Put your flannel on: you’re in Portland. Home to beer, bikes, natural beauty, and more beer, this city is perfect for foodies, active travelers, and those who embrace all things weird. And, there are plenty of things to do in Portland for free!
Welcome to the heart of Portland, or, as locals describe it, Portland’s Living Room. This town square was built in 1984, and is regarded as one of the top 4 public squares in the world. Inside the square you’ll find the city’s visitors’ center. And, if you look carefully, you will find Portland’s famous weather machine and a cast iron gate that once marked the entrance to the illustrious Portland Hotel. On any given day, you will find locals and tourists hanging out and many civic events going on. Spend some time making new friends, people watching, listening to live music, shopping at the farmers’ market, and more – it’s different every day!
Bike or Walk
If you’re like most Portland residents, you’ll have your bike with you at all times. But if you’re not a cyclist, walking is another favorite pastime. One easy and scenic route is the Waterfront Loop. This 11-mile ride includes minimal elevation changes but maximum downtown and river views.
Experience a true Northwest forest without leaving the city. Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the United States. Coming in at 5,157 acres, this park boasts over 80 miles of soft-surface trails, fire lanes, and forest roads to explore. The park is located along the eastern slopes of the Tualatin Mountains and offers unrivaled views of Northwest Portland and the convergence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
If you find yourself in Portland on a rainy day, head over to Powell’s City of Books. Located in the Pearl District on the edge of Downtown, Powell’s claims to be the world’s largest independent book store. Since it covers a full city block totaling over 68,000 sq. feet, we won’t argue. Fill up your coffee mug at the hostel and set out to spend a day browsing the never-ending aisles of books.
Nicknamed the City of Roses, Portland has an ideal climate for growing roses and is home to many rose gardens. Take time to smell the roses in Portland’s International Rose Test Garden. The garden was established in 1917 when a resident convinced the city to set it up during World War I as a way to preserve European species that could be destroyed by warfare. The garden has operated ever since, making it the oldest Rose Test Garden in the nation.
Free beer tomorrow! Portland is the epicenter of the craft brewing renaissance and is home to over 50 breweries. Located in Northeast Portland, Hopworks Urban Brewery offers free tours (which include two free tastings) every Saturday at 3:00 p.m.. Part bike bar and part eco-brewpub, Hopworks is an icon of sustainability and tasty beer.
This volunteer-run museum celebrates one of the oldest modes of transportation with fascinating exhibits and showcases three vintage steam trains (two of them still run!) amongst other railroad paraphernalia. Pop in and check out one of the America’s most legendary iron horses, the Southern Pacific Daylight Locomotive 4449, which used to huff and puff between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 1940s, and learn more about Oregon’s history of railroad transportation.
During the summer months you’ll find live concerts held in various parks around town every day of the week. And picnics are encouraged! Movie lovers will also find their favorite films playing in parks around the city from July-September.
Looking for more free activities in Portland? Check out what’s happening at our two Portland hostels for a truly local perspective. Open mic nights, bike-in movies, free concerts, guided hikes and tours and more are waiting for you at HI Portland Hawthorne and HI Portland Northwest. No matter which hostel you’re staying at, join HI Portland Northwest every Tuesday evening in the summer for their Summer Music Series in the Secret Garden.
Find more free things to across the country in the HI USA Free For All.