18 Free Things to Do with Kids in January

Tighten your belts this January while still having tons of fun! Here are some ideas for getting out and about with the kiddos — all for free.

As always, double-check the details before heading out!

Take a hike. Kick off 2024 with some fresh air. State parks across Oregon are offering free guided hikes on January 1. Hikes will highlight multiple trails, topography and natural history. Washington state parks are doing the same. Can’t make it on January 1? Try out one of these kid-friendly hikes.


Search for Santa. Didn’t get a chance to hunt for Santa Clones last month? Search for the men in red one last day on January 1.

Courtesy of Mike Bennett

Wacky animals. Don’t miss the last week of Mike Bennett’s A to Zoo Lights art installation in St. Johns.

Plié. If you have a kiddo ages 6-9 looking to learn ballet, then head to The Portland Ballet for its free beginning ballet series. Held on January 6, 13 and 20, budding dancers are introduced to the fundamentals of ballet.

Courtesy Sunny Mancuso Photography

Plant it. Join the Watershed Alliance for its tree planting day during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 15. Held at the west entrance of Arnold Park, this event is a great way to volunteer with the family. There’s another tree planting on January 27!

Playtime. Calling all dads, grandpas, uncles and male caregivers! Dedicated Dads Play and Learn Group in Washington County is held the third Thursday of each month. This month, it’s on January 20; families can meet at Orchards at Orenco community room in Hillsboro.

Pick up a free Discovery Pack at Hoyt Arboretum. Speaking of hikes, pick up a free discovery pack for your child and explore 200+ acres of forest at Hoyt Arboretum. Supplies suitable for K-5th grade students.

Use a free cultural pass. Learn more about free cultural passes from Portland-area library systems. These passes are limited in number and go quickly, so be sure to mark your calendar to check regularly to reserve a spot.

Courtesy of the Portland Art Museum

Check out a museum. Kids 17 and under are always free at the Portland Art Museum, or take advantage of regular free admission to places like the Oregon Historical Society or Oregon Heritage Rail Center.

Celebrate Tolkien’s Birthday. For free, with your kids. The Kennedy School is hosting a party for J.R.R. Tolkien on Saturday, January 20. Gather your little Lord of the Rings fans and celebrate!

Try a new park. Enjoy free parking at Oxbow and Blue Lake regional parks, Broughton Beach, M. James Gleason Memorial Boat Ramp and Chinook Landing Marine Park on three days this month: January 1, 15 and 18.

Make a craft. Don’t feel like venturing out? Try one of these crafts at home.

Courtesy of Denise Castañon

Get cooking. Try one of our kid-friendly recipes.

Make like Ramona. Head to Northeast Portland for a self-guided Ramona Quimby walking tour. Walk by her school, Beverly Cleary’s house, and even the spot where Ramona’s boots got stuck in the mud in Ramona the Pest.

Visit the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Whatever the season, this garden is the perfect wandering spot with young children. It’s not too big, there are all sorts of ducks, plenty of visual interest and spots to let loose. No admission fee on Mondays, and children 10 and under are always free.

Go to Portland’s Peak. Explore Portland’s highest point, Council Crest Park. On a clear day, you can see five mountains from the summit: Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Rainier.

Get organized. Kick off the new year with a clean play area with these tips. Getting rid of stuff? Try giving stuff away through your neighborhood Facebook Buy-Nothing group.

Visit a destination library. Explore interactive play areas, amazing architecture, family matinees, lovely grounds and more.

Have a fun, budget-friendly month!

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