20-Plus Free Things to Do with Kids in December

Tuba Christmas, photo courtesy Pioneer Courthouse Square

It’s December. And that means some big spending holidays are riiiight around the corner. (Some of us have already been given wishlists from our kids). But it’s still possible to have lots of festive fun this month. Here are lots of ideas for getting out of the house with the family — all without spending a dime.

Courtesy of Pioneer Courthouse

Hanukkah happenings. Visit the Middleman Jewish Community Center for its annual Hanukkah Night Market on Friday, December 1. Expect vendors selling gifts, food and more. The Eastside Jewish Commons will also have a night market on Saturday, December 9. And celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights with the lighting of Portland’s Public Nightly Menorah Lighting at Pioneer Courthouse Square December 7-15 . On the first night — Thursday, December 7 — the celebration kicks off with music, Hanukkah foods and festivities.

Community concert. Join PSU’s Social Justice Choirs as the ensemble performs seasonal melodies at the First Christian Church on Friday, December 1 at 7 pm.


Visit a Free Winter Carnival. Beaverton will be hosting its free Winter Lights tree lighting and holiday bazaar on Friday, December 8 from 6-8 pm.

Courtesy of Pioneer Courthouse

Go on a Holiday Tree Scavenger Hunt. Did you miss some of the community tree lightings? Never fear! The trees will be sparkling all season long, so pack up your littles and check each one off your bucket list. See our list of tree lightings here.

Courtesy of Black Santa

Visit Santa. While some visits with Santa can be pretty spendy, there are plenty of opportunities that are free. Check out some other opportunities here.

Courtesy of the Benson Portland

See a Gingerbread Masterpiece. Want to check out more gingerbread creations? Don’t miss the annual, elaborate gingerbread masterpiece in the lobby of the Benson Hotel.

Courtesy of the City of Milwaukie

Under the umbrella. What better way to enjoy Portland’s rainy season than with an only-in-the-PNW parade. Don’t miss the Milwaukie Umbrella Parade and Tree Lighting featuring the city’s annual tradition of walking downtown with your festively-decorated umbrellas keeping you dry.\


Get outside. What’s that? You don’t want to stay inside? No problem. Check out one of these rainy day nature walks.

Declutter. The holidays can often bring lots of new stuff—toys, clothes, games, decorations and more. Find a new home for your old things with a Buy Nothing Facebook group. You’ll also build community, help out other families and model generosity for your kids. If that doesn’t say “holiday spirit,” we don’t know what does.

Tuba Christmas
Courtesy Pioneer Courthouse Square

Listen to holiday music! There’s a lot happening at the Pioneer Square this month. Don’t miss the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition on Friday, December 8 at 6 pm. The following weekend, Saturday, December 16, from 1:30-3:30 pm, check out the 32nd Annual Tuba Christmas Concert, featuring more than 200 tubas playing holiday songs in unison.

Courtesy of the Christmas Ships

Festooned vessels. Watch the colorful Christmas Ships cruise along the Columbia and Willamette rivers all month long. It’s a Portland tradition since 1954.

Pick up a discovery pack at the park. Hoyt Arboretum is offering free discovery packs for children K-5th, including binoculars, field guides, nature searches, maps, and more. Reserve a pack here.

Skip the parking fees. The perfect chance to get out and explore. Enjoy free parking at Oxbow and Blue Lake regional parks, Broughton Beach, M. James Gleason Memorial Boat Ramp and Chinook Landing Marine Park on Thursday, December 14.

Courtesy of Portland Art Museum

Visit the art museum. Happy 131st birthday to the Portland Art Museum! All guests are free Sunday, December 10. Registration opens December 6, so don’t wait to snag your free entry ticket.

Ugly fun. Visit St. Johns as it gets festive with its ugly sweater holiday events as local businesses decorate their storefronts with this fun holiday theme.

North Pole adventures. Check out the restored holiday displays from holidays past and see the Big Guy in Red himself at the Nob Hill Christmas.

Volunteer with PP&R
Courtesy Portland Parks & Recreation

Give back. Tis the season to make the world a little brighter. You and your kids can volunteer together with many organizations around town.

Create a time capsule. Wrap up 2023 by working on time capsules. Draw pictures, write stories, add photos and include trinkets to help you document the year. Store them in a shoe box and tuck them away for a bit of future nostalgia.

Courtesy of Meg Asby

Be dazzled. Bundle up and check out holiday lights on Peacock Lane. In Lake Oswego, don’t miss the North Pole at Eagle Crest sparkling neighborhood display — there’s free cocoa, too! In Vancouver, the lights at Holidays on Franklin in Vancouver are always free. See our full list of light displays here.

Courtesy of Chelsea Schuyler

Get crafty. Make one of these crafts with your little from the comfort of your own home, like this DIY snow dough . The best part? You probably already have the items you need to create these one-of-a-kind projects!

Courtesy of @pdxdinorama

Galleries galore. Visit one of the city’s free mini galleries, libraries, dioramas or displays. This is one of the many reasons Portland is the best.

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