12 Cheap Things to Do in Portland This Summer

Some people think of the Pacific Northwest as a rainy, gray and eternally muddy part of the States. There are four-months (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) when the Northwest in general, and Portland specifically, become the most heavenly places to be on Earth. The City of Roses stands out for its over — abundance in all things Summer — many of them absolutely free.

Here are some of the best:

1. Fountain Hopping
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Portland has its public pools, as well as swimming in the Willamette River, but another sweet way to cool down in the summer is to hop into one or more of the eight interactive public fountains that double as some of our city’s best works of art. Check out the cascading Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain; the isolated and serene Lovejoy Fountain; the waterfront’s popular Salmon Street Springs and Bill Naito Legacy Fountain; the bring-your-toddlers Jameson Square fountain; and the cool-down-after-shopping Teacher’s Fountain.

2. Bridge Tour
One of Portland’s biggest quality-of-life successes is also one of the best ways to enjoy the Willamette River- the heart of Portland. Good for kids, especially if you rent the frilly quad bikes at the end of Salmon Street #hiking #playground #biking #waterfront #touristspots #parks

Renting 4-person Surrey Bikes has long been a popular way for tourists to see the city’s bracing waterfront parks, but you can also walk or ride your own bike along the West Side’s Waterfront Park and on the East Side’s Esplanade. You can take a dip in the Willamette at certain points on the East Side, which also offers some of the best views of Downtown, or simply enjoy riding alongside and across Portland’s five unique and bike-able downtown bridges. (BTW, Kerr Bike Rentals in the Naito Waterfront Park offers standard bikes for $7 per-hour and Surreys for $25).

3. The Grotto

The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother may be most famous for its Christmas light festival, but during the hot months this Catholic shrine doubles as the perfect place to cool down and meditate among the statuettes, gardens and visitors from every corner of the globe. The Grotto is free to all, but the upper-level gardens and viewpoint will cost adults $6.

4. Sauvie Island
Summer/fall playground for locals. Sandy river beaches, hay rides, pumpkin patches, berry patches and pear picking with the chance to see stellar sunsets over skyline ridge. #outdoors #nature #farm #river #beach #fruit #veggies #summervibes #bargins

Sauvie’s Island lives in the childhood memories of every local who remembers hay mazes in the fall and berry picking in the summer. Check out the Bella Organic, Columbia U-Pick and Kruger farms for strawberries, blueberries, marionberries, raspberries, blackberries and more. Get some full-frontal sun on the clothing-optional Collins Beach (there are other non-nude beaches if you so choose) and watch the massive tankers and fishing boats float by. Berry picking season typically runs from June to August, and most U-puck farms charge by the pound. At Bella Organic, strawberries ate $3.50/lb while raspberries go for $5.00/lb.

5. First/Last Thursday

Both year-round, monthly open-air art and food events are as common as they are unique from each other. First Thursday, which takes place mainly on NW 14th in the Pearl neighborhood, offers the best of Portland’s local art galleries and beer flights, whereas Last Thursday is a more chaotic and whimsical, full of unscripted performances, people on stilts and everything that gives credence to Portlandia. Both are free to enter and worth just a walk through.

6. Oregon Historical Society and Portland Art Museum

These peaceful and air-conditioned spaces offer the best history and/or art exhibits in the state. The OHS museum is in the heart of Downtown’s Cultural District. Visitors can learn about everything from Lewis and Clarke to Vanport to President Kennedy’s adventures in the state and more. OHS is free to all Multnomah County residents while adult tickets cost $11. The chic and impressive Portland Art Museum lies across the street, with a collection that rivals those found in much bigger cities, and has no admission fees on the first Thursday of every month between 5-8PM.

7. Movies in the Square (Flicks On The Bricks)

This cinema event captures why Downtown’s Pioneer Square is nicknamed “Portland’s Living Room.” Every Summer the public square/amphitheater is turned into a cozy outdoor movie theater for five Friday nights in a row (late July-late August). Get to know a few locals while taking in classic fare such as Grease or The Three Amigos, for free.

8. Swim in the Willamette at Sellwood Park

One of the most popular docks for river-bodies to suntan and practice for a float down the Clackamas or Sandy rivers lies just a frisbee’s throw away from Oak’s Park. Admire our brand new Sellwood Bridge or fall for one of the hundreds of hot pups in need of a cool down (and a belly rub from a new friend). Just like all of Oregon’s beaches, this park is free to all.

9. Picnic at Pittock Mansion

Built by Henry Pittock, a newspaper magnate and one of Portland’s first multi-millionaires, the hundred-year-old French Renaissance-styled Pittock Mansion rests on one of the highest West Hills overlooking Portland – and provides stunning views looking to the north and east of the city. To get an excellent workout before lunch, walk up to the mansion via the Pittock Mansion Hike. Enjoy an afternoon picnic in the gardens for free and/or take a tour of the opulent mansion for $10.

10. Find your way in Ladd’s Addition Or Laurelhurst

Portland is renowned for its quaint and colorful homes, and these two streetcar-era planned neighborhoods offer some of the best examples. Both neighborhoods renounce the East Side’s massive and irregular grid plan for two oddball systems that minimize through traffic for the perfect neighborhood stroll.

11. International Rose Test Garden and Washington Park Summer Festival

The namesake for the Rose City, these public gardens are home to more than 7,000 plants producing the sweet-smelling flower that blooms all Summer long. Try to time your visit for the Festival, with its operas, taiko drumming, flamenco and other performances for free between August 4th and 7th.

12. Leif Erikson Trail or Springwater Corridor

If you have a day to spare these are two of best long bike rides in the county. The Springwater Corridor is a mostly flat, paved, 40-mile trail that takes you from the heart of downtown to the edge of the metropolitan region at Boring, Oregon, and is one of the more interesting ways to see a dense urban core fade into rural countryside. The Leif Erickson trail is a 11-mile long, gravel fire-road that winds through most of Portland’s gigantic Forest Park, and offers countless views of the city as well as the region’s local flora and fauna. Both of these trails are free to access, and if you don’t have a bike you can always go for a run or walk.

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