Woman sitting on bench looking at a painting of flowers on the wall at art museum

Cheap and free things to do in Portland

By Sophia Crawford

Do you live in or near Portland? Yeah? You lucky dog. Here in the Rose City we’ve got a plethora (thanks, thesaurus) of forest trails, free museums, and discounted entertainment opportunities. Best of all, you don’t need to be a student for these deals, so bring along your buddies and paint the town red!

  • HINT: There’s a comprehensive list at the bottom, but do read the body of this article. I’ve got some good info and good jokes in here to make it worthwhile 😎 And if you’re looking for more student discounts and deals, check out the link below!

1. Arts for All

If you qualify for this program, it is the absolute BEST thing to sign up for. You can go to the Lan Su Chinese Garden, Opera Theater Portland, Oregon Symphony, OMSI, Portland Arts Museum, Portland Japanese Garden, Oregon Theater Ballet, Pittock Mansion, and other places for just $5. I don’t even need to try and sell this thing — it sells itself.
The important part: With the Oregon Trail Card (the card provided to you after signing up for the federal food assistance program SNAP), you can access 100 local music, dance, theater, and museum events with discounted tickets for $5.
See more info about Arts for All now!

  • HINT: Don’t fret if you don’t qualify! There’s a whole list of awesome events below, so keep reading. I gotchu.

2. Washington Park

Ladies, gents, and non-binary folks, please keep your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the vehicle. We will travel from the PSU campus all through the magnificent Washington Park. If you look to your left, you’ll find the splendid Japanese Garden, and to your right, public tennis courts. Up ahead you’ll catch a glimpse of the Oregon Zoo after smelling the flowers from both the International Rose Garden and the Hoyt Arboretum. Now we will finish our tour at the Redwood Observation Deck, and before you exit the vehicle, please don’t forget your belongings or children (there’s a nearby playground they’ll surely enjoy).
The important part: Nearly all the activities are FREE, and parking is just $2/hour!
See more info about Washington Park now!
Find the location!

  • HINT: Want a discounted student ticket for the Portland Japanese Garden? Check out this other article!
  • HINT: Look at their website before you go because they have live updates of the number of available parking spaces. That’s hella tight.

3. Free Tax Assistance

Me: Hey reader, u cute <3 , can I have ur number?
You: Yes! But I only have a work number. It’s 503-243-7765. Call me 😉
*the next day, I call the number*
Me: Hello?
You on the phone: This is free tax help. How can I help you?
Me: OMG Hi again! People who know about taxes are sexy
*secsy snarl sound*
You and I set up a date at a tax-filing office and live happily ever after.
The important part: Get FREE tax help during tax season from Cash Oregon and the Metropolitan Family Service by calling 503-243-7765.
See more info about free tax help now!


4. Living Room Theaters

In downtown Portland close to Burnside Street lives an environmentally conscious cinema that is a “sophisticated yet superbly comfortable environment that combines a European style café and lounge with a relaxing place to see wonderful movies.” Sounds like the perfect place to watch The French Dispatch. Oui oui baguette.
The important part: Films on Mondays and Tuesdays are reduced to $7.50 for all.
See more info about Living Room Theaters now!
Find their location!


5. Powell’s City of Books

You on Netflix has got me prowlin’ through the rare, age-old books in the world’s largest independent bookstore, and I’m definitely not secretly hoping a creepy (but very attractive) Joe Goldberg narrates my every move and psychoanalyzes my book choices while I run my fingers across the spine of Pride and Prejudice
The important part: Explore this Portland gem for FREE.
See more info about Powell’s City of Books now!
Find their location!


6. Portland Art Museum

I’m back at it again with the white vans Portland Art Museum. Here’s an excerpt from my previous article on student discounts that mentions this awesome place: “What do rich people wearing shorts-shaped hats and painted peaches that weirdly arouse you have in common? Other than oddly reminding you of Call Me By Your Name, you can see beautiful depictions of them at the Portland Art Museum!”
*crickets*
Yeah, so, not sure what I was thinking there *nervous laughter,* but anyway, the current exhibition is Queen Nefertari’s Egypt. It leaves in January, so go as soon as you can!
The important part: The Multnomah County Library Discovery Pass offers two FREE adult admissions by using a Multnomah County Library account to reserve. Also, the Blue Star Museums Program offers FREE admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
See more info about the Portland Art Museum now!
Find their location!


