With the holiday season in full swing, everyone could use some family activities that are 100% fun and free. Here are ideas to get outside, learn new skills, enjoy music or help others, all without opening your wallet.
Make some money!
First, how about making a little extra cash? Dentist offices across the Portland area (and Bricks & Minifigs in Beaverton) have Halloween candy buy-back programs going on now. It’s a fun and easy way to get rid of some leftover treats.
Honor and Remember
Celebrate the remaining days of Día de Muertos at Milagro Theatre. The free, bilingual festivities include live music by the band Son Huitzilín, which utilizes original and traditional Mexican instruments.
It’s the Week of Lights at Al’s Garden & Home centers. The four Al’s locations are festively festooned for your holiday home decor inspiration (until November 7). The free event also features sweets, a visit with Santa, the Grotto Carolers and more.
Grab a donut
Blue Star Donuts is opening a new location in Goose Hollow on November 7 and to celebrate they are giving away free donuts! Stop by the shiny new shop and grab your favorite flavor.
Hear a story
This month, from November 8-12, is the beloved Portland Book Festival. This year, it’s a hybrid event, including both in-person workshops and virtual seminars and events. For the littles, the festival is holding free, virtual story time sessions.
Salute our veterans
Visit the Historic Trust’s Artillery Barracks in Vancouver for its annual Veterans Day ceremony on November 11. This year’s free outdoor event features special guest speakers, music by local schools and military displays. Plus, don’t miss the “Fighting for the Right to Fight Exhibit: African American Experiences in WWII” exhibit in the Artillery Barracks, free on Veterans Day.
If you and the family love a tasty free sample (or two or five), or are simply looking to elevate your mealtimes, then Gobble Up Portland on November 13 is the event for you. This free craft-food makers market features yummy samples at more than 100 PNW food and beverage vendors, enter raffle giveaways and more.
Catch ‘em all
Mike Bennett is back with his popular Pokémon Govember. This year, the month-long event takes place on Saturdays and Sundays at 6 pm during which Bennett and artist 2025th Street team up to hide original pieces of art throughout Portland and Vancouver. Good luck! Visit @mikebennettart and @2025th on Instagram for details and clues.
Take a hike
Bundle up and enjoy the crisp fall air during one of these family-friendly fall hikes.
Explore a different park
Take advantage of the free Metro parking days this month by heading to one of our great parks. On November 11, 18 and 26, enjoy free parking at Oxbow and Blue Lake regional parks, Broughton Beach, M. James Gleason Memorial Boat Ramp and Chinook Landing Marine Park.
Kick off the holiday season
For many Portlanders, the lighting of the 75-foot Douglas fir in Pioneer Courthouse Square heralds the official start of the holiday season. Like last year, this year’s majestic tree lighting on November 26 is virtual and being broadcast by KGW 8. It’ll make for a festive, cozy night on the couch.
Also taking place at Pioneer Courthouse Square is one of the city’s Hanukkah celebrations. This year, the Festival of Lights is from November 28 to December 5. On the first night, Chabad of Oregon will light Portland’s large, public menorah in the square. There will also be live music, food and special guest speakers.
Listen to musical story time
Want music to accompany your child’s next story time? Oregon Symphony’s Symphony Storytime is a fun video series in which a master storyteller reads a story aloud, while one of the symphony’s musicians play along. The books are diverse and each musician, from a flutist to bassoonist perfectly time original music to match.
Do you have a train enthusiast in the family? Then a visit to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center is a must. Here you can check out restored historic trains and the locomotive machine shop — where volunteers work — in action. (Admission to the center is always free, but any donations are appreciated.)
What better way to spend some downtime than by helping others? Instill the value of volunteerism by giving back at one of these organizations that offer kid-friendly volunteer opportunities.
Get the kids’ creative juices flowing with these fun DIY Thanksgiving decorations. These craft projects are fun, festive and fool-proof. Even better, it’s likely you already have the materials needed.
Engage with STEM
This month, the Lake Oswego Public Library is giving away free Engineer It! kits (while supplies last). The activity kits are part of the library’s month-long celebration of Native American Heritage.
Learn about fish
Head to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and Dam. There you can learn about sturgeon and see Herman the Sturgeon, a 75-year-old, 500-pound fish! There’s also the rainbow trout ponds (you can feed them for a quarter) and the adult salmon holding ponds.
Get a history lesson
The Oregon Historical Society is a great place to learn about Oregon’s rich history. And it’s always free for Multnomah County residents (with proof of residency). New this month is the groundbreaking “Oregon is Indian County” exhibition, featuring information and works by all nine federally recognized Oregon Tribes.