Bend,  Portland

35 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Portland with Kids

What’s kid-friendly, free and fun in Portland, Oregon? Here’s a list to get you started. What would you add?

Outdoor Portland with Kids (Free & Cheap)

These are activities that are mostly outside (you have to put on a coat or sunscreen, and plan to be outside for a while)

  1. Play in Salmon Springs Fountain’s 137 jets at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
  2. Try on glasses made from forks or buy a spoon-fork (spork!) with melded-together handles in Spoonman’s booth at Portland Saturday Market. Or listen to live music, pick up a treat from a food vendor, or buy a new hat.
  3. Go for a bird-watching hike on Sauvie Island.
  4. Look for leprechauns in the tiniest park in America—Mill Ends Park (although to whoever recently chopped down the tree: you’re a horrible person).
  5. Seek Simpsons references in Portland’s Alphabet District (including Reverend Lovejoy, Mayor Quimby and Ned Flanders).
  6. Stop and smell Barbara Streisand at the International Rose Test Gardens. You won’t even get slapped with a restraining order; the rose is named after the singer.
  7. Listen to family tunes at Portland Farmers Market.
  8. Sit in the Jamison Square waterfall and disappearing pool.
  9. Find Ramona Quimby at Grant Park.
  10. Climb on rocks at a”nature-based playground” at Westmoreland Park.
  11. Play on an (extinct) volcano at Mt. Tabor Park.
  12. Drink from a Benson Bubbler.
  13. Speak out against early bedtimes from Pioneer Courthouse Square’s Echo Chamber (next to the Starbucks). Standing on the circle in the center amplifies even tiny voices, in front of a small amphitheater.
  14. Head to a Portland Park — for movies or a concert.
  15. Cool off with 620 feet of water at the second-largest waterfall in the U.S. — Multnomah Falls.
  16. Cycle along one of Portland’s kid-friendly bike paths.
  17. Let your mouth travel ’round the world — sample dishes from Portland’s food carts.
  18. Listen to a summer lunch concert at Noon Tunes at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
  19. Party pretty at the Portland Rose Festival.

Indoor Portland with Kids (Free & Cheap)

What to do with kids on a rainy or way-too-hot day? Ride an air-conditioned MAX, shelter under the awnings at the Saturday Market, and more.

  1. Enjoy a $3 family movie at McMenamin’s Kennedy School.
  2. Watch ice skaters twirl at the Lloyd Center Ice Rink.
  3. Enjoy one of Portland’s kid-friendly museums on a free or cheap day.
  4. Ride the MAX to the Washington Park stop, the deepest train station in North America.
  5. Browse the picture books at Powell’s City of Books.
  6. Make art from SCRAP‘s bins of items that can be “creatively reused.”
  7. Get inches away from salmon and horror-movie eels at Bonneville Dam in the Columbia Gorge, about a half-hour to 45-minute drive away.
  8. Take your Matchbox-obsessed preschooler to World of Speed to drool over the life-sized versions of race cars. Kids 5 and under get in free, and kids 5-12 are only $5.
  9. Try a Spanish, Mandarin or ASL storytime at Green Bean Books.
  10. Bop along to a family-friendly music show at Milagros Boutique, or look for one of the bookstore’s craft-and-storytime events.
  11. Play Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position and other retro games at Ground Kontrol with a pocketful of quarters.
  12. Ride the Portland Streetcar.
  13. Enjoy a cup of drinking chocolate at Cacao. Buzzing with caffeine, repeat 1-35.
  14. Enjoy the Preschool Skate and Play at Oaks Amusement Park.
  15. Get your thrills from the Portland Aerial Tram.
  16. Count the animals (or another fun art-museum game) at Portland Art Museum, where kids are admitted free until age 18.

Post Updated January 19, 2020 with fresh links and content.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Vic Varis

    36. Coffee Cupping (think wine tasting) at Portland’s signature coffee toaster, Stumptown Coffee. At the “Annex” on SE Belmont. It’s free every day 11AM & 3PM, features 6 or more coffee varieties.

    37. Go where the Food Network guys do for a Portland-weird treat at VooDoo donuts. The original hole-in-the-wall shop off West Burnside on 2nd Ave SW, or their more traditional Elvira-esque one off NE Sandy at about 15th.

  • Lora

    Yes, Vic, absolutely. Although I wish they offered hot chocolate cupping for the kids while I’m getting over-amped on the coffee.

    Voodoo Doughnut is awesome. However, as a heads-up, some doughnuts sport x-rated names. Just sayin’. It’s up to you whether you want to explain “triple chocolate penetration.”

  • PDXAmy

    Visit the Central library’s Children’s Library and try to identify all the things that make the huge bronze tree, peek in the shadow boxes, attend a story time and climb the marble stairs up to peek thought the interior Georgian windows into the reading rooms below.

  • Carolina

    So that little added info. about Voodoo Donuts is good to have 🙂 I was thinking about checking that out when we make it there, but may have to think about it.
    Great list!
    .-= Carolina´s last blog ..A Little Blog Post Can Go a Long Way =-.

  • Milagros

    Thanks for including us on your list!

    We have been adding more and more family-friendly music events at Milagros. Right now we host 3-5 different performers every week including Professor Banjo, Mr. Ben, Mo Phillips, and Dave Freleng’s Shadow Puppet Theatre! We look forward to seeing you!

    Jennifer and Tony
    Milagros Boutique