Portland Startup Weekend

Spring-Logo-0309-2013It’s here! Portland Startup Weekend.

Last Saturday I attended Startup Weekend bootcamp in preparation for the Portland Startup Weekend this Friday through Sunday. Super helpful!! Startup Weekend is an intense 54-hour event that focuses on building a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend. The event brings together people with different skillsets – primarily Hackers: software developers, Hipsters: graphics designers and Hustlers: business people – to build applications and develop a viable business model around them.

The weekend goes like this: Friday evening the Hustlers pitch their projects to everyone present. After 50-100 pitches votes are cast and the 12-15 projects with the highest number of votes begin the process of building teams based on the skills needed to design, code, generate a business model, develop a marketing strategy and “launch” the project – which basically means being thorough enough that they can convince the judges that 1) they know their customer’s problem, 2) they’ve built the minimum “solution” to ease the customer’s problem, 3) proven there’s a market for the product, and 4) proven it is viable (will make money).

In preparation for the weekend, I’ve prepared a brief survey that will allow our team to understand our customer’s travel / lifestyle needs and ensure we’re hitting the mark. As a potential customer, understanding YOUR needs is critical to us because, if you have no issues we can help another team, but if you do, we want to build YOU something that will actually ease those issues and elevate your travel or urban discovery experience.

The event starts this coming Friday evening (April 26th), so if you could help us out by taking a few moments to complete the survey, we’d be sooooo sincerely grateful!

XO – True

Here’s the link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1APDfW8UmqX3TyNIiqsa35MNarG8UAlWMdJIIy1O9wQY/viewform

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Whose to Say What is Good and What is Bad?

The story goes something like this. One day a farmer finds a horse in his yard. A neighbor walking by calls out, “You lucky soul. This is good.” The farmer replies, “Whose to say what is good and what is bad.” The following morning the farmer finds the horse has left. His neighbor calls out, “You poor devil. This is bad.” The farmer replies, “Whose to say what is good and what is bad.” That evening the horse returns and with it are nine other horses. Seeing this, the neighbor hurries over and remarks, “You lucky soul. This is good.” To this the farmer replies, “Whose to say what is good and what is bad.” The horses are still there the following morning, so the farmer’s son attempts to break one of them. He is thrown from the horse and breaks his arm. The neighbor looking on, shakes his head and sighs, “Oh, you poor devil. This is bad.” The farmer  helps his son to his feet and replies, “Whose to say what is good and what is bad.” Word spreads that the country has gone to war and all able-bodied men are to report for duty. A mounted brigade passes through the village amassing the young men. The injured boy is left behind. Whose to say what is good and what is bad…

I mention this story in the wake of downloading and navigating the beta test model of our app. Suffice it to say it was not only ugly, but all jacked up. I compiled twelve hand written pages of errors. Twelve! After the initial disappointment subsided, I realized a terrific opportunity had just dropped in my lap. About four months into the development I met with PURA Marketing and had a marketing scrub done. Cathey and Dave researched the travel industry, trends and projections, travel apps and so much more, and came back with recommendations that, as insightful as they were, I felt came too late in the game to implement – sort of like being 7 1/2 months pregnant with a boy and wanting a girl. What this “problem” permitted me to do, was to clear the table and create what I really wanted.

It’s been a fun process. Metaphorically, I poured the project onto the table, let it be all gooey and drip off the edge. I didn’t try to “do” anything with it or tell it what it “had” to be. As a result Scoutabout is absolutely amazing. No longer confined to a mobile device, this web application has become “Pinterest meets Polyvore for Travel and Lifestyle.” I’ll share more in the days ahead. For now, I’m sending the love from Portland. Thank you for taking this ride with me and my awesome team. They inspire me everyday.

Startup PDX:Challenge

Ok, we’re going for this…The Portland Development Commission announced the launch of Startup PDX:Challenge, an international competition to select up to six for-profit startup businesses to receive a $10,000 working capital grant, a full year of rent-free office space in Southeast Portland and free professional advice and services donated by Portland law firms, accountants and human resources specialists.

Meet Scoutabout USA

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We said, “Enough” to conventional city guides and set out to build an app chock-full of local recommendations, offering city residents and travelers alike unique ways to experience a city more intimately – more like a local than a tourist – and do it all on a shoestring.

