Sometimes in big cities, it’s not easy to find things to do that won’t cost any money but the fun and friendly Oregon city is the exception.
Filled with beautiful green spaces, interesting areas and quirky attractions just waiting to be explored this is a city trip that won’t cost the earth if you don’t want it to. Here are some of the best free things to do in Portland, Oregon…
1. Explore the Portland Saturday Market – an outdoor market free of charge where you can explore arts and crafts
Portland Saturday Market is a market in Tom McCall Waterfront Park that portrays handicrafts made by local artists and craftsmen. It is the largest constantly operated market in the country.
From papercrafts and woodcrafts to pottery and jewelry, Portland Saturday Market features an eclectic array of art pieces. The market attracts art lovers from all over the country.
Whether or not you are an art lover, you may want to spend an entire afternoon here, exploring the Portlandian art and local craftsmanship.
The market is open on Sundays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Address: 2 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204, United States
Phone: +1 503-222-6072
2. Visit Tom McCall Waterfront Park – the perfect place to spend time but not money
Located along the Willamette River in downtown Portland, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a public park that offers a wide range of free outdoor recreations, such as strolling, birding, dog-walking, and picnicking.
With historical monuments, lush green vegetation, and public art, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a great spot for photography. The park also hosts many different events throughout the summer, a few of which allow free public access.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park allows you to explore the best of Willamette River.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park is open throughout the week from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. The timings may vary on Christmas Eve.
Address: 98 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-7529
3. Attend an event at Pioneer Courthouse Square – a public space that hosts more than 300 events for free
Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square is a public space covering an area of 40,000 square feet. The space is often referred to as Portland’s living room as it hosts events and community gatherings that are free for everyone to join.
Pioneer Courthouse Square hosts more than 300 events and informal gatherings every year.
You can also have your name carved on a brick of the square’s floor, although you will have to pay for that. In addition to free access to events, Pioneer Courthouse Square allows both tourists and natives to hold their own events.
Pioneer Courthouse Square is open on all days of the week from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. The best time to visit the place is in December, during the Christmas holidays.
Address: 701 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97205, United States
Phone: +1 503-223-1613
4. Visit Rose Test Garden – free entertainment where you admire over 600 types of roses
Located in Washington Park in Southwest Portland, Rose Test Garden is an exquisite garden filled with over 10,000 rose pushes. The garden boasts over 650 varieties of roses. The best time to visit the garden is in June as the roses are fully bloomed then.
At Rose Test Garden, you can indulge in a wide range of free outdoor recreations, such as strolling, sightseeing, or photography.
The garden is open Mondays through Sundays from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m, though the timings may differ on Christmas Eve.
Address: 400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-3636
5. Hike to Multnomah Falls – one of the most visited natural recreation sites where the only thing you will spend is your energy
Located on Multnomah Creek in Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is one of the most prominent natural recreation sites in the Pacific Northwest.
Multnomah Falls is accessible through the Historic Columbia River Highway. You can hike to Multnomah Falls using a 2.2 mile long trail starting from Multnomah Falls Hike Trailhead.
The waterfall has an elevation gain of 620 feet and is the tallest waterfall in the state. If you are a nature enthusiast, you must visit Multnomah Falls to indulge in the exquisite views of the Columbia River.
Address: 50000 E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Bridal Veil, OR 97010
6. Explore Powell’s City of Books – visit the world’s largest independent bookstore free of charge
Located on Burnside Street in West Portland, Powell’s City of Books is a booklovers’ haven that attracts locals and tourists alike. It is one of the most frequented spots in downtown Portland.
The bookstore features a giant selection of books that are arranged in nine color-coded rooms with over 3,500 sections. From poetry to comics to cookbooks, there’s nothing you won’t find at Powell’s City of Books.
Powell’s City of Books is the largest independent bookstore in the world, featuring both old and new books. Whether or not you are a reader or book lover, you may want to spend an entire afternoon at this iconic bookstore, exploring their massive book collection. The shop is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Address: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, United States
Phone: +1 800-878-7323
7. Visit Forest Park – a beautiful park that also offers free parking
Located on the southern slope of West Hills, Forest Park is a public park that covers an area of 5,200 acres. The park features over 60 hiking trails, many of which are paved and well-maintained.
With 80 miles of hiking trails, Forest Park is an ideal destination for hikers. It boasts trails suitable for all skill levels. Most trails in the Forest Park are family-friendly and suitable for small kids.
If you are looking for an easy hike, you may want to hike the Wildwood Loop Trail. If you are a professional hiker and looking for something daring, you should hike the Waterline trail.
