Get Out and Explore the Rose City
Portland combines natural beauty, lush green parks, a historic old town and a progressive sensibility into a city that both residents and visitors love. You can explore so much of it without spending a lot of money.
Learn about ten free things to do in the Rose City, both indoor and out, that will give you a taste of what Portland is all about.
Portland’s free walking tour, Secrets of Portlandia, casts an irreverent, but informative, look on Portland’s history and culture. The tour is offered from April through October. No reservations are required. Just show up. Afterwards, if you enjoyed the tour, you can give the guide a tip.
Forest Park is the nation’s largest urban park, encompassing almost 5,000 acres and 70 miles of walking trails. Walk, hike and run through the forest of firs, hemlock and western red cedar. You might see tracks from bobcats, chipmunks or even a black bear. Explore and learn from knowledgeable guides at the Forest Park Discovery Hikes Program. Each hike has a special focus and many are free.
Bring your child or your inner child to Kidd’s Toy Museum and explore the extensive collection of vintage playthings. The bulk of the collection is from 1869 to 1939, and includes an amazing variety of mechanical banks.
Breweries are a big hit in the city with 58 local breweries hopping up IPAs, Porters, Ales, Lagers and Stouts. A handful of these establishments offer free tours and tastings. Find out if you favorite brewery offers freebies.
The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, a 62-acre Catholic shrine and gardens, is better known as “The Grotto” and is one of Portland’s most visited attractions. There’s a lot of free areas to explore, including the botanical gardens and a rock cave carved into the base of a 110-foot cliff with a life-size marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà in its center. For $8 (less for kids and seniors) ride the elevator to the top of the bluff and take in the spectacular panoramic views of the area.
Several Portland museums have free days. If you plan your visit to Portland carefully, you may get to explore several museums for free. Portland Art Museum is free the fourth Thursday of the month, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
No, the books aren’t free at Powell’s City of Books, but the experience is. Powell’s is the largest used bookstore in the world. It occupies a full city block. How big is Powell’s? Big enough that they host free tours every Sunday at 10 a.m. It also boasts a coffee shop, and yes, you can take books in there to read.
The International Rose Test Garden, which introduces and tests new varieties of roses, is the oldest and largest garden of its kind in the country. Each year the city of Portland awards one new variety the “Gold Medal,” and that rose is added to the Gold Medal Garden. Admission is always free, and free tours are offered several times a week.
You’ll find several monthly gallery walks in art districts around Portland. The longest-running of the gallery walks is First Thursday in the Pearl. Galleries often schedule exhibit openings and receptions during the walks. The First Friday Art Walk at the East side Arts District takes place on the first Friday evening of every month from 6-9 p.m.
Portland’s Living Room
Drawing the most visitors of any spot in Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square is a central gathering spot. It hosts more than 300 events a year, is home to the visitor’s center, summer movies, a theater and a television studio.
Children’s Museum – photo by Torsten Kjellstrand/TravelPortland.com
Art Walk – photo by Rob Finch/TravelPortland.com
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