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Looking for ways to enjoy Portland without breaking the bank? The following is a list of fun and frugal activities, events, and attractions to get your imagination started! This list can be enjoyed by vacationers, newly transplanted Portlanders, and those who have lived in Portlandia for decades. Each listing includes a general pricing guide:
- FREE — won’t cost you penny!
- $ — Under $5 per person
- $$ — Under $10 per person
- $$$ — Over $10 per person
- Portland Parks & Rec Swimming Pools (Portland, $): Enjoy a dip in a public indoor or outdoor pool! Be sure to also check out the summer movie events — enjoy a family movie from your floatie!
- OMSI (SE Portland, $$): Special dedicated area for preschool kids plus exhibits that will interest the entire family! $2 admission on the first Sunday of every month.
- Portland Children’s Museum (SW Portland, $$): Check out Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice, the new summer exhibit, along with all other types of educational fun for little ones. Get FREE passes through your public library and on the first Friday evening of the month.
- Jamison Square (Downtown Portland, FREE): Cool off at the huge outdoor fountains.
- EV Celebration Day (Downtown Portland, FREE); July 13 — Electric Vehicles and charging devices will be displayed on the Square to educate the general about the benefits of Electric cars. Pioneer Courthouse Square.
- Yoshida’s Sand in the City (Downtown Portland, FREE): July 19-21, 2013 — Watch teams of sand artists create gigantic sand sculptures to benefit Kids on the Block. Pioneer Courthouse Square.
- Washington Park (SW Portland, FREE-$$): Includes Portland’s Children’s Museum, The Oregon Zoo, Japanese Garden, World Forestry Center, International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and one killer playground. Easily accessible by the MAX train.
- Kennedy School Soaking Pool (NE Portland, $): Enjoy a refreshing soak in the non-chlorinated saltwater pool. A local favorite.
- Alpenrose’s Dairyville (SW Portland, FREE): Head to Alpenrose Dairy’s Western-themed town located right on the 52-acre dairy farm! Visit a bakery, bank, school, and post office as well as watch model trains chug through tiny Oregon landscapes. Stop off at the Ice Cream Parlor for a delicious Alpenrose ice cream cone. Open Sundays from 1-4 pm, June 2-August 25.
- Portland Timbers (Downtown Portland, $$$): Catch one of Portland’s two professional sports teams. Not a soccer fan? Don’t worry. Watching the Timbers Army is worth the price of admission so try to grab a seat at the north end of the park. You can also pick up cheap seats to watch the Timbers Reserve team play for just $10.
- Oaks Park Amusement Park Preschool Rides (SE Portland, $$): Kids ages six and under get the run of Oaks Park every Tuesday and Wednesday morning from 9:30-11:30 throughout the summer. Admission includes unlimited preschool rides, milk and cookies plus storytime with an Oregon Dairy Princess.
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (Vancouver, WA, $, FREE for kids): Explore the lands and structures at the center of fur trade and military history in the Pacific Northwest. Great fun for kids.
- Powell’s City of Books (Downtown Portland, FREE): Peruse the largest used and new bookstore in the world.
- Portland Saturday Market (Downtown Portland, FREE): Open every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas.
- Portland Rose Festival (Portland, FREE – $$$): Memorial Day weekend – mid-June — Celebrate all things Portland during this three-week city-wide festival. Includes two parades, a 5K run, amusement rides, and so much more! Get an unlimited ride wristband plus two games at the Rose Festival CityPark for $25 (Tom McCall Waterfront Park).
- Portland Festival Symphony (Portland, FREE): Summer — Experience the music at seven events at area parks.
- Movies in the Park (Portland, FREE): End of June – early September — Catch a summer flick at Portland area parks. Movies start at dusk; pre-movie entertainment begins at 6:30 pm.
- Concerts in the Park (Portland, FREE): July – August — Enjoy a free concert at Portland area parks. Starts at 6:00 or 6:30 pm.
- OPS Fest (Portland, FREE): June – September — Experience a new style of Shakespearean performance! Actors perform the way Shakespeare’s own actors did: in the open air, in natural light, with minimal sets, and with great, fast-paced, energetic acting and lots of audience interaction!
- Regal Cinemas Summer Movie Express (Portland Metro, $): Family friendly movies for $1 per person at participating Regal Cinemas on Tuesday and/or Wednesday mornings. Also check out Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse for more options.
- Noon Tunes Summer Concert Series (Downtown Portland, FREE): July – August — Enjoy music from local bands every Tuesday and Thursday from Noon – 1 pm at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
- Flicks on the Bricks (Downtown Portland, FREE): End of July – August — Free movies each Friday at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
- Portland Actors Ensemble (Portland Metro area parks, FREE): Experience The Merchant of Venice in area parks (June-July) and The Tale of Cymbeline (August – September).
