Culturally rich and one of the greenest cities in the country, Portland offers wonderfully diverse experiences across fun activities, history and nightlife. There is much to do here - food and brewery tours, hiking, historical buildings, the list goes on. And the best part? There are many that can be done for free! Yes, Portland’s commitment to fostering a vibrant atmosphere has led to a thriving culture of events and programs. With its plethora of green spaces and many open urban spaces spread across the city, you are sure to find an exciting range of free activities whatever your interest! Looking for something fun? We bring you the best things to do for free in Portland, Oregon. Read on and make a list of all the great stuff you want to do in this buzzing city!
1. Appreciate the vintage exhibits in Vacuum Museum
Not your ordinary museum, this collection housed inside a vacuum store depicts the history of a household essential, the vacuum cleaner. Imaginatively displayed with the help of a visual timeline, you can browse through around 25 of the most iconic models of vacuums starting from the first pneumatic models and learn the history of how this appliance evolved. Free to look, the museum is a surefire way to spend a surprisingly interesting afternoon.
Stark's Vacuums Museum
Address: 107 NE Grand Ave, Portland
Website: Stark’s Vacuums Museum
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8am - 6pm; Sat: 9am - 6pm; Sun: 10am - 5pm
2. Walk into the Portland Central Library if you love books
Counted among the oldest in West Coast, Portland Central Library is not only an incredibly large library (17 miles/28 km of bookshelves!) but is also a historical building. Enjoy walking around this graceful monument featuring beautiful architecture and art, top features being the ornately carved stairs and the cast-bronze tree in the children’s room which towers over 14 feet (50 inches).
Address: 801 SW 10th Ave, Portland
Website: Central Library
Opening hours: Mon: 10am - 8pm; Tue - Wed: 11am - 8pm; Thu - Sat: 10am - 5pm; Sun: 12pm - 5pm
3. Visit the spooky Witch's Castle
With a tragic love story and murder in its background, the abandoned ruins of Witch’s Castle have over the years gathered a reputation of being haunted. Although the actual site only has few moss-covered stone walls and stairs from the time it was a park rangers’ station and restroom, the ruins have now become a favourite hangout spot of locals. The eerie vibe of the stone structures makes for a cool experience, even if you don’t see any ghosts! An additional bonus is that reaching it will take you through a verdant forest trail which makes for a lovely outdoor activity when you want to enjoy the weather.
Address: Lower Macleay Trail, Portland, OR 97210, USA
Opening hours: 5am - 10pm (daily)
4. Take an architectural stroll in the “NW 20’s” avenues
The posh locality surrounding the NW 23rd street close to the city’s West Hills is a treasure trove of exclusive homes featuring the most dazzling architecture. Spend some time walking through the several connected NW 20s avenues in the area and marvel at the awe-inspiring designs of the houses, porches and gardens. When you are done, stop over at one the many chic cafes in the area for a cup of latte!
NW 20s Avenues
Address: NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97209
Opening hours: 24/7
5. Explore Mill End's Park, the world's smallest park
The epitome of Portland’s quirk factor, Mill End’s Park is a tiny ‘park’ located bang in the middle of a busy road in downtown Portland. Measuring just around two square feet, this garden has gained its whimsical reputation thanks to the imagination of its creator, journalist Dick Fagan. Over the years, in addition to miniature trees and shrubs, the park has featured numerous other 'amenities’ including statues, a swimming pool and even a miniature Ferris wheel! Be sure to check out this charming oddity!
Mill End's Park
Address: 56 SW Taylor St, Portland
Website: Mill End’s Park
Opening hours: 24/7
6. Learn the rich locomotive history at Oregon Rail Heritage Center
If you love trains, then the Oregon Rail Heritage Center is a must visit. Showcasing Oregon’s rich railroad history this museum has a fascinating collection of vintage steam locomotives, vintage passenger and freight cards and related memorabilia. The centre is run by volunteers, who are often at hand to explain the various features of the magnificent locomotives. Want to go on a train journey with these majestic locomotives? There’s a 10-mile (16 km) train ride on Saturdays as well as the annual Holiday Express during Thanksgiving that you can book.
Oregon Rail Heritage Center
Address: 2250 SE Water Avenue, Portland
Website: Oregon Rail Heritage Center
Opening hours: Thu - Fri: 1pm - 5pm; Sat - Sun: 12pm - 5pm
7. Go for a brewery tour in the beer town
With more breweries than any other city in the world, Portland is heaven for a beer lover! If you are interested in going behind the scenes, then look for one of the many free tours that are hosted by breweries in the city. Some of the available ones currently are HUB, Ground Breaker, Ecliptic Brewing, and McMenamins. Do check in with them before visiting, especially if you are part of a large group.
Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB)
Address: 2944 SE Powell Blvd, Portland, OR 97202, USA
Website: Hopworks Urban Brewery
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11am - 11pml; Fri - Sat: 11am - 12pm
8. Participate in Free Community Yoga
Keen to spend some restorative time doing yoga? Then Portland definitely has a whole host of options. Several yoga studios and teachers often hold free classes that you can participate in. One such is the Free Community Yoga where every Sunday morning a yoga class is led by an experienced teacher between 9-10am. Though free you will need to reserve a place beforehand as spots fill up fast.
Free Community Yoga
Address: Patagonia, 1106 West Burnside Street, Portland
Opening hours: Sun: 8.30am - 1pm (closed on Mon - Sat)
9. Pay a visit to the Portland Farmer's Market
Wander around stalls with the freshest of meat and produce from local farmers and vendors in the weekly Portland Farmer’s Market. Held every Saturday, the market also hosts live events which include chef demonstrations, educational programs themed around food and market music where local musicians play, creating a vibrant atmosphere.
Portland Farmer's Market
Address: 1831 SW Pedestrian Trail, Portland
Website: Portland Farmer’s Market
Opening hours: Sat: 8:30am - 2pm (closed from Sun - Fri)
10. Go for a bike ride in the Springwater Corridor
Hop onto a bike and pedal through the Springwater Corridor to explore the city from a different perspective. Following a former rail trail, the Springwater Corridor is a paved 21-mile (33.7 km) route that will take you over several scenic views as it goes from downtown Portland to rural outskirts including famous bridges of the city. With the trail mostly away from the public road, it is popular with bikers, walkers and joggers. Though long, the Corridor is not very tough making it accessible to people of all experience levels.
Address: SE Ivon Street to Boring, Oregon
Website: Springwater Corridor
An ever-changing menu of fun
Emulating traditional free activities hosted in open gardens and public squares, Portland’s many art galleries and museums also now offer selected days of free access. An example is ‘First Thursdays of Portland’, an event where First Avenue’s art galleries throw open their doors, and street vendors and live activities turn the area into a fun gala.
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