Bello and I represent a strange juxtaposition in life. We’re budget travelers with a taste for the good life. So what does that mean? We spend money on what we consume (good food and drink) and not on what we buy (souvenirs) or do (entrance fees).
For us, Portland is a dream come true. A city has magically grown in the middle of a forest full of world-class food, beer, and wine. It’s a city with the slogan “Keep Portland Weird” and I’m in! I’m a beer and wine lovin’ foodie geek who hikes, picnics and seeks sweeping views.
If any of this rings a bell, then you might appreciate this list when visiting Portland. Here are a few of our favorite things to do on the cheap and by cheap, I mostly mean free. Well outside of eating and drinking that is!
Free Things To Do in Portland
- The International Rose Test Garden: With 10,000 roses even the most cynical person is bound to be captivated by a few blooms or hues. Simply put, its beautiful, it’s free and it boasts panoramic sweeping views of Portland itself.
- Picnic at Pittock Mansion: Picnics with a view are romantic and yes, cheap. Love them? This is your jam and Pittock is your place. Sure you can pay $10 to go inside, but why? The grounds and views are magnificent. Like I said, entry fee cheapskate. The garden is free and meticulously well-kept. You get to feel like the rich, without having to be one. Enter the Pittock hiking trail in Macleay Park and get a nice long forest walk as well.
- Visit St. John’s Bridge: Portland has 11 bridges crossing the Willamette River. You could pay for a boat tour to see them all or head straight to the best. Arching gracefully over Cathedral Park, St. John’s Bridge is steel suspension beauty. On any given day, the nearby neighborhood empties as locals claim their spots on the lawn. Plus, frequent open air free events like the annual Jazz Festival come July are a free treat. Yep, my favorite word, free!
- Speaking of Parks… Forest Park: I’m a New Yorker so this is hard to admit, but Central Park falls flat, literally and figuratively compared to Portland’s central gem. Central Park gives New Yorkers a break from the city with nature, Forest Park IS the nature of the city in Portland. 70 miles of elevated, green hiking trails provide peekaboo views of downtown Portland and the Willamette River. Tall trees are both shade and shelter from frequent rains. A day spent hiking in Forest Park is as relaxing as knowing your not spending a dime, well not after that big brunch anyway!
- Not as cheap and don’t mind an entrance fee? Just across the street is the mystical Japanese Garden. In my opinion Portland’s number one must-see spot. In case you wonder, this is no tourist trap. At $9.50 a person, you’re not breaking the bank. Zen out for the day in the harmony of balance, beauty, and simplicity. Visitors walk away feeling serene, peaceful and inspired.
- Not so into Nature? No problem, the Pearl District might be more your speed. Art galleries galore, all throw open their doors for free the first Thursday of the month. You’ll feel like a million bucks among the young, hip and Artsy Portland set. Trust me, this is when you realize Manhattan hasn’t cornered the market on what’s hot. Just saying!
We Love You Portland, see you again in September!
Piccola & Bello