“Don’t have much money but boy if I did, I’d buy a big house where we both could live.” – Elton John
Portland is an easy city to explore on a budget. I know this because a majority of the time I was living there, I was on a tight one. But I never felt limited because of it. There is always something to do in Portland, and there just so happens to be a handful of really fun free things you can do in or around the city. Whether just visiting or getting settled into a new move, these five free things to do in Portland, Oregon are a good way to get to know the city.
International Rose Test Garden
We lucked up and lived within walking distance of this gorgeous place. The International Rose Garden is the oldest rose test garden in the United States, and it’s located within Portland’s Washington Park. One of the coolest things about this city is that you could be on a city street one minute and completely surrounded by nature the next. Although you do have to pay to park if you decide drive (which you don’t have to!), admissions to the garden is completely free.
There are over 1,000 rose bushes to look at, and they hold over 600 varieties of roses. They have roses in every color; it’s incredible. The best time to visit is in the late Spring to early summer, when the flowers are at their peak, but most flowers should be in bloom between the months of April to October.
Of all the free things to do in Portland, this one was probably the most epic for me, and that’s saying a lot. Powell’s City of Books is located right in the center of the city and is one of the greatest attractions Portland has to offer. This massive bookstore is the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world! It takes up an entire city block and houses more than 1 million titles in the store. It. Is. Awesome.
You can easily spend an entire day exploring the store. If you need a break you can take it in the awesome coffee shop that’s right in the store, and then get back to it. They have readings and events almost everyday, (a large majority of them are also free) so check out the calendar of events to see whats going on during your visit.
There are so any great parks in Portland to choose from, but this was the first one I visited. It’s what made me decide that I could live there. Mt.Tabor was built on top of an old volcanic cylinder cone, and it is a favorite for many locals. With different trails, varying in length and difficulty, this is the kind of park where you pack a lunch and chill. They have a really nice playground if you’re looking for somewhere to take kids too.
The best part of this park is the views from the top. In the summer, the top of Mt.Tabor is filled with monarch butterflies and tall trees and might just offer the best view of the city. People put up hammocks from the trees, play frisbee, and just chill in this park. There’s room for everyone.
One of the best things about a good farmers market is the atmosphere. You can hang out, listen to music, and interact with the locals (who are all SO nice!) There are two farmers markets in Portland that I would recommend. They are both very different from each other so pick your poison.
The most popular farmers market in Portland is the Portland Saturday Market. This place gets crowded in the summers and has a ton of things to indulge in. A ton of craft vendors and food trucks station themselves here on Saturdays and Sundays from March to the end of December. It’s a lot to look at. A lot of interesting people there too. It’s right by the water, and they often feature entertainment. It’s a loud and chaotic scene but also a tourist trap. So that’s one option.
If you’re in it for the produce and a more casual vibe, go to the PSU Market. this market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with Saturday offering more and having a bigger crowd. The crowd however is way more relaxed. And despite it not being as huge as the Portland Saturday Market, this is still a really big one. People bring their kids and sit in the grass, listening to awesome live music. But it’s all very casual. They have amazing floral bouquets and cool local food vendors. It was one of the best farmers markets I’ve been to.
Though not technically in Portland, it’d be a crime to come to the area and not visit Multnomah Falls. It’s worth the maybe half hour drive out of the city, I promise. It’s also the most popular waterfall in the PNW and with good reason. The cover photo is from my first time visiting the falls, before any of the fires from 2017 shut it down or changed parts of it. You can hang out at the bottom and take it all in, make your way up to the bridge, or even travel up to the very top. A large majority of the path to get up there is pretty accessible, though it does get more narrow the further up you go. It’s a bucket list thing to do so check it out!