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4 Ways to Save Money on Your Portland Vacation
These tips will help you explore Portland on a budget without feeling strained.
Biketown conveniently offers 1,000 bikes at 100 stations across the city.(Courtesy of Motivate)
It can be a challenge keeping costs down while exploring a new city, but there are many ways to enjoy Portland, Oregon, without busting your budget – whether you're looking for food, festivals or films. U.S. News chatted with local experts for tips on the best ways to save money during your Portland vacation. Here's what they recommend.
Book a hotel near downtown.
Most, if not all, of the top things to see and do in Portland are in or near downtown and easily reached by walking or taking public transit. Sure, you can get a cheaper hotel by the airport, but you'll spend more time in traffic getting to where you want to go, and you may even need to rent a car or use a ride-sharing service.
[Read: The Best Hotels in Portland.]
Use public transportation.
"The best way to save money when you visit Portland is take to take the MAX Light Rail train from the airport to downtown. It takes about 36 minutes," says Marcus Hibdon, director of communications and public relations for Travel Portland, the city's tourism organization.
Biketown(Courtesy of Motivate)
The MAX Light Rail is run by TriMet, the public transit agency that operates in the Portland metropolitan area. A one-day pass costs $5 for adults, and $2.50 for seniors and children 7 to 17. "It is a tremendous and efficient way to travel from the airport," Hibdon says. "And the trains run on time."
The city recently installed a bike rental program, called Biketown, that posted 1,000 bikes in 100 stations across the city, from downtown to outlying neighborhoods. A one-day pass is $12 or $2.50 per trip.
Alex Dawes, general manager at the Embassy Suites Portland – Downtown, says, "You can rent a bike and ride somewhere, and then you can just leave it at the next station. Portland is very, very bike-accessible. We have bike lanes everywhere."
The International Rose Test Garden(Courtesy of Travel Portland)
It's also easy to travel around Portland on foot. Most must-see destinations are a short five- to 25-minute walk from downtown. Michael Rowland, chief concierge at The Benson Hotel, says, "We are a very walkable city. With a little bit of energy, you could walk up to Washington Park and the International Rose Test Garden. That won't cost you a dime. We have a lot of neighborhood districts here, like Nob Hill or the Pearl District, where you can walk and check out galleries, and there's no charge for any of that."
And when you're worn out, you can hop on a bus or light rail, or hail a ride from Uber or Lyft.
Eat at food carts, and take advantage of happy hours.
"As far as eating goes," says Jordin Heath, front office manager at The Heathman Hotel, "the food carts are always a really fantastic option that's definitely going to give you the most bang for your buck, where you're able to find lots of different types of options for relatively cheap."
If Portland didn't start the food cart trend, it certainly was an early adopter. Portland boasts hundreds of food carts throughout the city. And many new brick-and-mortar restaurants started as popular food trucks. Hibdon says, "Follow the lines. If people are standing in line, there's usually a reason. And you are going to have a great meal for probably less than $10."
You should also ask your hotel concierge for happy hour recommendations. Portlanders love happy hour. Katie Gallagher, front desk supervisor at Hotel Lucia, says, "We do such a good job with happy hours here. We have early ones, we have late ones. And you can find some really great meals on a budget. Particularly, Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen does a really amazing happy hour."
Heath recommends Pollo Bravo's happy hour, which offers $2 pours of beer and $5 for a quarter chicken.
Enjoy free events and parks.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park(Torsten Kjellstrand for Travel Portland)
Rowland says there are plenty of places to explore in Portland by walking. You can create your own architecture tour around the South Park Blocks and explore historic Portland buildings, including the Central Library. Free walking tours also start from Pioneer Courthouse Square, where local guides show you the sights and share stories. (Take note: They work for tips.) You can also download a map of the Portland fountains walking tour and explore much of the downtown area. Or, you can walk along the Willamette River at Tom McCall Waterfront Park and cross the new Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People – a cable-stayed bridge for only pedestrians and transit.
[Read: The 6 Best Museums in Portland.]
Portland Parks & Recreation offers more than 400 free events from June to August, ranging from movies and concerts in the park to free fitness classes and open swimming. The city's neighborhoods host popular street fairs throughout the summer, and you can explore downtown galleries and art studios the first Thursday of each month.
Powell’s Books(Courtesy of Powell’s Books)
And a visit to Portland wouldn't be complete without a trip to Powell's City of Books. "Powell's is a really great way to save money if you're looking for a nice local souvenir," Heath says. "Getting a used book, I think, is a really fantastic souvenir to say, 'I went to Portland, and this is something I could only get there.'"
Also, take advantage of social media to find an event or festival that may be happening while you're in town. Three popular Twitter hashtags for Portland are #YouCanInPortland, #PDX and #Portland. And follow the tourism bureaus (@travelportland and @traveloregon) on Instagram for updates.
To experience more of what Portland has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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