So how do you go about that?  Well, if you’re True North, you pack your car and spend six months on the road.  You drive to 50 U.S. cities, stay with locals, talk to locals, and you ask, ask, ask.  You accept sticky notes with suggestions, you scratch out a list during neighborhood soccer practice or take down notes from baristas, or students, or…(you get the idea).  You ask them what they love about their city.  You find out where they hang out and then you go there.  You learn where they eat, what they go to see and do, where they take their visitors and their “must see” lists.  Sure, they share some of their, ” I know it’s touristy, but you’ve gotta do it” sites.  But they also shared their favorite unusual, undiscovered, under-rated and just plain cool places.  And then, because you’re…well, True, you walk the streets and ask the city to show itself to you.  You watch, you listen, and somewhere along the way you feel its pulse.  This isn’t mere traveling or urban living.  This is discovering and experiencing the heart and soul of a city.

Since True’s return in Dec. 2011, she and an undaunted team (yes, they are super heroes, whether or not you can actually see their capes) have been busy researching and organizing the 15,000 (or so) tips from the road and curated lists. This is North Technologies’ first mobile application.  Though True occasionally laments that perhaps its first app should have been something less daunting; say, a metronome, at the end of the day, Scoutabout USA is far more fulfilling…and fun!  We hope you enjoy it.

Word from the developer is we should have a working app to beta test in a couple weeks, so if all goes well, the app should be ready for release in the Apple store sometime in March.  We’ll let you know as we know.  Thanks for all your encouragement, interest and support.  It’s our oxygen.

Little Havana

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The oldest building in the Western Hemisphere is beautiful, quaint…and located in Miami Florida. How is that possible, you ask? Well, if you’re an eccentric like William Randolph Hearst, apparently you can put any building in the world anywhere you want it; even a 12th century Spanish monastery.

Purchased in 1925, Hearst intended to have the monastery disassembled, brick by brick, shipped to the States, and reconstructed in Berkley, California. He lost interest along the way (imagine that), and it sat in crates for 25 years. Eventually the beauty was purchased by a church and reconstructed in Miami, making it the oldest structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Another gem in Miami, isn’t really in Miami. It lies just south, and is a world away from Miami proper. Welcome to South Beach. Ahhh, South Beach, a.k.a. “America’s Riveria”, a whimsical collection of more than 800 architecturally protected buildings from the 1930’s and 40’s. Without hesitation, it is one of my favorite places on the planet! To experience Miami fully, one must spend some time in South Beach.

According to those who live in this palm-shaded land, here’s what else one must do to for a true Miami experience: Stop in and talk a bit with Robert at “Robert Is Here” Produce Stand, get a berry shake or giant cinnamon roll at Knaus Berry Farm, and get a cup of joe at Panther Coffee. Go to Shark Valley in the Everglades at nightfall and look for alligators with a flashlight, kayak at Deering, drive to Key Biscayne, and stop in to Sweat Records for their waffle party (1st Sunday each month). Visit the lobby & grounds of the Biltmore Hotel and swim in the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, stroll the boardwalk at Miami Beach marina, spend some time at Lummus Park Beach and Little Havana. Watch Flamenco dancers at Casa Panza, get a cupcake at Buttercream, and drive SW 248th Street, lined with palm tree farms. Watch a free film at Tower Theater, drive Sunset Drive, run the path along Old Cutler Road, and visit the South Miami Farmers Market.

Mo Bay

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Got Mardi Gras? That’s right. Mobile, Alabama is actually where the first Mardi Gras was observed in the New World. It was 1703.

1703!

Open your eyes at certain intersections in Mobile and you’ll swear you are in New Orleans. Yet, Mobile is a f-a-r stretch from all that New Orleans is. Mobile is it’s own entity and has its own personality. Steeped in the ways of the South, Mobile is as hospitable as the day is long. Want a truly Southern experience? Visit Mobile. Stroll Dauphin Street, visit Bellingrath Gardens, Fort Conde, and the USS Alabama Battleship. Sip coffee at Satori, buy boiled peanuts at A & M, then sit in the square. Step into Beinville Books, Inside Up, and Three Georges. Want Soul Food? It’s here. Try Mama’s, Soul Kitchen or the Big Time Diner. For Oysters, there’s no address than Wintzell’s for ‘baked, fried, or naked”. When the lights go down, the place to be in the Dewdrop Inn, Alabama Music Box, or The Blind Mule.

