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!

Photo courtesy of Portland Rose Festival

River dragons. Cheer teams as they row to the beat of a drum at the 2022 Portland Dragon Boat Festival. This series of races is back after a two-year hiatus — so extra reason to cheer. And food and drink vendors will be on land for post-race partying. Saturday and Sunday, September 10-11. South end of Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Listen by the river. Oregon Symphony announces the return of Portland’s favorite end of summer celebration, Oregon Symphony at the Waterfront Concert Series. The Oregon Symphony is thrilled to host the spectacular live concert that attracts visitors to downtown Portland for a free day full of music, dance and celebration for the whole family. Attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative covid test to enter. September 3.

Photo courtesy of Denise Castañon

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. Saturday, September 3 through Monday, September 5; free admission and kiddos ride the trains for free.

Photo courtesy of Portland Art Museum

Museum magic. Treat your kiddo to the joys of going to the museum — for free! Saturday, September 17 is the Smithsonian’s Museum Day. Here in Portland, admission at the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education is free today. Or venture to the Coast to check out the Tillamook Air Museum.

Go on a guided hike. At Tryon Creek State Natural Area, you can join Friends of Tryon Creek staff for a free 1 1/2-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.

Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson

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. Plus fun activities for kids and food vendors! Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4, 10am-6pm, Monday, September 5, 10 am-4 pm. Northwest Park Blocks between Davis and Flanders. Free admission.

Photo courtesy of Marcus Asby

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.

Photo courtesy of Mt. Angel Oktoberfest

Raise a stein. Grab your lederhosen, it’s Oktoberfest time! Oregon is home to surprisingly kid-friendly 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. Thursday to Sunday, September 15-18. And McMenamins will be hosting German-themed harvest fests on several of its properties. On Saturday, September 10, check out the Oktoberfest at Kennedy School. And on Saturday, September 24 McMenamins Edgefield will have live music starting at 11 am, 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.

Photo courtesy of Bonneville Hatchery

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 ft. 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. From 11 am-3 pm on Saturday, September 10 at Sellwood Community House. Free admission.

Bravo Brazil. Samba over to the Portland Mercado for the 5th annual Brazilian Festival. Celebrate culture, food, art, music and dance from the tropical South American country. Saturday, September 10, noon-5 pm at the Portland Mercado. Free admission.

Photo Courtesy Vladislav Vasnetsov

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.

Alpaca bag. Get ready for an adventure during National Alpaca Farm Days, held Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25. Visit Country Cottage Alpacas in McMinnville or Skyline Alpacas in Tualatin.

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. Saturday, September 17, 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.

Photo courtesy of PDX Parent

Skip the parking fee. September 15 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.

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