Author: Jone’t Wooten
Posted In: Travel


Portland Oregon Skyline at Night
Photo credit Matt McGee via Flickr

Portland is a city attracting a lot of attention and visitors these days thanks in part, to several television shows who call The Rose City home while filming.  Shows like Portlandia, Backstrom, Leverage and Grimm all film in the Portland area.

With a mild climate, lush green landscape, delicious food and drinks (breweries & wineries) topped off with an impressive music scene, Portland is worth a visit.

Portland Oregon bridge fall leaves
Photo credit Ian Sane via Flickr

We’ve compiled a list of 20 Free Things to Do in Portland, for your vacation adventures.  You’ll want to bring some walking/hiking shoes, a rain jacket and don’t forget your camera!

We’d like to send a special shout out, along with our sincere thanks, to the local photographers who graciously allowed us to showcase their photography talents.  You can find more of their work on

Ready… let’s explore Portland!

Portland International Rose Test Gardens
Photo credit Bill Reynolds via Flickr

You’ve never seen a rose garden quite as impressive as The International Rose Test Gardens in Portland. With over 500 different rose varieties and more than 10,000 plantings, you’re sure to find a favorite rose or 25 new faves.

Location: 400 SW Kingston Avenue

Garden Hours: 7:30 am – 9:00 pm; year-round

Dog walking national park trail
Photo by Jone’t G. Wooten

The Hoyt Arboretum, is a 189 acre wooded wonderland, with 12 miles of stunning, dog-friendly hiking trails. There are 6,000 towering trees from around the world dotting the trails and over 2,000 different species.

Grab a picnic lunch, some H2o, and hit the trails. You won’t be sorry.

Location:  4000 Southwest Fairview Boulevard 

Hoyt Arboretum shares parking/restroom facilities with the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.

American flags in a row, memorial day
Photo credit Ian Sane via Flickr

Portland’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial is a beautiful and gratefulness-inspiring dedication to the brave Oregon men and women who served this great nation in the Vietnam War.

Location: 4000 SW Canyon Road, next to the Hoyt Arboretum.

Park hours 5:00 am – 10:00 pm

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial shares parking/restroom facilities with the Hoyt Arboretum.

Portlands Powell's Bookstore, books on a shelf
Photo credit Kenny Louie via Flickr

If you have a fondness for reading, you are going to LVE Powell’s City of Books!  Powell’s became a fixture in downtown Portland in 1971, and with more books than you can peruse in a day, this is truly a book lover’s paradise.

Location: 1005 West Burnside Street
Store hours: 9:00 am – 11:00 pm

tulip bunches, pink, yellow and red flowers
Photo by Jone’t G. Wooten

Portland’s Farmer’s Market is numero uno on our don’t miss this List with 8 Portland locations to choose from offering farm-to-market fresh fruits, flowers and veggies throughout the week.

A feast for the senses awaits you with the wafting fragrance of local delicacies being prepared (free taste testing is encouraged), as well as some of the most robust, fresh-picked produce in the country (we’re talking onions the size of your hand).

Most locations feature live local music (AMAZING) and odds are, you won’t leave empty handed.

Some locations are open year-round.  Check locations, dates & times

portland oregon landmarks
Photo credit Peat Bakke via Flickr

Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square is anything but SQUARE by social standards. Affectionately dubbed “Portland’s Living Room”, PCS is a 40,000-square-foot city block brimming with year-round activity.

Whether you are searching for FREE live music events, festivals, Farmer’s Markets or Portland’s famous Festival of Flowers, make room for Pioneer Courthouse Square on your next trip to The Rose City.

Location: 701 SW 6th Avenue

Event Schedule


Portland Saturday Market is a Nationally recognized arts & crafts marketplace. With 251 market tents featuring local artisans and food vendors all in one location.

This is the place to find hand-made jewelry and wares for home and garden.  And there’s even a little something for your sweet tooth.

Location: 2 SW Naito Parkway at Waterfront Park
Open March ~ December 24th
Hours:  Saturdays – 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sundays – 11:00 am – 4:30 pm

Portland's China Town
Photo credit Ian Sane via Flickr

There’s more to Portland’s Chinatown than the serene Lan Su Chinese Garden and out-of-this-world restaurants like Red Robe Tea House and Chen’s Good Taste.

The impressive Chinatown Gate, complete with bronze lion statues, welcomes one and all to Chinatown, Oregon style.

You’ll enjoy the sights and sounds of being briefly transported to China while you enjoy people watching and window shopping in the cool local shops.

Location: NW 4th Avenue and Burnside Street

green dragonfly close up
Photo credit Umberto Salvagin via Flickr

Feel free to wander splendorous paths and trails at Leach Botanical Gardens in Portland. Here, you’ll find stone cabins, lush green landscapes, deer, squirrels and rabbits, along with the occasional beaver.

Leach is a favorite of dragonflies, butterflies, fish and soaring hawks alike.

Location:  6704 SE 122nd Avenue

Botanical Garden Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9 am – 4 pm
Sunday 1 pm – 4 pm; Closed Mondays

Forest Park, Portland Oregon
Photo credit Mike Rohrig via Flickr

Want to check visiting the largest urban forest in the USA off your Bucket List? Then schedule a visit to Forest Park in Portland and consider it done.

Forest Park spans more than seven miles and offers unparalleled views, spectacular mossy woodlands and more than 70 miles of hiking trails, all in the heart of Portland.

Check the Forest Park Website for location and parking information.


You might have heard of the much-talked-about First Thursday Gallery Walk in the Portland Pearl District.  This is where art and one of the best happy hours in town collide as art galleries open their doors on the First Thursday of the month.

You’ll have an opportunity to tap into your creative side while you discover and experience local fine art exhibits including photography, painting, glass art and paintings in the heart of The Rose City.

