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20 Awesome Free Things to Do in Portland, Oregon


Portland is a major port and both the largest and most populous city in Oregon. This city has a long history, making it a very interesting place to visit. As a tourist destination, it also has many activities and attractions for people to enjoy. No matter what your interests, you will find plenty of things to enjoy if this is the destination of your choice. It is even possible to have a great time in this city if you do not have a lot of money to spend during your time there because there is a good selection of places you can visit for free. Here are 20 awesome free things you can do during your visit to Portland, Oregon.

1. Admire the Lower Level of the Grotto

Officially, The Grotto is called the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother and The Grotto. It is both a Catholic shrine and a botanical garden that is located on NE Skidmore Street. Although there is a fee to visit the upper level of The Grotto, you can enter the lower levels of the botanical garden for free. This is a pretty place to visit that is a sanctuary in the midst of the urban landscape.

2. Have a Unique Experience at Stark’s Vacuum Museum

There are many museums to visit in Portland, but one of the most unusual is Stark’s Vacuum Museum. The museum is at the back of Stark’s vacuum shop on NE Grand Avenue. There are hundreds of vintage vacuums, with the oldest dating back to 1905. A trip to this museum is certainly a unique experience.

3. Go to the Historic Belmont Firehouse

The Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum is located within the Historic Belmont Firehouse. This attraction was created as a collaboration between Portland Fire & Rescue and the Jeff Morris Fire & Life Safety Foundation. During the hour-long tour of this venue, you can see a range of exhibits relating to the history of the fire service in the United States. You can also try out the firehouse fire pole and experience the emergency response simulator. There is also a theatre room where you can learn about fire safety. Therefore, this attraction is both a fun activity and a learning experience rolled into one.

4. Walk, Run, or Cycle the Springwater Corridor

According to 10 Best USA Today, one of the best ways to see the sights of Portland is to go to the Springwater Corridor. This is a multi-use trail that runs for 14.2 miles between SE Ivan Street in Portland to Boring. You can choose to walk, run, or cycle the trail, or just a section of it, and you will see some of Portland’s most attractive landmarks along the way.

5. Enjoy an Event at Pioneer Courthouse Square

This square is lovingly referred to by locals as Portland’s Living Room. In the past, there was a school, a parking garage, and a hotel on the site. The city obtained the land in 1974 and completely transformed it into the beautiful space that is there now. Pioneer Courthouse Square is now used as a venue for many events and festivals throughout the year, so you should check what is on during your visit. Even if there is nothing on, it is a great place to sit and people watch.

6. Have Fun at Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park

No matter what time of year you visit, you will find both tourists and locals congregated along the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It is an attractive and peaceful setting to hand out, take a stroll, or enjoy a bicycle ride. This park is also used as a venue for many festivals throughout the year. These include the Oregon Brewers Festival and the Blues Festival. Check out which festivals and events are on during your visit to Portland.

7. Visit the International Rose Test Gardens

If you have green fingers, you may enjoy a visit to the International Rose Test Gardens. Established in 1917, this is a test garden that gives a trial to new rose hybrids before they are introduced to the mass market. There are more than 10,000 plants from 400 different species. This park has a wonderful aroma and it filled with vibrant colors. It is illegal to pick any of the roses, but you can buy a rose plant from The Washington Park Rose Garden Store.

8. Stroll Around the Markets

There is a great vibe at the markets in Portland and they are free to wander around, although there is always the temptation to spend money while you are there. There is sometimes entertainment for you to enjoy at the markets, or you can simply wander the stalls admiring the wares and enjoying the feel of being part of the local community. According to 10 Best USA Today, the Portland Saturday Market is also open on Sundays, despite its name. There is also the Portland Farmer’s Market, which is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

9. Spend a Day at Washington Park

Washington Park is an excellent place to visit for both relaxation and fun. If you simply want to get away from city life for a while, then you can take a stroll between the landscaped gardens along the paved paths. However, there are also many free amenities to enjoy during a visit. These include an accessible play area, a historical site, a fountain, a soccer field, picnic tables, and lighted trails. This park is also the chosen venue for several events and festival throughout the year.

