Want to do Portland on the cheap for a weekend? We’ll show you how.

By Sarah Z. Wexler
November 09, 2015
Portland Oregon Childrens Museum
Credit: © Andre Jenny / Alamy Stock Photo

In a city that caters to artists, students, and a steady supply of visitors, there’s plenty to do in Portland on a budget-year-round (though there’s even more in summer, when free outdoor festivals for music, art, and crafts abound). Here’s our plan for a great weekend that sticks to $25 a day per person, without scrimping on tasty food and fun experiences.

Friday: Free Museum Admission

Take the TriMet MAX Light Rail from the airport to your hotel (sorry, your room isn’t included in the $25 a day) for just $2.30. If it’s the first Friday of the month, you can gain free admission to the Portland Children’s Museum from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and if it’s the fourth Friday of the month, stop by the Portland Art Museum for gratis admission from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (note that admission is waived for those 17 and younger at all times).

And don’t forget that the historic trains at the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation are always free to view. For dinner, find a food truck pod and sample amazing international fare that typically costs less than $10 a person for a massive meal. One of the biggest, the Alder pod offers traditional fish and chips at the Frying Scotsman, and several pan-Asian options. Another, the Tidbit Food Farm and Garden, feels like an expansive outdoor beer garden, and is perfect for lounging.

Saturday: Market and Ride

Start the day at the Portland Farmers Market on the grassy campus of Portland State University, one of the largest and best greenmarkets in the country, running every Saturday of the year. Walk around and listen to the live music, people-watch, and sample the local meats, fruits, vegetables, cheese, and desserts. Then for a delicious $6 brunch, stop at the market’s Pine State Biscuits stand for a bacon and egg or fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit, or try the even larger pepper, onion, and Italian sausage sandwich at the Salumeria di Carlo tent.

You can burn off those delicious sandwiches by hopping on a bike. Formalized tours can be pricey, so instead rent a single-speed bike at Cycle Portland for only $5 an hour, and ride along the Springwater Corridor, a paved cycling and jogging path with great views of downtown. For dinner, eat early to save big bucks on great food and drinks—most restaurants around town have happy hour until 6 p.m. with specials on both. One of the best deals is at upscale Clarklewis, where happy hour runs from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and includes $5 for a martini or luxe macaroni ‘n’ cheese with fennel sausage, roasted garlic, and parmesan.

Sunday: Ultimate Fun Day

Work up an appetite hiking the scenic Pittock Mansion in Forest Park. Though it’ll cost you to go into the historic home, it’s free to take in its lush gardens and panoramic views of the city (and on a clear day, Mt. Hood). If the weather isn’t cooperating, hang out with a good book and warm up in the original Stumptown Coffee Roasters shop on SE Division and 45th, where a steaming cuppa can set you back less than $3.

Speaking of books, you can browse the aisles of Powell’s Books, the largest independent bookstore in the country. When you get hungry again, hit another happy hour. Locals love the one at Clyde Common, inside the Ace Hotel, which runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, offering $4 beer and $6 cocktails (like the Bittersweet Symphony, with Aperol, gin, Punt e Mes, and lemon peel), plus hefty meal options for just $8 each (mussels, french fries, and chorizo butter; kielbasa; a burger with bacon jam).

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