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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 Zany Maze, the new outdoor 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.
- Yoshida’s Sand in the City (Downtown Portland, FREE): July 20-22, 2012 — Watch teams of sand artists create gigantic sand sculptures to benefit Kids on the Block. Pioneer Courthouse Square.
- Washington Park (SW Portland, FREE-$$): Includes Portland’s Children’s Museum, The Oregon Zoo, Japanese Garden, World Forestry Center, International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum and one killer playground. Easily accessible by the MAX train.
- Kennedy School Soaking Pool (NE Portland, $): Enjoy a refreshing soak in the non-chlorinated saltwater pool. A local favorite.
- Portland Timbers (Downtown Portland, $$$): 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. 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!
- 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.
- 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 presents Hamlet (Portland Metro, FREE): June – July — Experience Hamlet in area parks.
- 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, $-$$): The very best in fast-food. High quality ingredients, great prices and crazy about local sustainability. Kids meals are $2 off every Tuesday evening from 4-8 pm. Conveniently located throughout the Portland Metro area.
- Marine Drive Trail (N Portland, FREE): Easy, 12+ miles of paved trail along the Columbia River.
- Powell Butte Nature Park (SE Portland, FREE): Mountain bike and hiking trails in the middle of suburbia.
- The Springwater Corridor (East Portland, FREE): A scenic, widely paved trail, encompassing wetlands, buttes, agricultural fields and pastures, residential and industrial neighborhoods. Bike and pedestrian friendly.
- Eastbank Esplanade (SE Portland, FREE): 1.5 mile trail that travels the Willamette River to Waterfront Park or wind your way back to The Springwater Corridor.
- Providence Bridge Pedal (Downtown Portland, $$$ for adults, kids are FREE ): Sunday, August 12, 2012 — 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.
- 4T Trail (Portland, $$): Explore the city with this four-mile hiking trail and the combined rides on the OHSU tram, Portland trolley, and MAX train. Takes about 4 hours to complete.
- Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (SE Portland, $): Enjoy over 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, and companion plants.
- Forest Park (Portland, FREE): 80+ miles of jogging, hiking, and biking trails with 19 trailheads for easy access (maps are available at REI, New Seasons, Powell’s and other PDX locations).
- Japanese Gardens (SW Portland, $$): 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.
Leave a comment with your favorite Portland-area activities! What are your staycation plans this year?
Traveling this summer or live in a different area? Check out the full list of Staycation ideas from all over the United States!
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I would probably reconsider the Jamison Square recommendation. That is a really nasty area of town, and you are likely to inhale several packs of cigarettes just from being around all the smokers. But if police action is what you are looking for…
This weekend is free fishing weekend. Champoeg State Park will have rods and instruction available for kids. http://www.oregonstateparks.org/images/pdf/events/2012_champoeg_events.pdf
Also remember Oregon state parks department has a junior ranger program and several events for kiddos.
North Clackamas Parks & Rec’s traveling Rec Mobile is worth checking out. They provide drop-in activities for kids weekdays both morning and afternoon throughout the summer. Here’s the 2012 schedule: http://ncprd.com/sports-recreation/programs/recmobile
If you have a Clackamas County library card you can reserve and check out passes that allow FREE entry to area venues. See website link for details. If you don’t have a Clackamas County library card it is FREE to get one if you live in Clackamas, Multnomah or Washington counties in Oregon.
Also libraries in Clackamas & Multnomah have great children’s reading programs in the summer with free activities and events.
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Cultural Passes information
If you go to Multnomah Falls, be aware it is the number one tourist spot in all of OREGON for car break-ins and theft, no one patrols the areas and thieves feel it is their right to break into your vehicle and steal whatever they can, even if you go to the nice restaurant there they still break into your car..Not a happy time for anyone, a retired police officer and a current employee who works at the restaurant told me recently the car break-ins and at the restaurant are still prevalent a A BIG WARNING TO ALL WHO VENTURE TO THAT SITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Interesting….we went last summer and didn’t have any problems.
Don’t forget about the 4 T’s, Trail, Tram, Trolley and Train. If you start at the Oregon Zoo and hit the trail, you can then ride the tram down for free, then just pay $2 for the trolley, keep that pay stub because it will also get you back on the train to the zoo. The trolley will drop you off at some great food carts before you board the train.
Looking for a great place to eat affordably, don’t miss Killer Burger, Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon Burger.
Great list Angela!!
Washington Country Libraries have cultural passes for – Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, Pittock Mansion, Childrens museum and a few more – http://www.beavertonlibrary.org/index.aspx?nid=94
I used it for the Japanese Garden last year, had to be a little flexible on dates since it’s popular. They have to be picked up the day of use and returned the same day, check library hours when thinking of what day to use. Sundays the library doesn’t open till noon or 1pm, if the attraction is only open till 5pm there isn’t a lot of wiggle time.