- Portland’s Food Carts (Portland, $$): Explore an incredible array of cheap and unique eats with carts located around Portland. You can even take a guided tour!
- Portland’s Farmers Markets (Portland Metro, FREE): Hit a market every day and enjoy local food and wares.
- McMennamins (Portland Metro, $$$): Unique pubs, restaurants, breweries, winery and hotels. The food is good, but go to experience the renovated historical locations. Well, and the food.
- Burgerville (Portland Metro, $-$$): The very best in fast-food. High quality ingredients, great prices, and crazy about local sustainability. Conveniently located throughout the Portland Metro area.
- Marine Drive Trail (N Portland, FREE): Easy, 12+ miles of paved trail along the Columbia River.
- Powell Butte Nature Park (SE Portland, FREE): Mountain bike and hiking trails in the middle of suburbia.
- The Springwater Corridor (East Portland, FREE): A scenic, widely paved trail, encompassing wetlands, buttes, agricultural fields and pastures, residential and industrial neighborhoods. Bike and pedestrian friendly.
- Eastbank Esplanade (SE Portland, FREE): 1.5 mile trail that travels the Willamette River to Waterfront Park or wind your way back to The Springwater Corridor.
- Sunday Parkways (Portland, FREE): Walk, bike, roll, and discover active transportation while enjoying various Portland neighborhoods. Five Sundays throughout the summer, sponsored by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
- Providence Bridge Pedal (Downtown Portland, $$$ for adults, kids are FREE ): Sunday, August 11, 2013 — The only way to truly enjoy the Willamette River bridges – including the top decks of the Fremont and Marquam bridges. Bike and walk options available.
- Pedalpoolza 2013 (Portland, FREE – $): Enjoy 3+ weeks of bike fun with over 250 different events June 6-29. There are family-friendly events in addition to adult-only rides.
- 4T Trail (Portland, $$): Explore the city with this four-mile hiking trail and the combined rides on the OHSU tram, Portland trolley, and MAX train. Takes about 4 hours to complete.
- Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (SE Portland, $): Enjoy over 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, and companion plants.
- Forest Park (Portland, FREE): Eighty+ miles of jogging, hiking, and biking trails with 19 trailheads for easy access (maps are available at REI, New Seasons, Powell’s and other PDX locations).
- Japanese Gardens (SW Portland, $$): Proclaimed the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. Free guided tours with admission.
- Multhomah Falls (Columbia Gorge, FREE): Discover Oregon’s tallest waterfall from both the bottom and the top. Depending on your energy level, you can take the moderate 2.2 mile hike to the top, a difficult 5.4 mile look that includes Wahkeena Falls, or just enjoy the view from the bottom at Multnomah Falls Lodge.
- Pittock Mansion (NW Portland, $$): Take a self-guided tour of the home of Henry & Georgiana Pittock, Portland pioneers.
Looking for more Portland-area fun? Check out these resources:
The Ultimate Guide to Portland Family Fun — A gigantic list of affordable, family-friendly activities, events, and attractions in Portland
Summer Reading Programs for kids — A comprehensive list of summer reading programs in Oregon and Washington
Pacific Northwest Summer Fairs & Festivals — A huge list of Oregon and Washington fairs, festivals, and special summer events
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Thanks for all the inside tips. We are in Portland just for the summer from Sweden and we are having a hard time deciding what to do first with our two kids!
I prefer the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival over the Portland Actors Ensemble personally – and they’re free as well! They are really fun – even their tragedies are fun! – and they frequently have audience interaction of some kind. Its not like your typical Shakespeare play at all!
This is their summer schedule: http://www.opsfest.org/tour-calendar.html
I agree with the food carts. Tons of options out there. The other thing I have really enjoyed is the Portland Stairs book. They are great walks around Portland and they include stairs which also includes some great views. We always do our homework and check for Food Carts near our walk and make a day of it.
Thanks for the info on Burgerville kids meals–when does that start? I’d love to go tonight! 🙂
I called my Burgerville…they hadn’t heard of this. Is it only a summer thing or just a specific Bville?
I also called Burgerville and was told the same thing. They are no longer doing the Tuesday night promotion 🙁
Another active, fun, and free thing do to this summer is the Sunday parkways events http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/58929
I miss Portland so much! We only lived there 2 1/2 years but it was by far the most beautiful and exciting place I’ve ever lived. Even my kids ask when we can move back! 🙂