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30 Best Free Things To Do In Portland

Finding awesome things to do in Portland doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Spencer McKee

139 articles, 0 comments

1. Wander Around Forest Park

couple-hiking

Source: Flickr User eliduke

With over 5,000 acres to explore, Forest Park in Portland is one of the largest city parks in the country, featuring around 70 miles of trails. It’s the perfect way to get out in nature without really leaving the city.

2. Swing By The Saturday Market

portland-street-musician

Source: Flickr User Misserion

Nearly every warm weekend throughout the year, hundreds of vendors flock to Old Town’s Saturday Market to sell their one-of-a-kind sell handmade goods.

With all the live entertainment, including musicians and street performers, you don’t even have to buy anything here to have fun.

3. What’s Happening In Portland’s Living Room?

family-at-pioneer-courthouse-square

Source: Flickr User LWYang

The Pioneer Courthouse Square, also known “Portland’s living room,” hosts tons of free events throughout the year. A few past events include a Mother’s Day Artisan Market and a number of footraces. Upcoming events are always listed on their website.

4. Washington Park Has It All

family-on-swing-set

Source: Flickr User Rosewoman

It’s no surprise that Washington Park is one of the most famous parks in the Portland area…it’s got everything you could ever want.

Aside from the standard playgrounds and picnic areas, attractions here also include a zoo, amphitheater, and even an archery range.

5. Stop And Smell The Roses

white-roses

Source: Flickr User JessyeAnne

Another awesome attraction in Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden is one place in Portland you have to check out. With an enormous garden dedicated to developing various types of roses, many of which you’ve probably never seen before, a trip here is a perfect way to spend a warm and sunny day.

6. Get Lost In The Stacks

powells-city-of-books

Source: Flickr User bandita

Free entertainment in Portland isn’t restricted to exploring nature. Next time you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day, a trip to Powell’s City of Books will never let you down.

You can entertain yourself for hours here simply by wandering around. Plus, they’ve also got good deals if you think you can afford to splurge a few bucks on an awesome read.

7. Splash Around At The Waterfront

tom-mccall-waterfront-park-fountains

Source: Flickr User dsgetch

The Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a great way to spend a sunny day with family, with plenty of areas to explore. As an added bonus, the fountain will bring out your inner child in a second.

8. Explore The Local Breweries

friends-at-brewery

Source: Full Sail Brewing Company via Facebook

The best way to experience a few of the local favorite breweries around Rose City is by taking a tour. These tours are often free, like at Full Sail Brewing Company, which offers an inside look at their brewing process every afternoon.

9. Be A Tourist

tourist-couple-reading-map

Source: Flickr User pedrosimoes7 (cropped)

Regardless of whether you grew up in Portland or just moved here, you probably haven’t had a chance to explore every nook and cranny of this city yet.

Take a moment to put on your fanny pack and spend a day in the shoes of a tourist, simply walking around in areas of town you might not be so familiar with.

10. Visit The Children’s Museum

child-stacking-blocks

Source: Flickr User Jason Lander

With free admission on the first Friday of each month from 4-8pm, it’s hard to find an excuse not to visit the Portland Children’s Museum. Here, your kids will experience one-of-a-kind hands-on exhibits sure to excite.

11. Take A Bike Ride

uphill-mountain-bicyclist

Source: Flickr User Rainier Mountain Bikes

If you’re not spending a little time on two wheels in this city, you’re doing something wrong. It’s basically free entertainment every time your tires touch the road.

Check out the Big Eastside Loop if you’re looking for something longer (51 miles) or take a 13 mile tour through the Southeast neighborhoods if you’re not quite as intense.

12. Be A Little Artsy

woman-taking-picture-of-drawing

Source: Flickr User Peat Bakke

The Portland Art Museum opens its doors to anyone on the fourth Friday of every month from 5-8pm. Here you’ll see famous works and you’ll walk away feeling like you did something enriching with your Friday night.

13. Brush Up On Your State Knowledge

seahawks-super-bowl-display

Source: Oregon Historical Society via Facebook (cropped)

The Oregon Historical Society is the perfect place to catch up on 150 years of history in only a few hours and has free admission every day for Multnomah County Residents.

A visit here will give you a look at what life used to be like in the Portland area. They’ve also got some cool rotating exhibits as well, like a past display featuring the Super Bowl trophy the Seahawks won a couple years ago.

14. Bring Out Your Inner Artisan

woman-painting

Source: Museum of Contemporary Craft via Facebook

A trip to the Museum of Contemporary Craft will give you a great look at how artisan craftsmanship has evolved over time.

Plus, it’s free the first Thursday of every month. If you love creating things with your hands, you can’t miss out on what this place has to offer.

15. Make Friends With Trees At The Arboretum

kids-climbing-trees

Source: Flickr User JeremyMcWilliams

The Hoyt Arboretum has enough unique paths to keep you busy, including 3 trails ranging from less than an hour to two hours. Make a date with nature and soak in some beautiful scenery.

16. Take A Gander At This Grotto

stone-statue-at-the-grotto

Source: Flickr User a L p

Stretching over 60 acres, the Grotto, also known as the “National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother,” is a Catholic shrine in Portland filled with spectacular sculptures and breathtaking gardens.

There’s even a huge meditation hall. It’s free to enter the plaza level, but you’ll probably be charged a couple bucks to check out some of their more hidden areas.

17. Find Some Live Music

woman-playing-guitar-and-singing

Source: Flickr User Ctd 2005

The Rose City being one of the best places for live music in the country, so it’s not too shocking that tons of bars and restaurant feature local artists on a nightly basis.

If you’re looking to save some money, find a show at a place without a cover charge, like the Candlelight Café. You might want to buy a courtesy beer or two, but this is the perfect way to rock out on a budget.

18. Stroll Through The Farmers Markets

couple-weighing-apples

Source: Flickr User Parker Knight

For the perfect combination of entertainment and grocery shopping, take a trip to your closest Farmers Market. A few of the most popular markets can be found in Shemanski Park and in Pioneer Courthouse Square on various days throughout the week.

19. Culture It Up At Shakespeare In The Park

old-shakespeare-manuscript

Source: Flickr User Ben Sutherland

Always exciting and always free, the Shakespeare in the Park program puts on live shows in outdoor venues around the city of Portland. Check their website for specific dates and performances.

20. Climb A Mountain

hikers-climbing-up-mountain

Source: Flickr User daveynin (cropped)

Only an hour and a half away, if you want to explore Mt. Hood, all you’ll really need is gas money to get there.

If you’re really feeling adventurous, try the 6.4 mile Cooper Spur Hike, the highest hike on the mountain. It’s pretty intense, as you’ll gain over 3,000 vertical feet throughout a relatively short trip.

21. Admire The Architecture

portland-city-skyline-at-night

Source: Flickr User rayterrill

Enjoying Portland can simply be as easy as taking a step back and admiring how cool it looks. Home to tons of awesome architecture, especially when it comes to bridges, take a day to lead yourself on a self-guided tour.

22. Have A Day Out On The Beach

woman-and-child-at-beach

Source: Flickr User Kirt Edblom (cropped)

While Portland might not be a coastal town, a shoreline isn’t far. The drive is less than 2 hours, so a trip to the beach is always worth the gas money, especially when they’re as beautiful as they are in Oregon.

23. You’re Never Too Old To Play With Toys

kid-looking-at-toys

Source: Finnegan’s Toys and Gifts via Facebook

It might sound like an odd recommendation for adults, but if you’re looking for a quirky way to spend a little time in Portland, head to Finnegan’s Toy Store. It’s filled with interesting toys that are even entertaining to just look at.

But be warned, even if you’re a thrifty person, it’s hard to leave this place without making some sort of purchase.

24. Appreciate Art And Exercise, Both For Free

guy-looking-at-art-on-wall

Source: Flickr User Parker Knight

Portland has four distinct art walk celebrations in the city, including the First Thursday Art Walk in downtown Portland. Heading to these art crawls will give you a taste of the artists in the local area.

25. Catch A Flick In The Park

outdoor-movie-screen-in-park

Source: Portland Parks & Recreation via Facebook

Catch one of the free outdoor movie screenings that rotate around various parks in the city, featuring films both old and new that everyone loves, like The LEGO Movie and The Princess Bride.

26. Breathtaking Views Don’t Have To Cost A Thing

river-running-through-gorge

Source: Flickr User jeffgunn

One of the prettiest hikes in the area, a trip to the Oneonta Gorge hiking trail will deliver some of the most memorable nature scenes you’ll ever encounter.

27. Tour The Old Town District

made-in-oregon-sign

Source: Flickr User Photos by Mavis

Portland’s Old Town District is a blast from the past, and definitely has a heartbeat of its own. DIY a walking tour through this historic area and check out the many old buildings that line its streets.

28. Don’t Miss The Alberta Street Fair

alberta-street-sign

Source: Flickr User Tony Webster

The Alberta Street Fair is an awesome free annual fair with an eclectic mix of events and activities. With tons of entertainment, music, and food, there’s a reason this fest attracts over 25,000 people each year.

29. Relax By A Fountain

people-reading-at-fountain

Source: Flickr User radworld

Let the musical and meditative sounds of one of Portland’s many fountains wash over you. Try it once, and it may become part of your routine. The Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain is a great place to start.

30. Escape The City Rush

woman-walking-dog-in-forest

Source: Flickr User davidburn (cropped)

Only 5 miles outside of Portland, Tryon Creek State Park is a place to round out a day outdoors. Bring your dog along and take some deep breaths of that fresh air.

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posted on: June 4, 2015
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