7. Forest Park

The website Travel Portland does a fine job describing this natural area, so I’ll leave them to it: “For outdoor enthusiasts, winter and fall are a wonderful time to hike through Forest Park, the nation’s largest urban wilderness. This nearly 5,000-acre wilderness has miles of hiking, jogging and mountain biking trails that are relatively free of traffic during the cooler months.”
The important part: Nature’s public park for all to enjoy, and of course, it’s FREE.
See more info about Forest Park now!
Find the location!


8. Oregon Rail Heritage Center

The website Travel Portland has my back again, describing this museum with perfect clarity: “Portland is home to more working steam locomotives than any other city in the country, and you’ll find them at the volunteer-run Oregon Rail Heritage Center, opened in 2012. Guided interpretation, presentations, exhibits and events tell the story of Pacific Northwest railroads and, during the holiday season, light-adorned “Holiday Express” trains tour passengers along the Willamette River.”
The important part: FREE to enter, and $25/adult for the ❄️Holiday Express Train🚂
See more info about the Oregon Rail Heritage Center now!
Find their location!

  • HINT: The center is accessible via Portland Streetcar (FREE for PSU students!)

9. The Grotto

This Catholic sanctuary welcomes more than 175,000 guests of all faiths each year. They’ve got a natural gallery in the forest and at the bottom of a 110-foot cliff, you’ll see a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà. The Grotto is highly decorated and glowing with lights during the
🎁holidays⛄, so if you go, take me with you.
*insert “don’t leave me take me with you” memes*
The important part: The entire lower level is FREE.
See more info about The Grotto now!
Find their location!


10. Portland Farmers Market

For the final activity I have for you, we’re bringing it back home to campus with the Portland Farmers Market. It’s got live music, food samples, lovely flower bouquets, and even chefs showing how to put together dishes with market ingredients. This means you can grab some flowers and fresh ingredients for a recipe the chef just taught you to prepare for our date together at the tax-filing office that we had set up in the 3rd listed activity (you didn’t forget, right?).
The important part: It’s FREE to browse through the vendors, located in the South Park Blocks, and open on Saturdays year-round!
See more info about the Portland Farmers Market now!


TL;DR

List of cheap and free things to do in Portland
Arts for All
Washington Park:
– Archery range
– Hoyt Arboretum
– International Rose Garden
– Japanese Garden
– Oregon Zoo
– Tennis courts
– Playground
Free Tax Help
Living Room Theaters
Powell’s City of Books
Portland Art Museum
Forest Park
Oregon Rail Heritage Center:
– Holiday Express Train
The Grotto
Portland Farmers Market

So many people make it a dream to move to the Pacific Northwest, and for good reason. The view of the vast blanket of greenery with subtle skyscrapers along a wide, calm river spotted with boats treats any traveler coming into PDX by plane. So don’t take Portland’s nature, it’s people, or it’s programs for granted. Go out and explore!

Featured Image:
Mc Lachlan, W. (2020). Portland art museum [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/KCCUWPfDoC4

Correction: A previous version of this article mentioned that the Portland Art Museum offered “free admission every first Thursday of the month from 5–8pm, and $5 admission every Friday night from 5–8pm”. The museum has put this offer on hold, but currently offers other deals. The article has now been corrected.


About Sophia: I’m a Portland State University Junior from the Portland suburbs, majoring in Economics and in love with my college. I’m interested in economic reform and Scandinavian welfare systems, and am also a huge movie buff. Ok, so, I was required to say that, now let’s get to the hard-hitting reality: everything I write on here is cryptically about Timothée Chalamet, so pls comment about it under my articles (but don’t tell my boss, I might get fired lol). Connect with me on LinkedIn.

5 thoughts on “Cheap and free things to do in Portland

  1. Upon the recommendation of this posting I looked up the Portland Art Museum however, their posted hours on Google are until 5pm each day and they’re closed Monday and Tuesday. Just wanted to point that out to avoid confusion.

    1. Hey Alison, thanks for reading the article! It warms my heart right up. I checked the updated deals and hours of the Portland Art Museum because of your comment, and you’re right — they’ve recently made updates. I’ve edited the article to include their other great discounts.

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