No trip to Mobile would be complete without a drive along Hwy 98. The scenic drive to the East Shore is extraordinary, as is Dauphin Island, Five Rivers Delta, Chacolochee Bay and Park. A favorite with locals is the Saenger Theater, Sea Lab, Space 301, and Burris Farm Market.

Julia, Brandon, Jeremy, John Ross & Suzy, thanks for the pancake party & love-filled sendoff from Mobile. I love you guys!!

 

Island Time

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I’m a fair-weather girl at heart. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the seasons…and the galoshes, and snow blowers, and fifteen layers of clothing it takes to survive a winter in the Northwest. Still, put rain, sleet and hail behind Door #1 and sunshine, beaches and roller blades behind Door #2, and, well, you get the point.

Do you remember the scene in Smokey and the Bandit when Sally Field frees herself of a wedding gown while sailing along the highway in an open convertible? First the veil flies away, then the shoes get tossed, and finally the dress is heaved over her head. This is what driving to Key West is like. As one drives through the chain of keys linked by The Overseas Highway, cares are flung into the shimmering emerald waters one by one. This is the beauty of the keys and the blessed road that takes one there.

Welcome to Key West; land of scooters and flip-flops, palm trees and Island Time. Besides the beach, volleyball, and strolling town, check out Ernest Hemingway’s home, the Key West Lighthouse, White Street Pier and Fort Zackery Taylor State Park Historical Site. Take a picture at the US Hwy 1 “0-mile” marker and the Southern-Most Point of the US at the end of Whitehead and South Street. Visit the Civil War Memorial and the USS Mohawk, ride the Conch Tour Train and see Mallory Square. Buy fresh coconuts from a roadside vendor, visit the Audubon House, San Carlos Theater, Key West Winery, Waterfront Playhouse Theater and Clinton Square Market. Enjoy a Key West Conch Apple Fritter and step into Kermit”s for a slice of the best Key Lime Pie you’ll ever taste.

I had the opportunity to experience the Florida Keys with my sister-in-law and nephew, who live in Miami. It was a magical day I will treasure forever. xoxo

Gatorland

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Build it in Orlando and they will come.

Come they do!

I’ve been on the road for four months now. Of the cities I’ve traveled, none has been as “touristy” as Orlando. What can I say, when you’ve got sunshine, loads of land, and investors with deep pockets, it’s bound to happen. Tourists are everywhere. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e! Even those who live here admit to being tourists. Yep! It’s a strange phenomena. Folks who live in Orlando are from somewhere else (okay, 99% of the time, they are). What’s the draw to Orlando? Hmmm…let’s see. Sunshine, loads of land, and investors with deep pocket. The question is, when you visit Orlando, “Are you a traveler or a tourist?” Think about it.

Here’s what a traveler in Orlando might do: make-your-own pancakes at The Sugar Mill (a long table with fruit, choc chips, nuts, etc…YUM!), visit the Buddhist Temple grounds, walk around Lake Eola, find a good read at Brightlight Books, get tea at Pom Pom’s, drive to Kennedy Space Center, do the Orlando City Walk ($20 for 7 night clubs…now, that’ll keep anyone entertained), listen to live music at The Social or The House of Beer, meander through City Arts Factory and Blank Space Art Gallery, visit beautiful Cocoa Beach, take in an Indie flick at the Enzian Theater, canoe at a state park, make a day of it at Gatorland (alligator habitat), play mini-golf at Tiki Island, drive the 429 and check out the orange groves, get a bite to eat at Tijuana Flats. Still need your Disney fix? Try the Fun Spot Action Park. (It’s the local’s theme park).

Last but not least, drive the “I” (only tourists call it International Drive), and watch the tourists. Have a good time. That, my friends, is what vacationing is all about!

