Summer daytrip on the cheap

It’s summertime and the livin’s easy, except you’re a college student and have little to no money to enjoy it. Chin up, campers, because opportunities abound that are free or of little expense. Here are a couple options for good times in and around the city for those of us on a slim budget:

Take a day trip to the Gorge
It’s no longer a necessity that you have your own car in order to experience the fantastic natural beauty that surrounds Portland. As a new service for 2016, Trimet now offers round-trip buses to the Columbia Gorge, Friday through Sunday. From May 27 through September 25—the last weekend before fall quarter begins—riders can catch the bus at Gateway Transit Center to either Rooster Rock State Park or Multnomah Falls.

Round-trip tickets for the Columbia Gorge Express are $5. You can’t even get a sandwich in this town for $5. Buses depart from Gateway 12 times each day, Friday through Sunday, including holidays. Return trips depart from Rooster Rock every fifteen minutes. Another bonus: These are not the juggernaut buses you ride around downtown Portland; the Gorge Express uses shuttle buses—comfy, clean and quiet.

Oregon Department of Transportation Scenic Area Coordinator Kristen Stallman is thrilled about the new Columbia Gorge Express service and dubs Multnomah Falls as Oregon’s top natural recreation destination.

“Portland is a great city, but what makes it great is its access to the outdoors,” Stallman says in a promotional video. “That access is really why we live here.”

A variety of hiking trails surround the Multnomah Falls site, including the 1.2 mile climb to the top of the falls and the more ambitious six mile ascent to the top of Larch Mountain. Both are great exercise and completely free.

Rooster Rock State Park boasts three miles of riverfront access for swimming, sunning or grilling. There’s a clothing-optional beach for the swimsuit averse, and two disc golf courses for testing your disc-whipping skills. More hiking trails adorn the site and of course, all along, you have great mountains and the wide river.

Even if you’ve never used Trimet before or if you have your own vehicle, the Gorge Express is a great way to get in some quality, stress-free study time while a professional driver gets you there safely. Experiencing the gorge for five bucks is a steal.

Enjoy live Shakespeare as you’ve never seen before—free
You may have experienced a live Shakespeare play before, but not the likes of Ops Fest, a Portland perennial since 2009. Under the guidance of Artistic Director Brian Allard, the 2016 troupe will perform 13 different Shakespearean plays in 30 days, now through August 20. The plays are performed in various city parks, completely free for audiences and authentic in their representation of the original Shakespearean form.

Ops Fest—that’s Original Practice Shakespeare—players, not actors, don’t rehearse as a cast. They perform true to the dictation of the bard’s First Folio stage direction and cues, including an onstage prompter. Players are quick to acclimate to their script and their audience. Often, they incorporate the audience into the show.

According to Ops Fest board member Amanda “Andy” Swinford, reviving the First Folio performance style is “theater mimicking life in the most authentic way.” Swinford points out the players’ remarkable ability to learn their parts independently and act on little rehearsal before live audiences.

The players provide “honest, in-the-moment, realistic portrayals of universal human emotions and challenges,” Swinford said.

If Shakespearean players bringing the ornate verbiage of the Bard to you from a variety of settings, showtimes and scripts isn’t impressive enough, perhaps the economics of Ops Fest will appeal.

All Ops Fest performances are free. Colin Kane, a four-year veteran with the organization, appreciates the value of First Folio artistic loyalty as much as the value of open performances for the patronage public.

“Theater is good. Free theater is great!” Kane said. The Original Practice company member then spoke of the challenge and satisfaction of telling a coherent story in Shakespearean verse with little rehearsal beforehand.

“Ops actors are geared toward big performances and bold choices,” Kane said. “We use everything available at our disposal to create entertainment.”

Titles performed include favorites Hamlet, The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Scottish Play, which shall remain nameless, will be performed once, after dark, late on a Saturday eve. Spooky, man.

Ops Fest’s greatest accomplishment, though, may just be bringing a new and fresh accessibility to Shakespeare and his words to many people for an amazing price: free. For more information on Ops Fest 2016, such as dates and times of play performances, see