Cheap Things to Do in Portland: Fun on a Budget in the City of Roses

Cheap Things to Do in Portland: Fun on a Budget in the City of Roses

Fun times are everywhere—but often, they cost a lot of money. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on adventures that won’t tax your pocketbook very much, if at all!

Portland, like any city, has a generous side. That is especially nice when looking for things to do, but not able to shell out $60 bucks a person for symphony tickets, or whatever it is you want to do. Well, take a breath and relax! There are options. Below are a few good ideas to start you off.

1. Enjoy Some Old-Fashioned Arcade Fun


Avalon Theatre & Wunderland in SE Portland offers not only $3 movie admission, but less than $3 admission to the nickel arcade. Pick your price and then spend that number of nickels playing your favorites from among more than 100 arcade games, including crane machines, redemption games (over 200 prizes for your tickets!), racing, target, and hunting games. Tip: go in on a Wednesday and pay only $1 admission. With the money you save, you’ll have an extra 28 nickels for gameplay!

3451 SE Belmont St
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 238-1617

2. Feel the Power of Powell’s

Portland would not be what it is without Powell’s Books. The main Powell’s location takes up a square city block on Burnside Street in the Pearl district and houses three stories' worth of used and new books. Ask for a map and explore rooms named by color with every topic and genre imaginable. If you want to sit and read, or people watch, there is plenty of space and plenty of traffic flow in the connected coffee shop, where the cashiers also ring up stacks of books daily. For a fun variation on your bookshop visit, take the time to make a list of classic authors or favorite books and do a scavenger hunt race with a few companions when you get on site. Write down the first and last sentence of the first chapter to prove you found it, and hold a competition for most boring and most unique titles found along the way.

3. Tour Downtown like an Out of Towner

Whether you are a long-time resident or new to the country, wandering the city is a great way to get acquainted. You never know who or what you might notice along the way! Plus, it’s totally free. Proudly tote your camera, a beverage, and some chapstick down the city streets, taking in the sights. Wander through the Old Town Historic District and Chinatown, marking in a notebook interesting businesses you want to come back and visit. Be sure to check out Pioneer Courthouse Square—if there isn’t a special event going on, simply enjoy the food carts, stare at the skyscrapers (especially if you wouldn’t normally!), take a serious look at the “weather machine,” and stand in the acoustic circle facing the small steps to see if your voice comes back to you when you talk or sing!

4. Muse on the Manifold Museums of Portland

Storefront on 2nd ave
The Oregon Historical Society shares its vast collection through thought-provoking, interactive museum exhibitions that make history visible and accessible. Three floors of permanent and traveling exhibitions feature rare documents and artifacts, and explore the people, places, and events that have shaped the history of Oregon and America.

Manifold means colorful, and Portland certainly is that. All kinds of color, actual and metaphorical, is available in the museums of Portland. Here are a few components of PDX identity: self-expression, local history (the quirkier the better), and wild nature. If you like culture, here are a few to start you off.

The Portland Art Museum, 5:00pm - 8:00pm on the fourth Friday of the month, welcomes everyone to look at the world through the eyes of classical, indigenous, and modern artists. Are you more interested in traders and trappers, or trains? The Oregon Historical Society offers free admission to their interactive exhibits daily to Multnomah County residents. Oregon Rail Heritage Center invites everyone to get revved about rails. For a more focused look at PDX artist culture, drop into the Museum of Contemporary Craft on the first Thursday of the month between 11:00am and 8:00pm to see the flow of artisan craftsmanship over the last seven decades. Another core part of local identity is trees, historically and currently. Looking closer at Oregon trees at the World Forestry Center only costs $3 on the first Wednesday of each month. Enter the faux forest to learn about the real one!

More free or cheap gardens, galleries, and museums are listed here:

A railway museum in Portland, Oregon

Founded in 1937, Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC) in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art is a vibrant center for investigation and dialogue that helps expand the definition and exploration of craft.

Favicon 144x144
The World Forestry Center is a non-profit located in Portland, Oregon created to educate and inform people about the world’s forests, trees and environmental sustainability through our museum, international fellowship program, conferences and events.

5. Relive a Classic Kid’s Book Series

If you’ve never read it, pick up a few copies of the Ramona Quimby books authored by a Portland local when you drop in to Powell’s, and then head to Grant Park! Besides enjoying the regular amenities with your kids, dogs or walking companions, greet sculptures of familiar book characters and pick up a map to wander the real Klickitat street and other familiar haunts of the spunky Ramona and friends.

What are your favorite ways to have fun when you don’t have lots of money? When you’ve exhausted these ideas, get creative! It’s so Portland.

Thumbnail credit: musuemofcontemporarycraft on Tumblr

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