Free Things To Do in Portland, OR
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Many critics, travelers and locals agree that of all of Portland's parks (and they are numerous), Washington Park is perhaps the best. Home to such notable landscaping feats as the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden, as well as the World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum and several memorials dedicated to pivotal points in Oregon's history.
There are also family-friendly attractions like the Oregon Zoo and Portland Children's Museum along with a large playground, soccer fields, tennis courts and an archery range. Just make sure you save plenty of time for a leisurely stroll down one of the many shady paths, which are often decorated with flower displays and fountains.
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Not until you visit these sprawling gardens will you fully understand the reasoning behind one of Portland's nicknames, the City of Roses. Established in 1917 by the American Rose Society, it began as a sanctuary for European grown hybrid roses during World War I and is now the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States.
Home to more than 10,000 roses, the site also offers the special Shakespeare Garden, which is filled with roses that are named after the characters in William Shakespeare's plays. To get a peek at smaller versions of your favorite roses, check out the Miniature Rose Garden. The award-winning roses are found in the aptly named Gold Award garden. If you have your heart set on seeing the roses in full bloom, plan an early summer visit.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Portland, OR2 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Whether or not you're an avid reader, Powell's City of Books is worth checking out. It occupies a square city block and rises three stories high; in fact, this bookstore is so large that exploring it actually requires a map.
While you wander through the stacks, keep in mind that you are tracing the footsteps of great writers, many of which have scrawled their signatures on one of the building's pillars. You might also schedule your visit to coincide with a reading, as the book shop hosts events nearly every day totaling more than 500 author visits a year.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Portland, OR1.6 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.6 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Whether you're craving exotic foods or are in search of a unique souvenir, the Portland Saturday Market is the place to look. Running since 1974, the market is located on the northern side of Tom McCall Waterfront Park and features 252 booths filled with local art, clothing, toys and pet supplies manufactured from every material imaginable.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Portland, OR6.5 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND6.5 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, HikingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're looking to spend some time outside but aren't willing to make the trek to Mount Hood, Forest Park is the place to go. With more than 5,000 acres, it's one of the largest urban parks in America.
Among the park's features is the 30-mile Wildwood Trail, which is part of the region's 40-mile Loop system connecting pedestrian and trail routes along the Columbia River to Gresham, through southeast Portland, along the Willamette Greenway, and back to the Marquam Trail in southwest Portland. To find a trailhead, check out Forest Park Conservancy's online maps. And if you're an avid bird-watcher, make sure to spend stop at the Portland Audubon Society, which offers a variety of activities especially for birders, including the Wildlife Care Center, which houses educational birds of prey. Recent travelers remarked on how close Forest Park was to the city, but how far into the wilderness it felt. They also remarked on the variety of hikes for all levels.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Portland, OR1.9 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.9 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Named for a former Oregonian governor, this 30-acre park stretches alongside the Willamette River in downtown Portland and provides some of the best views of the city's skyline. Because of its prime location, it hosts many of Portland's special events – including the ever-popular Oregon Brewers Festival and the Portland Rose Festival.
But even when the city isn't celebrating, there's plenty to do here. Locals congregate for afternoon strolls or picnics and families cool off on hot days at the Salmon Street Springs fountain. The park is also home to some historic monuments like the Founders Stone, Japanese American Historical Plaza and the Police Memorial. The Portland Saturday Market is held within the park every weekend from March to Christmas Eve. If you're in need of a bite to eat, head to Pine Street Market – a food hall with that sits at the northern end of the park on at Second Avenue and Pine Street.
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At 620 feet tall, the Multnomah Falls are not for the faint of heart. Visitors have the option of climbing a 1/4-mile trail to reach Benson Bridge, which gives them a closer look at the falls and is at the crux of the first tier. Another steep, mile-long hike will take travelers to the top of the falls for incredible views of the Columbia River Gorge. The Multnomah Falls Lodge, located at the base of the falls, has a gift shop, restrooms and a restaurant for patrons to enjoy before or after their hike.
Recent visitors unanimously agreed that the falls are a must-see attraction. Reviewers also said the difficult hike to the top is well worth the trip. According to travelers, you should be prepared for crowds and try to go as early as possible to avoid the deluge of tourists.
- #13View all PhotosfreeMount Tabor Park#13 in Portland, OR2.9 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2.9 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Mount Tabor is a dormant volcanic cinder cone located 5 miles east of downtown Portland. It may sound like a trek, but the scenery is well worth it, according to reviewers. At its summit, Mount Tabor provides vistas of both downtown and Mount Hood. Travelers can choose one of three trails that takes them to the top of Mount Tabor and around the park. Along the trails, you'll see three reservoirs, which used to be the source of the city's drinking water and a statue of Harvey W. Scott, longtime editor of the Oregonian. If views and hiking don't interest you, maybe this will: Mount Tabor Park is home to the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby. Each year on the third Saturday in August, racers in wacky cars zoom down the park's hills for a chance to win the top spot.
Past travelers relished the long walks they took through Mount Tabor Park. The breathtaking views are repeatedly mentioned by visitors. Know that you'll do a lot of uphill walking before you reach that reward, however.
- #14View all Photos#14 in Portland, OR2.6 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2.6 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're in Portland on a Saturday, make a morning stop at the PSU Farmers Market. In addition to great local produce, vendors peddle meat, beverages (including alcohol), dairy products and more. The market offers live music each Saturday and a Chef in the Market event, during which local chefs give cooking demonstrations.
Past visitors said the market is worth walking through even if you don't plan on buying produce. Others were impressed with the beautiful flowers for sale. Past travelers also raved about the prepared foods at the market, including burritos, biscuits, cookies and more.
- #15View all PhotosfreeHoyt Arboretum#15 in Portland, OR3.7 miles to city centerNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND3.7 miles to city centerNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Founded in 1928, the 189-acre arboretum features 172 different tree families and 6,000 individual trees. The species represented originate from countries all over the world including Chile, Afghanistan, Germany, India and Algeria. Visitors can either explore the arboretum on their own via the park's 12 miles of trails or take a guided tour. Travelers with children will want to check out the family-friendly activities like guided bird walks and nature activities, the latter of which is part professionally-lead and part self-guided.
Past visitors raved about the arboretum and many expressed their surprise that such a tranquil place exists within city limits. Travelers also encouraged future tourists to take their time when exploring the trails and advised planning a trip around one of the arboretum's guided walks.
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