Sure, we’re back at school this month, and the days are getting shorter. But there is still so much going on in September. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite things to do with kids around Portland—all for free this month.
We’ve made every effort to confirm this information, but always double-check with the organization before heading out!
River dragons. Cheer teams as they row to the beat of a drum at the 2023 Portland Dragon Boat Festival. Food and drink vendors will be on land for post-race partying. Join the fun on Saturday and Sunday, September 9-10, at the south end of Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Right on track. All aboard! Take your little train lovers to Molalla Train Park for a weekend of family-friendly rail-riding fun during Train Fest. The train park, with more than 4,000 feet of track, sits on 4 acres and is dotted with ponds, bridges and trees. There’s also a covered pavilion and picnic tables — perfect for post ride snacks. Visit Saturday, September 2, through Monday, September 4; enjoy free admission and kiddos ride the trains for free.
Go on a guided hike. At Tryon Creek State Natural Area, you can join Friends of Tryon Creek staff for a free 1-hour hike. Topics vary each week and are geared for ages 5 through adult. No registration is required. Looking for more fall strolls? Check out one of our kid-friendly fall hikes.
Arty party. It’s the time of year to gather in the North Block Parks and marvel at the artists showcasing their talents at Art in the Pearl. You’ll find painters, potters, woodworkers and many more artists on Labor Day weekend. Plus enjoy fun activities for kids and food vendors!
Paddle Around. Summer vacation may be over, but you still have time to kayak before the rains come. Check out these 10 great spots to kayak with kids.
Raise a stein. Grab your lederhosen, it’s Oktoberfest time! Oregon is home to surprisingly kid-friendly Oktoberfest festivals. The granddaddy of all Oregon Oktoberfests takes place in Mt. Angel. It’s worth the trek for the Bavarian treats, live music, traditional dances and, for the grown-ups, local and German beer. Pro tip: The Alpinegarten welcomes families at all times (other venues are open to minors until certain hours). And be sure to hit the Kindergarten for oodles of free fun: bouncy houses, face painting, a hay maze, train rides and so much more. Visit Thursday to Sunday, September 14-17. Bethany Village is hosting a fun Oktoberfest closer to home, with carnival rides, live music, and fun for the whole family. And McMenamins will be hosting German-themed harvest fests on several of its properties. On September 24, McMenamins Edgefield will have live music starting at noon, food and drink specials and more — free admission, all ages welcome.
Dine al fresco. Now that it’s not too hot, try one of our favorite picnic spots before the winter rains set in.
Visit Herman. At the Bradford Island Visitor Center, don’t miss underwater windows that allow you to peer into the the fish ladder, educational displays about the dam, and the rooftop observation deck with its panoramic view. At the Bonneville Hatchery, feed rainbow trout, visit Herman the Sturgeon (he’s 10 feet long and more than 45 years old!), and spend some time meandering the lovely grounds. Pro tip: bring a picnic and eat along the river. September and October are great months to see adult fall Chinook and coho salmon spawning. This is a fun and interesting day trip for both kids and adults.
A gourd time. For families that are counting down the days until fall harvest festivals, Oh My Gourd! Harvest Fest is here for you. Hosted by postpartum support organization, Baby Blues Connection, this daytime fest features free and ticketed activities, carnival games, crafts, food, live music and cute goats. Join the fun from 11 am-2 pm on September 23, at Sellwood Community House. Free admission.
Swift Watch. During the month of September, head to Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland to see an incredible sight. One hour before sunset, thousands of Vaux’s Swifts gather overhead as they prepare to roost for the night.
Bravo Brazil. Samba over to the Portland Mercado for the 6th annual Brazilian Festival. Celebrate culture, food, art, music and dance from the tropical South American country. Festivities are happening on Saturday, September 10, noon-5 pm at the Portland Mercado. Free admission.
Go for a bike ride. From classics to new favorites, check out these kid-friendly bike paths.
Meet some goats. A visit to The Belmont Goats, now in North Portland, is a fun and charming way to experience Portland’s quirkiness and get some cute photos with the kids. Free admission; donations appreciated.
Watch Covenant of the Salmon People. Join the NezPerce Tribe Chairman Shannon Wheeler and OMSI for a special screening of Covenant of the Salmon People, and hear from the NezPerce Tribe about their continuing efforts to protect and restore salmon. This evening event is perfect for teens.
Plan a fun outing with your library’s cultural passes. Local library systems offer free and discounted passes to popular museums and attractions. Find your library system here to see where you can go. (Check your library system for the most up-to-date information on where passes are accepted.)
Starry night. Celebrate the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox with the Rose City Astronomers. Partnering with OMSI and Oregon Parks and Recreation, this is a Star Party space enthusiasts won’t want to miss. Rose City Astronomers will be on hand to help viewers find and delight in gazing at planets, stars, the moon and more, on Saturday, September 23, starting at dusk at both Rooster Rock State Park and Stub Stewart State Park. Pro tip: bring a telescope and flashlight with a red light if you have them (volunteers will also have telescopes on hand), and dress warmly.
Skip the parking fee. September 21 is one of Metro’s Free Parking Days. Enjoy free parking at Oxbow and Blue Lake regional parks, Broughton Beach, M. James Gleason Memorial Boat Ramp and Chinook Landing Marine Park. Busy that day? You can always find your perfect park with Metro’s online park finder tool. Most other parks have free parking.