10. See the Magnificence of Multnomah Falls

Locate in Columbia River Gorge between Dodson and Corbett is Multnomah Falls. This is one of the most stunning natural landmarks in Oregon, so it is definitely worth taking the time and effort to drive 30-minutes outside Portland to see this magnificent sight. The waterfall attracts thousands of visitors each year who start at the bottom of the gorge, pass by the Lower Multnomah Falls, and then reach the peak of the Multnomah falls before heading back down to their starting point. There are many excellent photo opportunities along the way.

11. Enjoy an Outdoor Play

During the warmer months, a great way to spend your time is to watch an outdoor play. There are many venues across the city that host free outdoor concerts throughout the year. The Portland Actors love to put on a play, and these vary from Shakespeare to contemporary plays. Similarly, there are some amazing live music events and concerts hosted in the parks around Portland. Whichever you choose to do, you should take along a picnic to make the most of the experience. Check out what is going on in the area before you visit, so you can find the perfect outdoor play or concert to suit your tastes.

12. Go to Hoyt Arboretum

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Hoyt Arboretum is a fantastic place to visit. This attraction was opened in 1912 and it aims to conserve endangered species and to educate visitors. The park encompasses 190-acres over ridge tops, and it is home to more than 2,300 species of tree and shrubs that originate from six continents. There are also 12 miles of hiking trails to enjoy, so you can spend a full day at this attraction. In fact, you can make several visits to have a go at a few of the hiking trails as each of these varies in length and difficulty. On each hike, you will have a different experience and see new sights.

13. Admire Portland’s Bridges and Fountains

Portland has some magnificent landmarks and structures, and it is possible to spend an entire day walking around the city admiring these. If you are a fan of fountains, then you will find them in squares across the city. However, the most impressive sights are Portland’s bridges. Just some of the bridges you should see during your visit are Hawthorne Bridge, Steel Bridge, St. John’s Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, and Burnside Bridge.

14. Catch a Movie in the Park

Southern Savers recommends watching a movie in the park as one of the most enjoyable free activities in Portland. There are various venues across the city that host free movie nights, including many of the parks. Take along a blanket and picnic to sit comfortably on the grass and enjoy a bite to eat. Some parks also show movies in Spanish.

15. Go to The Simon Benson House

If you enjoy history and architecture, then one of the top free venues to visit in Portland is The Simon Benson House. This Queen Anne style house was built in 1901 by the logger and philanthropist Simon Benson. Bizarrely, the house was moved in its entirety from its original location to the campus of Portland State University almost 100 years after it was built.

16. View the Splendor of Oneonta Gorge

Although there are many urban attractions to enjoy in Portland, you should also take some time to enjoy the natural splendor of this amazing city. One of the most spectacular sights is Oneonta Gorge. The gorge is along a 2.7-mile hiking trail that is relatively easy. If you are a nature lover, you will enjoy the water gushing down the moss-covered rocks. This is a picturesque spot that is a perfect photo opportunity.

17. Take a Tour of Bridgeport Brewing Co.

Beer fans should not miss the opportunity to take one of the many tours of brewing companies during a visit to Portland. One of the best is the free tour offered by the Bridgeport Brewing Co. This is the oldest brewery in Portland and there are regular free tours available. During these tours, you can learn about the history of the company and the brewing processes they use. This brewery also hosts a variety of music events throughout the year that are also free to enter. Another great brewery where you can take a free tour is Widmer Portland Brewing.

18. Visit the Witch’s House at Forest Park

Forest Park is often called the enchanted forest and it is the largest urban forest located within a city. The park covers more than 5,000 acres for you to explore. One of the highlights of visiting the park is seeing the witch’s house. Legends say that this little stone house in the forest is haunted.

19. See the Urban Waterfalls

There are several natural waterfalls in the area surrounding Portland, but the urban waterfalls are an equally impressive sight. According to Local Adventurer, the urban waterfalls are structures with the Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain Park. The manmade structures are made from metal that has rusted and corroded over time. To view the fountain properly, you need to walk over layered slabs of stone that are set above a shallow manmade lake.

20. Go to Oregon Rail Heritage Center

As a port city, boats have clearly played an important role in the history of the city. However, the railroads have played an equally important part in Portland’s history as they are a key element of transport, trade, and industry in Portland. The Oregon Rail Heritage Center pays homage to the railroads of Oregon. Not only will you see some of the big engines during a guided tour, but you also have the chance to hop on board the Oregon Pacific Railroad to take a short trip.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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