In addition to hiking, Forest Park offers many other free outdoor recreations, such as sight-seeing, picnicking, dog-walking, and birding. The park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Address: Portland, OR 97231, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-4492
8. Visit the Mill Ends Park – a free public space which is actually the world’s smallest park!
Located on Taylor Street in Southwest Portland, Mill Ends Park is a small public park with a total area of 452 square inches. It is quite a teensy spot a few miles away from the Willamette River.
The park is deemed as the smallest park in the world which is why it is one of the most frequented tourist sites in the city.
Mill Ends Park is a cool spot for having lunch, dog-walking, strolling, photography, and birding. It’s even fun to just drive or bike by it.
Address: 56 SW Taylor St, Portland, OR 97204, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-7529
9. Visit the Witch’s Castle – costless historic ruins worth exploring
Located in Macleay Park in Northwest Portland, the Witch’s Castle is a two-tiered structure that speaks the tales of Portland’s dark history. The Macleay Park Shelter or the Witch’s Castle was once used as a resting spot for hikers.
After a storm left the structure damaged in 1962, it was abandoned by Portland’s Parks and Recreation department. Regardless, it remains one of the most frequented historical monuments in Northwest Portland due to morbid legends tied to it.
The Witch’s Castle is accessible to the public when Macleay Park is open. The park is open daily between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Address: Lower Macleay Trail, Portland, OR 97210, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-4000
10. Hike the Hoyt Arboretum Trail – an ideal location for a hike where no costs are involved
Located atop a ridge in the Tualatin Mountains, Hoyt Arboretum is a part of Washington Park, a large complex of urban parks in Portland.
Hoyt Arboretum features 12 miles of hiking trails that are well-suited for all skill levels. The hike is family-friendly and the trails are lined by exquisite vegetation, including some endangered trees native to Portland.
The trails are accessible to the public from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Address: 4000 SW Fairview Blvd, Portland, OR 97221, United States
Phone: +1 503-865-8733
11. Explore the Simpsons Streets – a very cool area to wander and explore in Portland
Simpsons Streets comprises a variety of landmarks or sub-streets in downtown Portland, including Flanders Street, Burnside Street, Lovejoy Street, Van Houten Avenue, Quimby Street, and Terwilliger Curves.
These streets are occupied by hundreds of indie shops, night clubs, cozy cafes, bistros, fancy eateries, bookstores, and galleries. While you are in Portland, you can just stroll across the streets to explore the rich culture of the city.
12. Sight-seeing from Pittock Mansion – a luxurious French-style castle which you can visit for free
Located in the West Hills of Portland, Pittock Mansion is a French-style castle that was a private home for Henry Pittock, a London-born Oregonian publisher. The Renaissance-style chateau is one the most frequented historical landmarks in Northwest Portland.
The mansion is located at a height of 950 feet. You can only reach the mansion through public transport. Pittock Mansion offers engrossing views of the cityscape. You can have a wonderful sightseeing experience at its highest point.
Pittock Mansion is open Wednesdays through Mondays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. On Tuesday, the chateau opens at 12 p.m.
Address: 3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR 97210, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-3623
13. Explore Portland’s Street Art – a great free activity in Portland
Portland features some of the best street art in the state of Oregon. While strolling across the streets, you can explore the city’s street art.
You will find some breathtaking murals on Alberta Street in Northeast Portland, such as Swimming Elephant, La Bonita and Blind Insect Alley. Division Street in Southeast Portland also features some of the most beautiful murals, such as Attitude of Gratitude.
14. Visit Stark’s Vacuum Museum – a quirky one-of-a-kind museum which is free of charge
Stark’s Vacuum Museum is a unique museum in Portland that features more than 100 vacuum cleaners from the late 1800s to mid 1900s.
While exploring ancient vacuums may sound a little boring, the quirky display at Stark’s Vacuum Museum is definitely worth seeing, specifically if you are nearby.
The museum is open Mondays through Fridays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, they open at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. respectively.
- 107 NE Grand Avenue
15. Hike or bike the Springwater Corridor Trail – bicycle and pedestrian rail trail where you can exercise at no cost
The Springwater Corridor Trail is a 21 mile trail set along a former railway line from Portland through Gresham to Boring.
The trail starts from the south of Eastbank Esplanade, a hiking trail that runs along the east shore of the Willamette River.
The Springwater Corridor Trail is an easy hike suitable for hikers of all levels. You can enjoy a wide range of free activities on the trail, such as hiking, sightseeing, running, biking, birding, and dog-walking.
The trail is accessible all year long, except during winter storms. The trail is also wheelchair-friendly and kid-friendly.
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Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. In between adventures she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele.