Cheap things to do and See in Portland, OR | Hostelling International USA

HI Portland Hawthorne District Hostel

3031 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, Oregon 97214
Call 1 (503) 236-3380

How To Do Portland on the Cheap

hikers overlooking portland oregon

If you’re looking for a destination with plenty to do and see no matter how much money you’re working with, we’ve got just the place for you: Portland, Oregon. The quirkiest city in the America’s gorgeous Pacific Northwest region, Portland is a city teeming with lush nature, inventive food, and friendly locals.

And while there are plenty of ways to spend big in Portland, we’re here to tell you: you don’t have to. Start by booking your stay at HI Portland Hawthorne hostel, where you don’t have to blow your whole budget on a bed and you’ll get the added perks of connecting with people who also have the travel bug. Then, check out our guide to how you do can check off Portland’s must-sees, must-eats, and more on the cheap.

Public Transportation in Portland

a cyclist in portland

Whether you’re making HI Portland Hawthorne, or the HI Portland Northwest hostel your base, you’ll be within walking distance of essential amenities, including markets where you can buy food to make back in the hostel kitchen, and public transport to get you around the city and to the airport. You can get a bus pass for the day for $5, which will give you access to both sides of the Willamette River – a mighty landmark that separates Portland’s east and west sides – or you can see the city by foot (just remember to pack a water-resistant jacket just in case, and return the smiles of friendly locals used to a little drizzle). You can also rent a bike on site at HI Portland Hawthorne for $20 per day, or rent a short-term bicycle from the Biketown PDX bikeshare hub just a few minutes’ walk from the hostel.

Cheap Eats in Portland

Portland has made a name for itself as one of the country’s food capitals, so there is a devilish amount of temptation when it comes to planning your meals. To make sure you eat well but keep your wallet happy, a good strategy is to get thrifty for two meals: make your own complimentary pancakes at the hostel for breakfast and make something inexpensive with goods from the store for lunch or dinner, then “splurge” on one over-the-top meal. If you’re staying at HI Portland Hawthorne hostel, we recommend splurging at legendary Portland Thai restaurant Pok Pok. The atmosphere is festive, the food’s won a James Beard award, and the prices hit that mid-budget sweet spot between over-spending and living off instant ramen noodles.

tov coffee bus in portland

If you’re looking for amazing restaurants in that sweet mid-range budget spot, the neighborhood around HI Portland Hawthorne is a gold mine. At Fried Egg I’m in Love, just a few blocks from the hostel, breakfast sandwiches with punny music-themed names (think “Egg Zeppelin” and “Free Range Against the Machine”) are served on toasted local sourdough starting at just $4.50. Don’t worry if you wake up too late for breakfast: they’re open daily ‘til 4 p.m. On the same street, step into Tov, an Egyptian coffee bar located inside a re-purposed double-decker bus, for a whimsical shot of caffeine. The décor and coffee are both killer, and there’s a roof deck on top of the bus for those sunny days.

harlow restaurant portland

If you’re craving something on the healthy side, Harlow, a bit further down S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., turns out yummy vegetarian- and vegan-friendly bowls starting at $8. For dessert, walk south to Division Street and grab a treat at the crazy-delicious Blue Star Donuts or Salt & Straw ice cream.

blue star donuts portland

Budget-Friendly Portland Must-Sees

There’s plenty of good old-fashioned exploring to be done in Portland, so save your phone data and just go wandering around the city’s neighborhoods to see what interesting weirdness there is to stumble upon. Be sure to also keep an eye on the activities board at HI Portland Hawthorne, which features different in-house and local events happening each week, as well as guest discounts at local restaurants and stores.

Portland’s city parks offer a lovely taste of the city’s greenery and don’t have an admission cost. Each park has its own set of unique attractions: in Washington Park, don’t miss the International Rose Test Garden (home to over 500 varieties of the flowers that lend the City of Roses its nickname); in Forest Park, spend an afternoon hiking forested mountain trails.

forest park portland

If the Pacific Northwest’s often-drizzly weather sends you looking for a spot to cozy up indoors, it’s a great time to head to one of the city’s many bookstores for some browsing. You can’t go wrong visiting the entire city block taken up by Powell’s bookstore downtown, where you can while away the hours browsing through the stacks of stories and knowledge. Then, catch a movie at the Bagdad Theater, just a few blocks from HI Portland Hawthorne, where it costs just $8.50 (before 5:00 p.m.) to see a film and you can do so with a beer in hand.

powells books portland

Speaking of beer, this is another one of those local delicacies that you can’t miss out on, and usually you can get a nice tasting flight of local craft brews or even a brewery tour for cheap. Try Little Beast beer garden, a short bike ride from the hostel, where you can sip 3 oz. tasters of their locally made beer on the outdoor patio starting at just $2.50; or Mt. Hood Brewing Company at Tilikum Station, where beers are brewed using glacial waters from nearby Mt. Hood and margherita pizzas are just $8 during happy hour.

Now that you’re armed with the inspiration and the info, get going to Oregon’s weirdest city!


HI USA tip: Don’t be afraid to ask the super friendly front-desk staff at HI Portland Hawthorne hostel for their thrifty recommendations of things to do in Portland.

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made in portland sign

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