Location: 135 NW Park Avenue in The Pearl District

Check First Thursday Website for gallery information and dates.

Burnside street sign, The pearl district, portland
Photo credit Chris Connelly via Flickr

Nob Hill and The Pearl District are brimming with uber-cool restaurants, boutique shopping, local breweries, coffee shops and art galleries. It’s everything you’d expect to find in one of the trendiest parts of the city.

Enjoy a stroll through Nob Hill and The Pearl District to soak up the sites and sounds of Portland.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland
Photo credit Justin Houk via Flickr

Take a stroll along the Willamette River at Tom McCall Waterfront Park for a chance to dip your toe into the Portland waterfront scene.

Enjoy jogging, biking, walking your dog, basketball, or just some time to enjoy life in Oregon. You’ll see one of Portland’s great steel bridges, boats and cherry blossoms in full bloom (starting mid February).

There is always something to do or see at Waterfront Park, from Saturday Market, music festivals, concerts and more. The American Planning Association voted Waterfront Park one of America’s top ten great public spaces.

Location: SW Naito Parkway

Portland Oregon bridge and Mount Hood
Photo credit Keith Skelton via Flickr

Eight impressive bridges span the Willamette River in Portland, attracting bridge enthusiast from around the world.

These historic steel bridges (take the Hawthorne Bridge for example, opened to traffic in 1910) are much traveled by cars, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

Portland bridges include:

St. John’s Bridge

Fremont Bridge

Steel Bridge

Burnside Bridge

Morrison Bridge

Hawthorne Bridge

Sellwood Bridge

Broadway Bridge

Marquam Bridge

Ross Island Bridge



Timberline Lodge in Oregon
Photo by Jone’t G. Wooten

An hour’s drive from the heart of Portland stands a historic and famous mountain hideaway.

Timberline Lodge was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and set the exterior scene for the horror classic movie The Shining with Jack Nicholson.

An Oregon popular attraction year after year, Timberline Lodge, located at the base of Mount Hood and built in 1936, receives more than two million visitors each year drawing skiers and tourists alike year-round.

Enjoy hiking trails which allow you to get up close to scenic Mount Hood, with spectacular views and crystal clean air. In the springtime, colorful wildflowers blanket the mountainside.

Location: 27500 West Leg Road, Timberline Lodge, Oregon

Lodge open to visitors year-round

Tide pools at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Photo by Jone’t G. Wooten

Looking for the perfect relaxing, scenic drive?  Hop in the car and head to Oregon’s pristine Cannon Beach, less than a 2 hour drive from Portland.

The spectacular Haystack Rock is one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks.  Cannon Beach is a protected marine garden, teaming with tide pools, sea birds and visitors alike.

Home to a variety of starfish, crabs, sea slugs, sea anemone and fish, Cannon Beach is also a favorite of many sea birds including puffins and terns.

Bring your waterproof boots, binoculars and camera; this is going to be a day you’ll remember for years to come.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Photo credit Ufoncz via Flickr

Oregon is famous for many things, beautiful waterfalls being one of them. With high annual rainfall and snow levels in the mountains, the melting snow and rain combine and ceremoniously take the plunge off the rocky cliff tops. The result is a dazzling display of waterfalls that might leave you at a loss for words.

We’ve hand-picked a few of the spectacular waterfalls Oregon has to offer, all within a 45 mile drive of Portland.

Multnomah Falls (probably Oregon’s most famous waterfall ~ pictured above)

Latourell Falls

Shepperd’s Dell 

Bridal Veil Falls

Lower Oneonta Falls

Horsetail Falls

Lower Punchbowl Falls

Lower Punchbowl Falls, Oregon
Photo credit Luke Detwiler via Flickr

A memorable and scenic drive 2 hours from Portland offers a day trip you will never forget at the picturesque Columbia River Gorge.  Fall is especially gorgeous, with a kaleidoscope of colorful leaves mixed with the raging waters of the mighty Columbia.

Take a page from history and follow the Columbia River Gorge as you hit the trails like Lewis & Clark to experience spectacular views, waterfalls, mossy trees and soaring birds (including eagles).  Don’t forget your camera!

Llama in wildflowers, Wild Harvest
Photo credit Oregon’s Wild Harvest

Oregon’s Wild Harvest makes some of our FAVORITE natural herbs and supplements. Wild Harvest grows all of the certified organic herbs and flowers on their farm in Redmond, Oregon (almost a 3 hour drive from Portland).

OWH offers free tours of the farm, allowing visitors to taste, touch and smell the herbs and flowers in their interactive herb walks. You’ll also see llamas, goats and horses!  It’s worth the drive, we promise!

Location: 601 NE Hemlock Avenue, Redmond, Oregon

Bald Eagle close up
Photo credit Tambako the Jaguar

A short half hour drive from Portland, an island gem awaits your arrival.  Sauvie Island Wildlife Area is a bird-lover’s paradise with over 11,000 acres of wildlife area.

With 275 different bird species, plus mammals (37 species), amphibians, fish and plants, there’s something for everyone at Sauvie. Watch for bald eagles January – March.

Location: 15000 NW Sauvie Island Road, Portland

Adventure awaits your Portland arrival.  If you find our list of 20 Free Things to Do in Portland helpful, will you share the love with your friends and family?

Did we miss YOUR favorite free Portland sight or activity?  Tell us about it in the Comments Section below.


XO, Jone’t


Blogger, Editor at Fabulously Chic Over 50
Jonet Wooten is a 56 year old former investigative newspaper reporter/photographer. She's always in search of the latest and greatest in Fashion, Beauty and Travel, which she writes about on her AWARD WINNING blog. Creator of the popular global fashion series She's Got Style.
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