Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Everything's coming up roses
- 2. See the Forest
- 3. For the birds
- 4. First Thursdays
- 5. Last Thursday Art Walk on Alberta
- 6. First Fridays
- 7. Ride the Rails
- 8. Portland Saturday Market
- 9. Portland Farmers Market
- 10. Columbia Gorge Hiking
- 11. Urban Waterfall
- 12. Urban Forest
- 13. Urban Volcano -with cherry blossoms
- 14. Street Art
With its abundant green spaces and natural beauty, Portland, Oregon is a great place to spend time outside. Even better – most of the things you can do outside in Portland are free. But Portland is so lush because it rains frequently, so do what natives do – bring an umbrella and a raincoat with you at all times. And don’t worry. Our list of the best free things to do in Portland Oregon also includes indoor activities.
Portland, Oregon is renowned for its hip coffee shop culture, abundance of food trucks and miles of trails near downtown. But all of these are great for families on a budget. Food trucks are quick, tasty food, and your fussy child (or, as we like to say, the one with a sophisticated palate) can find something at another truck if she doesn’t like what everyone else is having.
Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls are great places to hike and see the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. And free events around downtown Portland appeal to families with big and little children. Here are the best free things to do in Portland with kids.
Fun Free Things to Do in Portland
1. Everything’s coming up roses
The Portland International Rose Test Garden is free. This botanical garden makes you understand why Portland has the nickname Rose City. Roses peak during June, but there are so many varieties you can see them in bloom from late spring to early fall.
TravelingMom Tip: The Portland Japanese Garden, a 10 minute walk from the Rose Garden, charges admission. And the Oregon Zoo, at the other end of Washington Park, also charges admission.
2. See the Forest
The Hoyt Arboretum has free admission and in summer, the free Pop-Up Nature! program, on Thursdays. The family friendly Pop-Up Nature! program has a different theme each week. Any time you can hike the wooded trails or borrow a Discovery Pack for a self guided tour through Hoyt Arboretum.
3. For the birds
The family friendly Portland Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary in Forest Park has four miles of wooded hiking trails, open from dawn until dusk. The interpretive center, with exhibits and places to watch birds is open from 10am – 5pm, is also free. Note: do not bring your dog here.
4. First Thursdays
On the First Thursday of every month, Portland galleries in Old Town, the Pearl District and downtown stay open late. Street performers and sidewalk artists enliven the scene.
5. Last Thursday Art Walk on Alberta
This monthly street fair attracts local artists and musicians year round on Northeast Alberta Street. in June through August, it is particularly family friendly. The street is closed to traffic from 15th Avenue to 30th Avenue.
6. First Fridays
The Central Eastside district, across the Willamette River from downtown Portland, highlights its artists at this monthly event.
7. Ride the Rails
The Oregon Rail Heritage Center features three vintage steam locomotives. The museum is usually open Thursdays to Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m, but has reduced hours to weekends only during Covid-19.
For the holidays, those steam locomotives actually run. The Holiday Express, which requires a paid ticket, lets you ride in vintage rail cars along the Willamette River.
8. Portland Saturday Market
Held in Tom McCall Waterfront Park March through December, the Portland Saturday Market is the largest arts and crafts fair in the U.S. The goal here, of course, is to get you to buy things, but it’s fun to just wander around and look. Since you’re in downtown Portland, there’s a serious food scene here, too
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9. Portland Farmers Market
And even bigger food scene is at the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University, also held on Saturdays. This year-round market has over 140 vendors and farmers. Due to Covid-19, the live music and chef demos are on pause. There are other famers markets around Portland, but this is the biggest and the only one that goes all year.
10. Columbia Gorge Hiking
There is some serious hiking here, with easier trails for those less fit or traveling with little kids. Some parking lots at Columbia River Gorge charge for parking. There is free parking at Multnomah Falls Lodge. From there, you can hike to the Multnomah Falls, the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest.
TravelingMom Tip: Bring a raincoat, since you can get wet at the falls. But really, it’s the Pacific Northwest and you should ALWAYS have a raincoat with you.
11. Urban Waterfall
The Keller Fountain in downtown Portland is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. You can wade into the fountain, and even swim in deeper parts, but the waterfall may be rough for young kids.
12. Urban Forest
Forest Park in Northwest Portland has miles of hiking, walking and biking trails. And you can bring a dog here on leash. Look for Witch’s Castle, the remains of a WPA stone building from 1936. Also look for birds and other wildlife.
13. Urban Volcano -with cherry blossoms
Ok, you won’t know if from all the greenery in Mount Tabor Park, but this was actually a volcano. Now, Mt. Tabor is THE place to see cherry blossoms in Portland. There is also a large accessible playground.
TravelingMom Tip: The Mt. Tabor Visitor Center is currently closed.
14. Street Art
Hop on a bike or put on good walking shoes to see murals and other street art around Portland. The best areas to explore are the Alberta Arts District by foot and the Central Eastside Industrial District on two wheels.
Best Free Things to Do in Portland Oregon in Summer
15. Movies in the Park
This annual summer event has over 40 free screenings hosted at green spaces around Portland. Enjoy live music before the movie and free popcorn.
16. Washington Park Summer Festival
The Washington Park Summer Festival includes music, opera and movies, all free. Washington Park has a big playground. An interactive water park is open April – October.
17. Noon Tunes
Pioneer Courthouse Square, also known as Portland’s living room, has a free lunchtime concert series every Tuesday and Thursday in July and August. Bring your lunch or try one of the food carts. Of course there are food carts. Pioneer Courthouse Square, in the center of downtown Portland, occupies a full city block.
18. Summer Free for All Concerts in the Park
Portland Parks and Recreation’s Summer Free for All program has concerts at different parks every day throughout July and August. In addition to live music, there are pop-up activities for children. And food trucks. Always, food trucks.
19. Portland Rose Festival
The Portland Rose Festival at Tom McCall Waterfront Park includes some ticketed events, but there are also free fireworks, a Dragon Boat Race, a nighttime Starlight Parade, and a Junior Parade, just for kids. Held in late May / early June.
20. Summer Arts on Main
Every July and August, Portland’5 Center for the Arts has a Wednesday concert series from 11 am to 1 pm, with live music and other performances, plus children’s art activities. On Wednesday evenings, enjoy concerts as part of Music on Main.
Free and Educational
21. Oregon Holocaust Memorial
22. Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s City of Books, the largest independent bookstore not only in the USA but in the world, takes up an entire city block. There is a huge selection of children’s books.
23. Portland Art Museum
Portland Art Museum is free on the first Thursday of each month from 5-8 p.m. [Except during Covid-19 restriction] The Portland Art Museum is also always free for kids 17 and younger
Free Day Trips Outside Portland
24. Tillamook Creamery
Tillamook Creamery offers free self-guided Creamery tours with cheese and ice cream samples. There is a farm exhibit where you can ‘millk’ a cow or ‘drive’ a bus. Visit during the week to see the actual cheese production.
25. Tryon Creek State Natural Area
Tryon Creek charges you to park. But then you can spend the day hiking, biking or looking for wildlife. The nature center has free programming for kids ages 2 to 6.