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Free Portland: tour the Rose City and leave your wallet behind

Updated on August 7, 2013
Stroll Tom McCall Waterfront Park for a free taste of Portland.
Stroll Tom McCall Waterfront Park for a free taste of Portland. | Source

Portland certainly isn’t as pricey as New York or Paris, but it’s not the cheapest place to be a tourist either. While lodging prices might be moderate, hostels and other cheap accommodation are few and far between, and you’ll spend a pretty penny for most of your meals and snack stops while in the Rose City. The good news is that most of the sights and activities of interest to tourists in Portland are free, or almost free. Here are a few favorites:

Stop and smell the roses in the Rose City, gratis.
Stop and smell the roses in the Rose City, gratis. | Source
  1. Powells City of Books: Browse the aisles of the world's largest independent book store free.
  2. East Bank Esplanade and Waterfront Park: Walk along the Willamette River and on the floating docks for views of downtown.
  3. Washington Park: Up above downtown you'll find this beautiful green park where you can enjoy an afternoon overlooking the Northwest neighborhood.
  4. Pioneer Square: Spend some time in Portland's "living room" check out the food carts, events, and window shop.
  5. Street Fairs: First Thursday, Last Thursday, and neighborhood fairs like Hawthorne and Belmont are a great way to get a feel for what Portland is alla bout.
  6. Saturday Market: On the shores of the river and stretching into Old Town, you'll find arts, crafts, and eclectic goods at this weekly market.
  7. Council Crest: Enjoy the best view in town from high in the hills, overlooking downtown.
  8. International Rose Test Garden and Rose Gardens: One of Portland's most popular attractions and inspiration for the nickname the Rose City, is free of charge.
  9. Tour the ‘hoods: Stroll Nob Hill, the Pearl District, Old Town Chinatown, and Hawthorne
  10. The Grotto: This less-visited Portland site blends history and botanic beauty and the lower garden is always free.

Portland's Vintage Trolley is a great way to see the city  for free.
Portland's Vintage Trolley is a great way to see the city for free. | Source

Almost Free: Many Portland attractions offer special free or discount days.

  1. Portland Art Museum: Visit the cities best art collection free every 4th Friday from 5-8.
  2. Secrets of Portlandia Free Walking Tour: Learn about the city and see the sights for free, but tipping your guide is recommended.
  3. Browse the food carts: The best selections are downtown and on the eastside where you'll find creative cuisine and uniquely designed carts and pods, but good luck keeping your belly empty and your wallet full.
  4. The Vintage Trolley: Ride this relic through town on select Sundays only from Union Station to PSU.
  5. OMSI: Visit Portland's science museum on the river for $2 Days on the first Sunday of each month.
  6. The Chinese Gardens: One of Portland's best gardens isn't full of roses, it's these gardens in Chinatown and you can visit on a selection of free days each year.
  7. Oregon Zoo: Save time, money, and lessen your carbon foot print and you'll receive a $1.50 discount by presenting your MAX or Trimet Bus ticket.
  8. Portland Aerial Tram: If you have a Trimet or C-Tran monthly pass you can ride for free and enjoy the spectacular views looking north toward downtown and over the river.
  9. Pittock Mansion: Check out this impressive historic mansion for free during the first full week of every month if you're a Bank of America card holders.
  10. Voodoo Donuts: Visit this Portland icon known for weird and wonderful pastries and browse the selection free of charge, but you’ll have trouble resisting the Bacon Maple Bar.

What's your favorite free attraction in Portland?

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    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      During my visit to Portland this weekend I will have some free time on Thursday and Friday. Now I know how to spend it. Thanks for the excellent writing and helpful information.