There are so many free activities in Portland, Oregon that you could spend a 5 days in Portland doing something different every single day and still not run out of free things to do. In fact, you could probably visit way longer and not run out of free Portland activities.
Part of the reason there are so many free activities is Portland’s desire to preserve green spaces. This goal shows throughout the city with the many parks and gardens. All of these green spaces are free and many have unique features like a play fountain for children, 500 varieties of roses, or hiking trails. One of the most notable is Tom McCall Waterfront park, an award winning green space and home to the popular Portland Saturday Market which happens to be free as well!
Not only are there many green spaces to enjoy but there are many museums here too. One of those museums is the Historic Belmont Firehouse and it is always free. Many of the other museums offer times during the month that they open their doors to the public at no charge. Even the art galleries have joined together to offer a set free day each month like the First Thursdays of Portland when you can spend your entire evening strolling through downtown art galleries at no charge.
We hope our list of the top 10 free activities in Portland helps you plan a wonderful visit to Portland.
Jeff Morris Fire & Life Safety Foundation and Portland Fire & Rescue have teamed up to bring you a remarkable facility known as the “Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum,” at the Historic Belmont Firehouse. Tours are usually last an hour or more. During the tour you can experience the “Fire Engine Experience” emergency response simulator and the firehouse fire pole. Exhibits include the “Greater Alarm Dispatch Board”, a firefighter photo display, the “Destructive Power of Fire” exhibit, and the fire engine pump panel exhibit.
They also have a theater room showing safety education. You will see antique equipment like the 1859 Jeffers Sidestroke Handpumper, the 1879 Amoskeag Steam Pumper, the 1860 Hose Cart, and a variety of hand tools used over the past 150 years. A 30 minute audio tour is available for $1. They also have a gift shop and safety store.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Historic Belmont Firehouse is especially fun and educational for kids and always completely free.
Meagan’s expert tip: You can request a tour in advance on their website.
The Springwater Corridor is a multiuse trail that runs from SE Ivan St. in Portland all the way to Boring, OR. The trail is currently 14.2 miles one way. The Springwater Corridor connects many parks including Tideman Johnson Nature Park, Beggars-tick Wildlife Refuge, the I-205 Bike Path, Leach Botanical Garden, Powell Butte Nature Park, and Gresham’s Main City Park. These parks are the best places to access the trail, especially if you need a place to park your car. The entire trail is at least 10 feet wide and paved, making it ideal for walkers, joggers, bicycles, strollers, and wheelchairs. East of I-205 and at the end of the trail in Boring there are separate soft surface paths for equestrian use.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Springwater Corridor is a free 14 mile multi use trail that runs throughout Portland.
Meagan’s expert tip: Rent or bring a bike and plan to spend a few hours enjoying the trail
This public square is affectionately referred to as Portland’s “living room,” thanks to its popularity as a gathering place and as a site for public festivals and events big and small.
In past years, the site was occupied by a school, a hotel, and a parking garage. Not until 1974 did the city obtain the land and create the beautiful space that exists today. Open since 1984, the square hosts activities year-round, including special outdoor concerts and city celebrations. Much of the funding was through private donations; as a result, you’ll see bricks imprinted with the names of donors throughout the space.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Pioneer Courthouse Square is Portland’s living room and constantly has fun things to see and do there.
Meagan’s expert tip: Grab food at a near by food cart and enjoy lunch on the steps.
Jamison Square is an outdoor park in the Pearl District hidden among high rise condominiums. During the warm months kids can play in the tiered fountain that runs continuously. As the fountain runs it forms a shallow pool and then drains itself, recycles the water, and then starts forming the pool all over again. This makes the fountain safe for even young children to play in and keeps it clean.
In the evenings they drain the fountain and have free concerts. Jamison Square has small tables and chairs available. It’s a great place to have lunch or just relax and read a book
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Jamison Square is a relaxing place to visit and have some water fun.
Meagan’s expert tip: Bring your own lawn chair to sit in while you watch your kids play or take in a concert.
Director Park is a public piazza right in the heart of downtown Portland. This park sits on top of an underground parking garage. Here they have a large fountain that doubles as a splash pad for kids on hot days.