Savannah Squares

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Savannah was built for beauty. Its founders designed the coastal oasis around “squares”; community areas featuring fountains and monuments and seating beneath a canopy of oaks draped with Spanish moss. There are twenty-two squares in Savannah. Twenty-two of anything is a lot, but when it happens to be restful green space full of art/history, you’ve created yourself a romantic city.

Walk anywhere in Savannah and you’ll overhear a conversation something like this, “The story goes…”. That’s because Savannah is steeped in history, mystery and tales. Its cemeteries are extremely popular, as are its movie sites and haunted buildings. I’m not usually a big fan of tours, but the Sixth Sense Savannah, Movie or Hearse Haunted tours, rock! You’re sure to recognize sites from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Forrest Gump as you explore this Southern gem.

What can’t be missed in Savannah? Here are my picks: Stroll River Street and the 5 squares on Bull Street , Forsyth Park, Zunzis (mmmm, comfort food), Bonaventure Cemetery, Tybee Island beach, lighthouse & beach town, Savannah History Museum, Lulu’s (for dessert), Fort Pulaski Nat’l Monument, the fountain featured in Midnight on the garden of Good & Evil, Telfair Museum of Art, ride the Riverfront Trolley, Bay Street, Wormsloe Historical Site, the Bamboo Farm, Savannah Slow Ride, and walk around with an open container north of Jones Street…just because you can!

Erin, it was truly a pleasure to meet you. You’re the best, Sister. Love ya!

Love in Lowcountry

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 The day I rolled into Charleston the city was buzzing with excitement. It had just won the title, “Most Vacationed City in America.” I stuck my head in the Visitor’s Info Center and got the low-down skinny. I then asked the greeter where he’d take his sister if she came to Charleston; what she’d have to do/see to experience the Charleston he knew and loved. He rattled off what I already knew were the tourist destinations/traps, so I asked him if he had a favorite bakery or bookstore. He looked troubled and rattled off the same places he’d just mentioned. It was clear that every visitor got the same speal; the restaurant, hotel and attraction owners were in kahootz.  Outside the Info Center visitors were being excorted to awaiting buses. I vowed to find everything unique, unusual, free, or cheap that I could, for their sake. With a little asking and exploring, there were over 200 things that fit the bill.

I adore Charleston. It is beautiful, historic and alluring; a romantic lover seeking some darling to enchant. Want to experience Lowcountry? Accept its invitation to the dance floor, lean into it, let it lead, give yourself to it completely, set aside your inhibitions…and fall in love.

Here’s just a smidgen of what Charleston has to offer: Allutte’s Cafe, Rainbow Row and south of Broad Street, Marion Square Farmer’s Market, Charleston Harbor, Jack’s, Folly Beach, stroll King Street, Angel Oak, Alchemy Coffee, Waterfront Park, Toast, watch the harbor from a swing on the Pier, Redux Contemporary Art Studio, sweet tea, Caviar & Bananas, Communication Museum, Blue Bicycle Books, Gallery Row, the Battery, Terrace Theater, Halsey Museum, Fort Moultrie, shrimp & grits, Ravenel Bridge at sunset, Calhoun Mansion, Palmetto Island Park, Postal Museum, and The Rec Room.

Hotlanta

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Atlanta has no problem expressing itself, and it does so boldly. It’s walls and tunnels and people are covered in art. Cardinal red up-do’s. Sprayed walls. Inked bodies. It’s life expressed carte blanche. No sir, there’s nothing mousy about Atlanta. This sweet peach makes room for those ready to explore, experiment and express themselves.

Atlanta was MLK Jr’s turf. He was born, raised, and preached right here. Want to feel your heart swoon? Sit on the porch of the modest home he was raised in, walk his boyhood street, and stand in the amber light glow at the door of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Need more yanking on your heart? Visit his tomb at Freedom Plaza.

Atlanta and cooking go hand and hand. Cooks down here will tell you they have no need for recipes, instead they rely on their senses; seeing, feeling, listening, smelling and tasting the food. Whatever their secret it, it’s been perfected. Trust me, I was in hog heaven at the Flying Biscuit.

