It’s Cathy from My Book a Day. Traveling with our 3 kids – ages 18, 12, and 4 – is always an adventure! This summer, part of our family vacation was in Portland, Oregon. Our family loves the Pacific Northwest! We love its personality, the weather, the people and the variety of things to do. You really can do tons of things for little money in Portland and the surrounding area.
Here are a few of our favorite free and cheap things to do in Portland, Oregon.
There are a lot of parks in the Portland area, many of them downtown. They are free and each one is unique. Make sure to check out the smallest park in the country, Mill Ends Park. It’s pretty funny! To see this one, we rented a surrey bike in Waterfront Park and drove the bike out to the street. Waterfront Park was fun too! The surrey bike we rented was inexpensive and one of the highlights from our trip. Our kids loved it and still talk about how much fun it was!
Pioneer Courthouse Square is another park to check out. They have festivals and such. When we were there, they were cleaning up a flower festival. There are fun statues in this park. I loved “Allow Me,” a guy holding an umbrella.
About a block from there is Director Park, where our kids had a great time playing with the giant chess set.
Another park that we’ve visited is Washington Park. There’s a playground, zoo and several gardens in this area. My tip with kids would be to take public transit (we took the MAX light rail) to the Washington Park light rail stop, get off the train and take the elevator up. At 260 feet underground, it’s the deepest transit station in North America and one of the deepest in the world, so the elevator is something you’re not going to be able to do just anywhere. Our kids loved it!
We also enjoyed many other parks and statues in the downtown area. Find which parks you want to visit using Portland City’s park finder, then figure out a central parking spot if needed, or simply use Portland’s mass transit . Trees and small blocks make downtown Portland walkable.
Portland Aerial Tram
Speaking of public transit, the Portland Aerial Tram is really unique to Portland. It carries passengers from the Waterfront District to the main Oregon Health & Science University campus. It costs $4.90 for a round trip ride for anyone over the age of 6. You get spectacular views and it’s a really fun thing for your family to do.
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is beautiful! Multnomah Falls is the tallest and most well-known waterfall in the gorge and is definitely worth a visit. We recommend taking the Historic Columbia River Highway and stopping at the beautiful waterfalls along that road, instead of taking the freeway straight to Multnomah. Each of the trails and waterfalls are well worth seeing. We enjoyed our hikes that we took time for on both of our trips to this area. You can easily spend a full day in the Columbia River Gorge.
Where to Eat
There are so many fun and interesting places to eat in Portland. We loved eating at The Grilled Cheese Grill. You eat your amazing grilled cheese inside of a school bus.
Another place that is a must, especially if you’re headed to the coast is Camp 18. This was a quick stop for us, just to grab a massive cinnamon roll, but next time we’re there, I want to stop for a meal. I loved the statues around this beautiful lodge building. And it smelled so good inside!
Portland has so many food carts. We thought this was a really great thing about it. As we were getting ready to fly out, we ate lunch in the Portland airport at a food cart. Where else are you going to find that?!
Any way you look at it, Portland is a wonderful and affordable place to travel with your family! We hope that you have a great trip.