last two years, several cities and now the entire state of New York either have or are in the process of enacting a $15 minimum wage for various workers. Here’s a look at the cities that have enacted huge pay increases, and the ones that could still be to come.

New York

How it Happened: A wage board appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented a recommendation Wednesday to increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour across the state, up from the current $8.75. Cuomo has enthusiastically backed the initiative.

The Plan: In New York City, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 by the end of this year, then increase incrementally each year to reach $15 by 2018. In the rest of the state, the increments will be smaller and $15 will be reached by 2021. The wage increases apply only to fast food chains with at least 30 locations in the U.S.

The Effect: None yet, since the measure still must be approved by the state’s labor commissioner. Experts predict other types of businesses that employ low-wage workers, like retailers or landscapers, will have to increase wages to compete with fast food restaurants.

Seattle

How it Happened: Mayor Ed Murray made increasing the minimum wage one of his first priorities when taking office at the start of 2014. In May of that year, he put forth a proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage from Washington state’s rate of $9.32 to to $15 over several years. The city council approved the measure a month later.

The Plan: Workers at large businesses with 500 or more U.S. employees will see their wages hit $15 per her hour by 2017. Workers at businesses with fewer than 500 U.S. employees will reach that rate by 2021. After the hikes, large businesses will have to keep increasing wages to keep pace with inflation.

The Effects So Far: The first stage of Seattle’s plan went into effect in April 2015, with large businesses raising their minimum wage to $11 per hour and small businesses’ wages rising to $10. So far, the effects are largely anecdotal. Some local restaurants have raised prices from 4 to 21%. In nearby SeaTac, where the minimum wage for some workers jumped to $15 per hour last year, there hasn’t been any measurable economic fallout.

San Francisco

How it Happened: City residents voted by a large majority to raise the city’s minimum wage from $10.74 to $15 last November.

The Plan: Wages have already jumped to $12.25, and will increase to $15 by 2018. After that, the minimum wage will increase every year at a rate tied to the consumer price index.

The Effects So Far: This year’s wage increase boosted the pay for as many as 86,000 workers, most of whom were women and minorities, according to one estimate. However, at least one local bookstore said it would close due to the increased costs.

Los Angeles

How it Happened: The Los Angeles city council voted in May to increase the local minimum wage to $15 by 2020, up from the current $9. This week the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 for people working in unincorporated parts of the county.

The Plan: Workers will earn $10.50 per hour starting next year, with incremental increases until they make $15 in 2020. The hikes are delayed by a year for workers at businesses with 25 or fewer employees. After reaching $15, annual minimum wage increases will be tied to the consumer price index.

The Effects So Far: Because many cities in L.A. County, like Pasadena and Long Beach, haven’t yet committed to matching the county’s wage increase, prices for goods and services at stores very close to one another could become highly skewed.

Washington, D.C.

How it Might Happen: Residents of the nation’s capital will vote next year on whether to increase the minimum wage to $15 from the current $10.50.

The Plan: The minimum wage would increase to $15 per hour by 2020 and would afterward be tied to increases in the consumer price index.

TIME Crime

San Francisco Cop Defends Release of Undocumented Immigrant in Shooting Case

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi fields questions during a news conference in San Francisco on July 10, 2015, in San Francisco. Mirkarimi provided information regarding the April 2015 release of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who is now accused in the shooting death of a woman at a popular tourist site. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tony Avelar—AP San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi fields questions during a news conference in San Francisco on July 10, 2015.

Local sheriff decries “finger-pointing” and “distortion” after deadly shooting

A top San Francisco cop denied Friday that his department had been negligent in releasing an undocumented immigrant who was later charged in a deadly shooting.

At issue is the fatal July 1 pier shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with numerous drug felonies on his record, has been charged with the crime. Revelations that federal authorities had planned to deport Lopez-Sanchez before San Francisco authorities released him have brought scrutiny to the city’s status as a so-called “sanctuary city” that doesn’t comply with federal orders to hold immigration violators.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said Friday that local law allows him to turn suspects over to federal investigators only when there are active warrants out for the suspect’s arrest, the local NBC affiliate reports. Speaking at a news conference, he said there has been “finger-pointing” and “distortion” since the incident. And decrying that the shooting has become an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, he called it “incredibly sad … that this tragedy is being used as a platform for political gain.”

Steinle was struck in the head by gunfire as she walked along Pier 14 in San Francisco, in the company her father and a friend.

 

TIME internet cable cuts

Somebody Is Cutting Internet Cables, Causing Massive Outages

530073665
Westend61—Getty Images/Westend61 San Francisco.

At least 11 attacks have happened over the last year

The FBI is investigating a mysterious string of attacks on fiber optic cables in the San Francisco Bay area, including one that severely disrupted Internet service at numerous businesses and residential buildings Tuesday morning.

At least 11 physical attacks on these cables have occurred in at least 10 Bay area cities — such as Fremont, Berkeley, San Jose, and Walnut Creek — over the last year, dating back to at least July 6, 2014, FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich told USA Today. “When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing,” Wuthrich said. “We definitely need the public’s assistance.”

The latest attack, which happened at 4.20 a.m. PT on Tuesday, was particularly alarming as it appeared to have been a concerted strike on three Internet cables belonging to wholesalers Level 3 and Zayo. The result was a huge outage for those living in and around Sacramento for a good part of the day. According to Wave Broadband, an Internet provider to the area, service was restored by 11.40 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

The vandalism brings up concerns about the security of the country’s existing Internet infrastructure. Cutting these lines requires tools that penetrate a tough outer layer. According to Wuthrich, the acts happened in remote areas unmonitored by cameras, and perhaps by vandals dressed as utility workers who have accessed the underground vaults containing the cables. “Different companies have thousands of these vaults,” Wuthrich said in a separate LA Times report.

The area has been a hotbed for such attacks over recent years. Fiber-optic cables at four California locations were clipped on April 9, 2009, affecting more than 50,000 people in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. On April 16, 2013, suspects cut cables and opened fire on electrical transformers outside San Jose, causing more than $15 million in damage.

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