11 Fun, Free Things to Do in Portland
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11 Fun, Free Things to Do in Portland

Portland Bookstore
Torsten Kjellstrand

It’s said that Portland, Oregon, has something for everyone, whether you’re a craft beer aficionado, live music junkie, arts supporter, or outdoor enthusiast. No surprise, then, that the city is also rich in its offerings for those who don’t want to spend too much. Whether you want to stay indoors (browsing books or checking out new art), or get outside (hiking some of the greenest outdoor areas in the country), Portland has you covered with its fun free activities.

1. Hike in Forest Park. The park is one of the largest natural areas in any city in the U.S., filled with fiddlehead ferns, 112 bird species and 62 types of mammals. Do as much or as little as you want on the winding Wildwood Trail, which runs for 30 densely forested miles.

2. Tour the International Rose Test Garden. Inhale blooms that are being developed and evaluated for scent and color, and can't be seen anywhere else in the world. You can walk through the garden at your leisure or take one of the guided tours that depart at 1 p.m. daily.

3. Walk the Simpsons streets. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening is from Portland, and named some of the show's major characters after streets in Northwest Portland. From NW 2nd Street to NW 24th Street, and from Burnside to Vaughn, there are roads named Flanders (Ned Flanders), Lovejoy (Reverend Lovejoy), Quimby (Mayor Quimby), and Kearney (one of the bullies).

4. Browse out-of-print books. Flip through hardbacks in the Rare Room at Powell's City of Books, the country's largest independent book store (pictured).

5. Climb a volcano. Mount Tabor is a volcanic cinder cone that's now home to a city park, where you can walk on paved or dirt trails, enjoy a picnic, or take kids to the playground. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood from the top.

6. Tour the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. There's no entrance fee to see the museum's vintage steam locomotives, including the one that pulled the U.S. Bicentennial Freedom Train in 1976.

7. Cruise the Farmers' Market. With 140 vendors, the Portland Farmers' Market on the grassy campus of Portland State University is one of the largest and best greenmarkets in the country, running every Saturday of the year. Walk around and have a free meal made from samples of meats, cheese, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

8. Walk across the brand new bridge. Tilikum Crossing opens September 12, the first bridge in the country made to carry walkers, bikers, and public transportation—but no cars. Not only are its white cables beautiful, it's the first new bridge over the Willamette River in 40 years, spanning 1,700 feet.

9. Pop into galleries with the First Thursday Gallery Walk. The first Thursday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., visit more than 20 galleries downtown to preview new exhibits.

10. Check out the Beverly Cleary sculptures. The beloved young adult author grew up in town, and Grant Park has bronze sculptures of three of her characters: Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry's dog Ribsy.

11. Take a jog, walk, or ride your bike with a view. Cruise along the Eastbank Esplanade, a paved 1.5-mile path with awesome downtown views. It runs along the river and links up to the 20-mile Springwater Corridor trail, if you want to go farther.

Sarah Z. Wexler is on the Oregon beat for Travel + Leisure. Based in Portland, you can follow her on Twitter at @SarahZWexler.

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