Across from the Beaverton library they do Flicks on the Bricks too on Friday eves, I think it’s in August.
Beaverton’s films are ‘Flicks by the Fountain’. http://www.beavertonoregon.gov/index.aspx?nid=471
Very crowded. Arrive early with picnic dinner in hand.
Fort Vancouver: I almost always bring my visitors to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (http://www.nps.gov/fova/index.htm). It is a great activity for the kids.
Kris R. says
Holy cow! What perfect timing! Thank you so much for writing this article. This is the first year we’re doing a Staycation (we usually trek over to Sunriver) but to save $$$ on renting a house, we decided to stay put and spend our adventure money locally. We’re been searching out dieas for a few months now, and this is going to complete our itinerary nicely – LOVE IT!
PS – Angela, you’re on our family web site … http://www.easysite.com/rochafamily … click on the links tab. 😉 Not that you need more advertising! 😀
Thank you for posting this list of fun summer ideas! I added several of them to my own list. Has anyone visited the Wilson Pool or Grant Pool? Was wondering if it’s worth the drive from Sherwood – no outdoor pool here. 🙁
We go to Grant Pool in the summer. It’s nice, but there’s nothing incredibly remarkable about it. There is a nice playground next to it that my little one really enjoys after we go swimming. There’s often a shaved ice vendor in front of the pool as well.
Mae :o) says
What do you think about the Willamette Shore Trolley? Is that a worthy enjoyment? I haven’t ridden it since the Open House of OPB (another fun & free event), which gives (don’t know if they still do) complimentary rides along the Willamete River.
funny you should mention this, my husband and I just found out about this recently. They dont have a scehdule open yet but it is pretty reasonable I think it would cost about $12 for our family of three. Looks like it starts in July.
We also love the 53rd Ave. Fountain park in Hillsboro. Not as crowded as Beaverton City Library fountain. Plus there is a sandbox to play in!
And a wonderful playground-very creative structures, basketball hoops and a large sports field. Several picnic tables.
The Peculiarium is a free place to check out in downtown Portland, Or. http://www.peculiarium.com
And the $4 Tuesday at the Zoo. (Second Tuesday of the month)
My son also enjoys riding the OHSU tram. We go up there, eat lunch, and ride back down. Nothing too exciting, but he loves it. Maybe other little kids might, too.
The free “learn to swim” week of lessons through portland parks and rec is soon too. June 18-22th. Sign up is on Sat June 16th at 8am. Registration in person only at your neighborhood pool.
The summer reading program through the library starts soon. Last year, we got free passes for swimming at the community center pools and also rides on the carousel in Jantzen Beach for participating in it.
Meant to also say-check out your local library-they have many family
passes to places in the area-the children’s museum is one of them (and that even includs parking!). You can reserve it for a day-ask them for the list.
Hillsboro has the free movies nights too-believe it is at the City Hall (on 1st & Washington-hope I have that right-don’t do so well relying on memory!) outdoor area & also there is a water fountain to play in on hot days. At Shute park there are free concerts and out here we have the cheap Regal movie days also
Does anyone know of any farmers markets, wine events or U-pick that allow dog on leash to accompany owner?
I think almost all farmers markets are open to dogs. There are hoards at every market I go to. I would be surprised if U-Pick farms allowed animals. Not sure about wineries.
I am pretty sure all the FMs run by Portland Farmers Market do allow dogs. The Beaverton FM does not.
You can go to this site to see which Portland Farmers Markets allow dogs. Click on each market and on the right side of the page it has icons for what is/isn’t allowed. The PSU one doesn’t allow them, but some do. http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/
The U-pick areas may depend on if they have farm animals close by that may be disturbed-I would call before I go.
I would think that dog waste would be a consideration too! I’m a huge dog lover, but I don’t want anyone’s dog near my u-pick areas! Even if I do wash the fruit first.
Plum Hill Winery in Gaston allows dogs and is the only winery that has a nice dog run for you to allow your dog some off leash time while you enjoy some wine.
Twin Mom says
Here’s the link- forgot it in previous comment.
Twin Mom says
We recommend the preschool rides at Oaks Amusement Park. (We drive 90 miles to Portland to go.) $6.50/preschooler for all the rides you can do in 2 hours on Tuesday or Wed morning, followed by a snack of cookies and milk. They have all the preschool rides open, there are no lines and they just end rides early or stop them to let your child off if (s)he’s scared. No one really minds if a ride ends early because you can just get on again.