Atlanta is home to CNN, Centennial Olympic Park (1996 Summer Olympics), the King Center, High Museum of Art, Margaret Mitchell’s home, museum & grave, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Conservatory and Orchid Center, the Braves, Stone Mountain (a Civil War monument carved by Gutzon Borglum who carved Mount Rushmore), Piedmont Park, King of Pops, Decatur Square, Krog Street Tunnel, The Albert, Aurora Coffee, Atlanta Pride, Sweetwater Brewery, Cafe Lilly, The Righteous Room, Jimmy Carter Library, Baps Hindu Temple, Coca-Cola, Wax & Facts, Tin Lizzy Cantina, M.C. Carlos Museum, Virginia Highlands, Dr. Bombay, Dekalb Farmer’s Market, Atlanta White House, Flying Biscuit, Puppetry Arts Center, Carroll Street Cafe, Unknown Confederate Dead Tomb, Cabbage Town and the Underground, Little Five Points, and good old fashioned Southern Hospitality.

What is Atlanta? It’s a Peach…with a red up-do and butterfly glasses, of course!

Americana USA

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I rolled into Raleigh on the heels of exploring Boston, NYC, Philadelphia and Baltimore, four large metropolitan areas. The intensity of navigating these cities in sequence, was intense and honestly, exhausting. Raleigh was a refreshing change of pace and afforded me an a opportunity to simply exhale. The City of Oaks is a beautiful, artsy community which reminded me of Madison, Wisconsin: a state capitol city with a community-integrated university, intelligent, creative, and modest in size, that is all about local, local, local.  Known as the Smithsonian of the South, Raleigh is also a living museum.

Here is my suggestion for experiencing Raleigh; first, tune your radio dial to 88.1 WKNC (Americana at it’s best), pick up a cup of joe at Raleigh Times, stroll Blount Street and the Capitol blocks. visit Mordecai Historical Park, tour NC State University, step into Father & Son, Schoolkids Records, ArtSpace, City Market and explore  the gallery district. Eat at the Mecca or the Roast Grill, for a truly “Raleigh” experience. Stroll the rose garden, sit on the Centennial Deck overlooking the greenway, cycle Pullen Park, walk five-points, enjoy a local brew at Big Boss and stand on the Boylin Bridge at sunset. Want to see the most beautiful art museum grounds in the country? You’ll find them at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Within its landscape is an amphitheater, a sculpture garden, fountains, huge mobiles and trails. It is gorgeous. The energy there is amazing, especially at twilight, when music fills the air. Mmmm, such a sweet memory.

Thank you Raleigh.

Thank you Kirsten, Christine, Chris and Michael. Much love my friends! xo

Charmed

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Baltimore was the 27th city I researched for the, “What 100 Bucks Will Get You” travel guide.  After exploring B-more, I can say with confidence that it is one of my favorite cities. It is a vacationer’s wonderland. Really. I’ve crawled through enough cities to understand what makes a place inviting; plenty of public green space, historical significance, navigational ease, great public transportation, interesting and inexpensive sites,  progressive, pet and family-friendly, loaded with eclectic local shops, fabulous eateries and a wealth of diversity.  A done deal in Baltimore.

I love this place.

Baltimore does not withhold art/beauty from people.  The Baltimore Museum of Art is free, as is the Walters Art Museum, and the Rowland Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Wed-Sun).  The Charm City Circulator (bus) is free, as are daily performances at the Harborplace Amphitheater.  Weekly outdoor films and Friday night concerts at Power Plant Live are free. Baltimore offers free, (yes, free) guided walking tours.  One can climb the original Washington Monument for $1, stroll the Inner Harbor, Mount Vernon Park, Lexington Market (est. 1786), Fells Point, Federal Hill, and Patterson Park.  Want history?  How about the Fort Mc Henry (where Old Glory flew) inspiring Francis Scott Key to pen the words that became our National Anthem, the USS Constilation and Tyson Street (once housing Irish Immigrants).  Baltimore was the entry port for thousands of immigrants, second only to Ellis Island.

Wanna play?  Try out the state-of-art basketball court or volleyball pits.  Fly a kite or picnic on the knoll overlooking the harbor, visit a u-pick orchard, or just pick up a berger cookie from Big Jim’s and sit on a park bench on the pier.  Ahhh, I love the Baltimore; the murals, the neighborhoods, Cafe Hon, Red Canoe Books & Coffee, the Charles Theater, North East Market and the Creative Alliance.