Director Park offers free activities for all ages year round like concerts, art events, trivia nights, chess, plays, cooking, and more. It’s a great place to spend your lunch break. They have plenty of sitting with chairs and tables sprinkled throughout the piazza. There is also concrete benches to sit on.
Elephants Café has a location here that serves lunch and dinner.They also sell drinks and ice cream.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Director Park is full of free fun in the heart of the city.
Meagan’s expert tip: Pack a picnic on a hot day and let your kids play in the fountain.
Forest Park is Portland’s own enchanted forest. Forest Park is well known for being the largest urban forest in the country located within a city. Forest park encompasses more than 5000 acres full of dense trees, rivers, waterfalls, and bridges. It has more than 40 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Most trails are wide and well taken care of, making them good for runners and bicyclist. The park can be found on the eastern portion of the Northwest Hills and is only 10 minutes from downtown. Taking even a short hike through Forest Park allows you to truly appreciate Oregon’s beauty. Deciding where exactly to enter can be confusing. McCleay Park at 29th and Upshire is a good place for entry.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Forest Park is 5,000 acres of enjoyment right in downtown.
Meagan’s expert tip: Research exactly where you want to go before your first visit.
Although Pioneer Courthouse Square and Powell’s Books are often referred to as Portland’s “living rooms,” Tom McCall Park could also be named as such. Even in bad weather, a multitude of people congregate along the riverfront, and on nice days, families, bikers, bladers, and joggers all find a way to coexist peacefully. The park is also the site of many of the city’s big events, including the Blues Festival, the Oregon Brewers Festival, and many events associated with the Rose Festival. It was under Governor McCall’s leadership that Harbor Drive was demolished and replaced by this park in the mid-1970s.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Tom McCall Waterfront park offers beautiful views and free entertainment.
Meagan’s expert tip: Visit on a Saturday to enjoy the Saturday Market and don’t forget bathing suits for the kids.
Housed in a five-story building that occupies an entire city block, calling Powell’s a “City of Books” is hardly hyperbole. By far the largest book store in Portland, Powell’s claims to be the largest independent book store in the nation. Ever been to The Strand in New York? Powell’s is bigger.
Selling both new and used books, shoppers will be able to find pretty much anything in print at a great price. With 1.6 acres of floor space, shoppers may have to use a map (free at the front desk) to navigate through the many color-coded rooms. The Powell’s coffee shop is one of the best places in Portland to bring out of town guests for an afternoon snack. Aside from the “City of Books” Powell’s has several satellite locations throughout the Portland area, including one at the airport. Online, Powell’s Books competes head to head with Amazon.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Powell’s is one of Portland’s most famous shops and it’s fun to find old books here.
Meagan’s expert tip: Check out the Rare Book Room on the 5th floor.
Not only will you see roses that you’ve never seen before here, you will also have an incredible view of the city and Mt. Hood from these terraced gardens. Instituted in 1917, the gardens give trial runs to various rose hybrids before they’re introduced into the mass market. With over 8000 plants representing more than 400 different species, this garden is sure to have at least one rose type that captivates you.
Should you find yourself tempted, however, know that it’s illegal to pick any of the blooms. Summer is the best time to visit the displays and is also when you’ll find a repertoire of seasonal concerts available in the gardens. The Washington Park Rose Garden Store offers unusual items for both the home and garden.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Portland’s Rose Garden is breathtaking in summer and there is no admission cost.
Meagan’s expert tip: If possible visit between June and August. Do not pick any of the roses or you will be fined.
Despite its name, the Portland Saturday Market is open on Sundays too, every weekend from March through December.
Located on the West Bank of the Willamette River, the Market is sheltered by the Burnside Bridge and a glass-roofed structure custom made for open-air shopping on rainy days. Scores of vendors sell their art and crafts, all original creations and unavailable anywhere else. All sellers at the Saturday Market only sell that which they fashion themselves. This includes the freshly cooked, international food which shoppers can eat while sitting in front of the stage featuring free, live music every market day. Buskers throughout the area round out the market with live entertainment.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Portland Saturday Market is a great way to spend a day out in Portland and it’s free.
Meagan’s expert tip: Come early on summer mornings, as the market can get very crowded in the afternoon.