8 Totally Free Portland Adventures with Kids

There’s a lot to love about Portland. The food, the views, the parks. But there’s something not to like too: It’s expensive!  Don’t worry—you can still have a special day out with your favorite kiddo without spending a dime. Here’s how.

For the foodie: Go touring. While there are many restaurants around town where kids eat free, unfortunately there aren’t so many where adults eat free too. But that doesn’t mean your little foodies have to go hungry. Take a tour of the Creo Chocolate Factory. If your child is 8 and older, you can even take a “Make-a-Bar Tour” where you get to create your own chocolate bar! (Be sure to sign up first.) Another option: Make a trip to the PSU farmers market or the People’s Co-op Farmers Market (both open year round) to try out the samples, talk to some farmers, or even go for a little scavenger hunt.

For the artist: Be inspired. Did you know that the Portland Art Museum is free for kids 17 and under every day of the week? In addition, PAM offers free admission for adults on the fourth Friday of every month from 5-8. Another option: Check out Last Thursday in the Alberta Arts District or First Thursday in the Pearl. While best known for taking place in the summer, they actually go on all year. You can hop into various galleries, talk with artists, and just generally feel fancy and artistic with your favorite kid.

For the music fan: Catch a show. Portland has a thriving “Kindie” rock scene – music for kids that adults like too. You can sing along with an old favorite or catch a new artist at your local library. Just check the calendar for who is playing when. You can also see music around town any day of the week at coffee shops and play spaces around town. While these shows are generally free, tipping is strongly encouraged to support the artist.

For the adventurer. Take a hike. Good news, Portlanders. There are lots of places to walk around here. Head over to Reed Lake in Eastmoreland for a short, well-maintained hike. Or cross the street to the Rhododendron Garden (free in the off season) to see how many different kinds of ducks you can spot. If you want to go a bit more wild, head to Forest Park for a backpacking adventure. If your kid would rather climb and slide than hike around, check out one of these totally amazing local playgrounds.

For the bookworm: Hear a story. Many local bookstores around town offer free story hours. You can be absorbed by a carefully-chosen book at Powell’s on Saturdays, or at Green Bean Books on Tuesdays, for instance. Your local library also likely has several weekly storytimes, including some in other languages. Of course, most of the fun of storytimes is sticking around afterwards to browse the books. Browsing is always free! 

For the builder: Have a Lego playdate. There are lots of opportunities to construct towers, forts, automobiles and other creations out of Lego around town. Some local libraries have regularly-scheduled Lego building parties. You can also head to one of the many tables of spare Lego parts at Bricks & Minifigs to create. Or book in advance to take part in a building session at the Lego Store at the Washington Square Mall.

For the history buff: Dig history. The Oregon Historical Society, located in the Park Blocks, is free to all Multnomah County residents with proof of residency. Your kids can get a hand-on lesson on our state’s history through the many kid-accessible exhibits. History not your kid’s thing? Check out when to visit one of our many other area museums for free.

For the animal lover: Put a goat on it. You guys. There are so many goats to see around here. The most famous are the animals-formerly-known-as-the-Belmont-goats, currently housed in the Lents neighborhood. You can also see the goats at the Portland Homestead Supply Co., located at the back of the store in Sellwood. Or if you’re up for a drive, head to Draper Girls Country Farm in Hood River—though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get out of the lovely country store without at least a honey stick.

Ali Wilkinson
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