Visiting Portland on a budget? Check out these free things to do.
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. As far as activities go here, it’s all about the outdoors. We recommend saving your money for food and beer, and checking out some of these fun free things to do in Portland.
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Last Updated: March 15, 2023
Jacob is always looking for a bargain. If it’s free, that’s even better! Before, we got into all sorts of arguments about spending, but now I realize we give each other a good balance. He helps us keep money in our pockets, while I push him to live a little.
Not sure if you’ve heard this saying before, but I first heard it in college. “Chinese people have cheap wallets with loads of cash inside, while Koreans will buy an expensive wallet and have no money inside.” I know it’s a generalization, but if it’s between just the two of us, it’s very true.
25 Free Things to DO in Portland Oregon
1. Mill Ends Park – World’s Smallest Park →
SW Taylor St & SW Naito Pkwy, 97204, map
This tiny park is worth stopping by if you’re in the area. The park has an interesting history, and it’s constantly changing with new contributions. I heard 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 afterward.
See More: Your Guide to the World’s Smallest Park
2. Vacuum Museum →
107 NE Grand Ave, 97232, map
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.
See More: What You Need to Know About the Vacuum Museum in Portland
3. Portland Farmer’s Market
1831 SW Pedestrian Trail, 97201, map
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
2 SW Naito Pkwy, 97204, map
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. If we went back, we would probably grab an ice cream and just people watch.
5. The Grotto
8840 NE Skidmore St, 97220, map
Although the upper-level garden requires admission, you can still visit the lower garden, grotto, chapel, visitor center, and gift shop for free.
Local Tip: It’s decorated especially nicely during the holidays, but you pay an admission.
6. Powell’s City of BOoks
1005 W Burnside St, 97209, map
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
801 SW 10th Ave, 97205, map
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
1991 NW Upshur St, 97209, map
Every first Thursday, you can check out First Thursday art walk, and ever last Thursday, you can go to Last Thursday on Alberta in the Alberta Arts District.
9. Visit the Witch’s Castle
Lower Macleay Trail, 97210, map
You can take a short hike to Witches Castle in Forest Park. Rumor has it that it’s haunted. It definitely made us hesitant to go inside, but we didn’t stick around long enough to find out if it’s true or not.
10. Urban Waterfall at Ira Keller FOrecourt Fountain Park
SW 3rd Ave & Clay St, 97201, map
Gotta be honest. I didn’t think much of it, when I heard about the Ira Keller fountain in downtown Portland, but it was really beautiful seeing it in person.
11. Oregon Rail Heritage Center
2250 SE Water Ave, 97214, map
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
1200 SW Park Ave, 97205, map
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 couple that did: Ecliptic Brewery and Ground Breaker Brewing. Any others you can think of that we need to add to the list?
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.
15. Free Community Yoga
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? :P). Most free yoga classes recommend donations.
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.
If you’re looking to shoot photos, don’t forget to bring the longest lens you have!
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 runs 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.
And although not free, you can bike to pick up lunch at one of the many food carts or food trucks and take it to the park for a picnic.
18. Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade
511 NW Couch St, 97209, map
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
1301 SE Grand Ave, 97214, map
We all loved toys at some point (and some of us still do). You can visit the Frank Kidd Toy Museum for some nostalgic moments. Unfortunately, it looks like the museum may have closed but we’re going to leave it here until that’s confirmed. Finnegan’s Toy Store is also a local favorite (map it).
20. Historic Belmont Firehouse
900 SE 35th Ave, 97214, map
Recently celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Belmont Firehouse is a beloved landmark to locals. You can learn about the history of the firehouse, get your photo sliding down a fire pole, and kids can spray water out of a fire hose.
21. Paul Bunyan Statues
8433 N Interstate Ave, 97217, map
When you think of the PNW, you often think lumberjacks. 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 in the Pearl District, where someone wrote in a D after NE for Ned Flanders.
23. See Ramona Quimby’s Portland
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
4000 SW Fairview Blvd, 97221, map
There are over 2000 species of trees and plants at the Hoyt Arboretum inside Washington Park and tons of trails to walk. The Maple trail is especially beautiful in the fall.
25. Enjoy the View from Pittock Mansion →
3229 NW Pittock Dr, Hillside, Portland, OR, United States map
It’s one of our favorites in the city and walking the grounds is completely free (there is a fee to enter the mansion). Try to visit in the summer to increase your chances of having a clear sky to see Mount Hood looming over the city.
Bonus: Chase a Waterfall
The waterfalls are technically outside the city, but the Historic Columbia River Highway isn’t too far (some are only half an hour away) 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.
Some of our favorite easy waterfall hikes include Wahclella Falls, Latourell Falls, and Elowah Falls.
See More: 21 Best Hikes in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon
Map of Free Things to DO in Portland OR
More Things to Do in Portland for Free (Seasonal / Conditional)
- International Rose Test Garden (click to see our full post) – 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 1 pm starting from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
- Cherry Blossoms – Spring time is absolutely beautiful at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
- Go Drive the Hood River Fruit Loop in Fall – though it technically costs you gas.
- The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium – you can get in free if you wear a decent costume!
- Portland Art Museum has Free First Thursdays.
- Portland Japanese Garden – free admission for military veterans and active military personnel, as well as family members who accompany them on Veterans Day.
- Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden – Free from October to February.
- Pioneer Courthouse Square Free Events
- Alberta Street Fair (annually 2nd Sat of August)
Best Places to Stay in Portland
- Get comprehensive insurance for your trip.
- Find a great deal on Portland hotels.
- Arrange a rental car for your trip.
- Book a tour for your visit.
- Get airport lounge access.
- Buy a travel charger to keep your devices charged.
- Get a new backpack for your trip.
- Buy a PNW travel guide.
- Pack the appropriate shoes for your trip.
- Don’t forget your in-flight essentials.
Do any of these free things to do in PDX look interesting to you? Can you think of any other free things in the city that are worth a visit?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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This Post Has 8 Comments
a detailed and equally interesting list! I absolutely loved your ideas .
What is there to do in Portland?
I so love you guys! Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog wit us.
Thank you so much Yna! :) Thanks for reading. <3
Thank you for all of your ideas about living in and exploring Portland, OR. I look forward to going there later this year. :-)
Hope you have a great trip, Lisa. :)
Thank you so much for such a detailed list on things to do in Portland. I will be there for about a week in one month and I’m excited to try out all of these! Best of luck on your adventures!!
You’re so welcome! Thanks for reading, Sam! :) Hope you have the best Portland trip!