Forest City

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 I’m a resident of Portland, Oregon. I know a forest when I see one. So when a resident of Philadelphia said it was forestland, I thought to myself, yeah, right! Well, I’m here to say that it only took a leisurely drive along Fairmount Park and Mount Airy to convince this gal that Philly is, indeed, forestland. In fact, Philadelphia is home to the largest state park in the country…and it’s forested.

Only goes to prove what I know. 🙂

Besides being green, consciously green and beautiful, the City of Brotherly Love is a mecca of American history. From Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s home to Elfreth’s Alley, the roots of this country rise up from every curb in the Historical District. Philadelphia is a city that every American must visit. It holds tremendous historical significance. It is the historical equilivant of sifting through Grandma’s attic. One can hear about the early US colonies, but until one walks the very cobblestones that Paul Revere rode upon or stands in the room the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed in, the stories hold little personal significance.

Here are a few of my personal favorite free and inexpensive sites in Philly: Elfreth’s Alley (oldest continually inhabited street in the US), Magic Garden and dozens of dazzling murals akin to it adjacent to South Street, Penn’s Landing, Will Penn’s Hat Observatory, Fairmount Park, dark chocolate pretzel rods from A Taste of Philly, Phlash Trolley, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jim’s, High Point Cafe, art murals on buildings, Reading Terminal Market, Kelly Drive running path, Infusion Coffee in the Upsal Station, and Boat House Row.

Thanks Mikaela. You totally rock Sister!

A New York Minute

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Dorothy clicked her ruby reds together and openly proclaimed, “There’s no place like New York, Toto. There’s no place like New York.” Toto looked up, sniffed the asphalt, and found a place to pee.  No doubt the kid from corn country was standing in Times Square in Manhattan, just one of the five boroughs of the Big Apple.

Spend all your time in Manhattan and you’ll miss the New York those who live here know and love. What keeps people in the city that never sleeps? My conversations with folks all over the city revealed that it’s its grittiness. You simply have to spend time on the street to LIVE New York.

Agreed.

On no particular afternoon I stood eating my lunch at a mini-mart counter overlooking the street and looked on as a young father tossed a small basketball to his toddler son. Delivery trucks came and left. Cars stopped for the light and sped off. Rail tracks shuttered above. Passers by parted to make way for the darting toddler. The mother, sitting nearby, welcomed the child onto her lap, the father crossed the street and disappeared into a sea of faces. It was moment, a New York moment…and it was beautiful.

So, to the boroughs we go…

Before I share some NYC cheap or freebies, let me first say that New Yorkers eat. It’s a bona-fide religion. I collected scads of fab food finds. They’ll show up in the travel guide app. Here’s just a smidgen of what else you can do in the Big Apple: walk the Brooklyn Bridge, Bronx Zoo (donation Wed’s), view harbor from South Street Seaport, Books of Wonder, Chinatown (ck out the ice cream factory), ride the Roosevelt Tram ($2), 2 pickles for a buck at Guss’ Pickles, Old-Time Photo Booth at Bushwick Country Club ($3), Brooklyn Botanic Garden (free Tues), Cuppa Joe, Staten Island Ferry (free), NY Public Library + outdoor garden seating (free), MoMA (free Fri), Kent Theater ($5), Fashion Inst. of Technology Museum (free), NY Aquarium (donation Fri), Fencing Lessons (free), Grand Central Terminal, NYC Walking Tour (free), Wall St. Museum (free), Jackson Hts in Queens, stand at DUMBO, Prospect Park, walk Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn, sit in lobby of Waldorf Astoria, attend worship service in Harlem, U-Pick produce at Wilklow Orchards, World Trade Center viewing platform, Stroll the cobblestone street of Hudson St, stand up “seats” at the opera ($15), Outdoor Green Market at Union Square, Generation Music, The MET (pay what you can), Williamsburg art community, Children’s Museum of Art (pay what you wish Thurs), walk Wall St., Trinity Church, jazz at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (free). Ohhhhh, SO much to do for cheap or free.

Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn…oh my!!