9 Free Things to Do Around Portland

Visiting Portland or Even Better, Living in Portland? Consider Yourself Lucky!

Portland is truly one of the best places to be in the country. In 2015, it was voted the most livable city in the U.S. by Monocle’s Quality-of-Life survey—the only U.S. city to make the list. Portland has a ton to offer, yet it remains one of the cheapest major cities on the West Coast. In fact, GoBankingRates.com rated Portland the best city in the country for saving money. PDX is also incredibly bike-friendly, has a great deal of natural beauty, and, perhaps most importantly, is a mecca for beer lovers, featuring around 85 breweries in the metro area. But wait, it gets even better. Many of the best things to do in Portland are free!

Leave the cash at home, and check out some of these places when you’re in town:

While Portland has many beautiful parks, Washington Park is generally thought of as the best. The park offers over 150 acres of gorgeous wooded hillsides, paved and unpaved paths, picnic tables, the popular Chiming Fountain, parks for kids, and more. There is also a zoo and Japanese garden but these attractions charge admission. Bring some food and have yourself a picnic, then explore some of the beautiful hiking trails.

Washington Park also features the International Rose Test Garden, rated as top attraction in Portland on TripAdvisor. The well-maintained garden contains many different kinds of roses, and of course the smells are divine. On clear days the garden offers fantastic views of the city and Mt. Hood. The best part? It’s free!

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, is from Portland (yes, the city just got even cooler), and some of the show’s main characters—Flanders (Ned Flanders), Lovejoy (Reverend Lovejoy), and Quimby (Mayor Quimby)—among others, are named for streets in Portland. Find the streets between NW 2nd Street and NW 24the Street and between Burnside and Vaughn.

Portland Saturday Market is open on both Saturdays and Sundays from March through December. Here, you can find tons of vendors selling their original arts and crafts, which are unavailable anywhere else. There is also freshly cooked international food and free live music every market day. You can even enjoy the market on rainy days with the help of the Burnside Bridge and a glass-roofed structure!

Don’t leave Portland without checking out this iconic bookstore. Powell’s City of Books is the largest independent bookstore in the country; it is housed in a 5-story building that occupies an entire block. Need help navigating around the store? They offer free maps at the front desk, and rooms are color-coded. Powell’s sells both new and used books and even compete head-to-head with Amazon sales online. The coffee shop at Powell’s is also a great place to relax or catch up with a friend.

Forest Park is known for being the largest urban forest located within a city in the U.S. It contains over 5,000 acres filled with beautiful trees, rivers, waterfalls, and bridges. There are also 40 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. The park is located in the eastern part of the Northwest Hills, only 10 minutes from downtown Portland.

Go biking, blading, jogging, or just relax at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. This is also the site of many of Portland’s biggest festivals including the Blues Festival, Oregon Brewers Festival, and many of the events associated with the Rose Festival.

Portland Farmer’s Market is popular year-round! From March to October, it’s open on Saturdays from 8:30am to 2:00pm, and from November to February, it’s open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 2:00pm. Visitors can browse over 140 stalls selling a range of produce and artisanal food. The market also offers chef demonstrations, kids’ cooking classes, music performances, and more.

For a fun night involving art, music, and wine, check out First Thursdays in Portland. On the first Thursday of every month from 6:00pm to 9:00pm, several downtown art galleries open their doors and visitors can walk from gallery to gallery to view the art exhibits. The event also features live music, appetizers, and wine tastings. Common participants include the Lawrence Gallery, Gottlieb Gallery, and Attic Gallery. Every month the galleries and events change, so be sure to look up the information online first.

Whether you’re a nature lover, an art lover, a food lover, a book lover—or just a lover of not spending money—Portland has something for you. Now get out there and enjoy all that this beautiful city has to offer!

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