Jacob is Chinese, so by nature, he’s always looking for a bargain. If it’s free, that’s even better! Couponing? That’s right up his alley too. I know now that it’s a good thing because we’ll always have money in our pockets, but it used to bug me so much when we were dating. Every time we move to a new city, we often have to make compromises. We can eat out at nice restaurants as long as we are frugal in other areas. In Portland, as far as activities go, we recommend saving your money for food and beer, and checking out some of these free things to do! ;)
25 FREE THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND OREGON
This tiny park is worth stopping by if you’re in the area. The park has interesting history, and it’s constantly changing with new contributions. I heard news at one point someone stole the tree, but there’s one there now! It’s also right by the waterfront, so you can enjoy the views there afterward.
This may only be a hallway in the back of a Stark’s vacuum shop, but if you can channel your inner Monica, you can appreciate the vintage vacuums that date all the way back to 1905. If you’re not into vacuums, you can just appreciate the weirdness of it all.
3. Portland Farmer’s Market
There are two main markets that happen every weekend in Portland. The Farmer’s Market is a great place to browse fresh produce. We did some grocery shopping here the first week we were in town, and we will probably pick up our veggies and kimchi here in the future.
4. Portland Saturday Market
I heard someone describe the Portland Saturday Market as the place to go to buy your Che Guevara shirts made in China. Though I didn’t find anything I would purchase here, I thought it was nice because they had live music, and you could hang out by the waterfront.
5. The Grotto
Although the upper-level garden requires admission, you can still visit the lower garden, grotto, chapel, visitor center, and gift shop for free.
6. Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s is the largest independent bookstore and a cornerstone of Portland. Any book lover needs to stop by. The hard part making this a free experience is having to resist buying more books.
7. Portland Central Library
I love it when libraries are housed in beautiful buildings. Enjoy the architecture then go in and browse the books.
8. Go on an Art Walk
9. Visit the Witches Castle
You can take a short hike to Witches Castle in Forest Park. Rumor it that it’s haunted!
10. Urban Waterfall at Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain Park
Gotta be honest. I didn’t think much of it, when I heard about the Ira Keller fountain, but it was really beautiful seeing it in person.
See the rich history of the locomotives and railroad industry in Oregon. You can get a guided tour of the big engines or even hop aboard the Oregon Pacific Railroad for a short trip.
12. Oregon Historical Society
If you’re a history buff, you can check out the history of Portland and Oregon to get a better understanding of the city.
13. Brewery Tour
It’s no secret that Portland is a beer town. Though not every brewery in Portland has free brewery tours, we found a few that did: Ecliptic Brewery, Ground Breaker Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery. Any others you can think of? We’ll be checking more of them out soon!
14. Distillery Tour
We’ve enjoyed getting to know whiskies the past couple of years, but have only done one distillery tour. We’re excited to check out the local ones and hopefully find a new go-to beverage.
They meet at different locations every weekday of the week, but find one that’s convenient for you and get your namaste on (did I use that correctly? 😝). Most free yoga classes recommend donations, but this one will not even take them.
16. Look for Wildlife
If you love wildlife photography or you just enjoy viewing wildlife, there are a few different options around Portland. There’s great birding at Oak’s Bottom Wildlife Refuge and Sauvie Island. You can also go feed fish at the Bonneville Lock and Dam.
17. Go for a Bike Ride
Everyone in Portland bikes as a mean for transportation, but there are also some great recreational rides too. Some popular spots include Springwater Corridor, which connects a lot of the parks and along the waterfront. We ended up borrowing some bikes from Jacob’s cousin, but if you don’t have access to a bike, it’s still a beautiful walk.
Classic arcades are hard to find nowadays, but Portland is home to one that has all your favorites. It’s free unless it’s a special event and you must be 21 or over after 4:30 PM.
19. Frank Kidd Toy Museum
Recently celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Belmont Firehouse is a beloved landmark to locals. You can get your photo sliding down a fire pole, and kids can spray water out of a fire hose. I wonder if they’ll let me do that!
When you think of the PNW, it’s hard not to think of a big lumberjack. Take a photo with the biggest of them all!
22. Visit the Simpsons Streets
NW Portland – NW 2nd to NW 24th St
Did you know that Matt Groening is from Portland? It’s something we learned after we moved here! He named some of the Simpsons characters after the streets, like Flanders, Lovejoy, Quimby, & Kearney. This is one of the street signs close to our place, where someone wrote in a D after NE for Ned Flanders.
If you were a fan of Beverly Cleary, then you probably are familiar with Ramona Quimby. Although the characters are fictional, the streets and landmarks are real.
24. Hoyt Arboretum
There are over 2000 species of trees and plants at the Hoyt Arboretum and tons of trails to walk. The Maple trail is especially beautiful in the fall.
25. Chase a Waterfall
The Historic Columbia River Highway isn’t too far from the city and you’ll find a ton of waterfall hikes there. Multnomah Falls is a popular stop, and you practically park right next to it. If you’re willing to drive out a little farther, here’s a list of more waterfalls to check out in Oregon.
Seasonal / Specific Days / Conditional:
- International Rose Test Garden – It’s open year round, but if you want to see the roses, you’ll have to visit between mid-May and mid-October (this may change depending on the weather). Free public tours are at 1pm starting from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
- The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium – you can get in free if you wear a decent costume!
- Oregon Zoo Community Free Day – If you can’t make the free day, there are also discounted days.
- Portland Art Museum has Free First Thursdays.
- Portland Children’s Museum – Target sponsors every free first Friday.
- Pioneer Courthouse Square Free Events
- Free Fitness in the Parks (summer)
- Free Summer Fun in the Park which includes a Climbing Wall
- Shakespeare in the Park (summer)
- Flicks on the Bricks Outdoor Movies (July and August)
- Summer Free for All – Movies, Concerts, Lunch for Kids in the park
- Alberta Street Fair (annually 2nd Sat of August)
- Scrap PDX occasionally has some free events, like making cards for Valentine’s Day.
MAP OF FREE THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND
SEE MORE FREE CITY GUIDES
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Do any of these look interesting to you? Can you think of any other free things in the city that’s worth a visit?