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Spend Time, Not Money: Free Portland Summer Fun

Summer is easily our favorite time of year here in Portland for family-friendly fun. We have much to do in this season of sunshine and plenty of it is even free! So grab your smart phones or device of choice and get ready to make some notes as to what you and the kidlets can get up to this summer. Museums, concerts, swimming pools, biking events, concerts, movies, festivals  and gorgeous gardens abound in our bright and sunny hamlet. Free to be you and me rings true in Portland!



Portland Children’s Museum
When: Free on the first Friday of each month from 4:00 – 8:00 pm
Where: Main Children’s Museum location (4015 SW Canyon Road)
Join them on Free First Fridays to let the kids play while you wait for your house to cool down. The new dinosaur exhibit and cafe are two VERY good reasons to go soon!

Oregon Maritime Museum
When: Families get in free on the third Saturday of every month
Where: Near Waterfront Park in downtown Portland (SW Naito Parkway at Pine St)
If you have a little one who is obsessed with boats and pirates, you should add the free family day at the Oregon Maritime Museum to your summer calendar. You’ll all love the hands-on fun in the Children’s Corner. Then head over to the Portland Saturday Market after for lunch or some fountain dancing.

Historic Belmont Firehouse
When: Wednesdays and every second Saturday 9:00 – 3:00 pm
Where: SE Belmont and 34th, Portland
With Open House Wednesdays and Safety Saturdays the second Saturday of every month, you and your junior firefighters can get hands-on sliding down a pole, riding in a fire truck and learning all about Portland’s fire department’s proud history.

Hikes & Nature

Audubon Wildlife Care Center

Story and Stroll
When: Fridays at 10:00 – 11:15 am
Where: Tryon Creek Nature Center (11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd)
Designed for families with kids ages 2-6 (though all are welcome), Story and a Stroll is a fun free event that gets you outside and exploring one of Portland’s best parks. The story is read by a park naturalist and is followed by a guided walk through the park that relates to the story. Make reservations on their website, which also shows the theme for each week.

Guided Family Nature Walks
When: Saturdays from 10:00 – 11:30 am
Where: Tryon Creek State Natural Area (11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd)
If you want to start your little one hiking, but don’t know where to start, you’ll love these family friendly hikes at Tryon Creek. Hikes are lead by trained guides and have a specific focus each week. Some are better suited for younger kids than others, so visit their website for detailed information. Parents must accompany children on all hikes.

Audubon Society of Portland
When: Everyday from dawn to dusk
Where: 5151 NW Cornell Rd, Portland
Just five minutes from downtown and nestled against Forest Park, the Audubon’s sanctuary is an excellent way to spend some time with your little naturalists. Four miles of trails, educational birds, a wildlife center, nature store and lots of room to roam. Open everyday!

Leach Botanical Garden
When: Tuesdays – Saturdays 9:00 – 4:00 pm and Sundays 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Where: 6704 SE 122nd Ave Portland
So so so much to see and do here; check out the footbridge over Johnson Creek, admire the acres and acres of amazing non- and native plants, discover the stone cabin and uncover a dinosaur ready to be hugged!

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
When: Dawn to dusk everyday, Free Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Where: SE 28th Ave and Woodstock Blvd, Portland
Peak rhody color may have passed for this year, but this amazing garden is still well worth a visit. Creeks, ducks, acres to roam, roses, trees, birds a-plenty – it is a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon or morning with the kiddos.



Movies in the Park
When: Throughout the summer
Where: Parks throughout Portland; see website for details
Hosted by the Portland Parks Department, these moonlight movies are fun for the entire family. Don your pajamas, grab a blanket and a picnic dinner, and spend the evening watching a movie under the stars. Plus, they have games and entertainment before the movie begins. Check the schedule for details about the movies to make sure the pick of the week is a good fit for your family.

Flicks on the Bricks
When: Friday evenings at dusk, July 27, August 3, 10 and 17
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland
For four Friday nights over the summer our collective living room, Pioneer Square, is turned into an outdoor movie theater. Flicks for summer 2013 include The Karate Kid, Clueless and ET!  Throw your chairs in the car, bring blankets and make a night of it – picnic basket and all. Pre-show entertainment on hand as well.

Concerts & Music


Concerts in the Parks
When: Throughout the summer
Where: Neighborhood parks around Portland; check website for details
Check out the schedule to see which concert is coming to your neighborhood park this summer. The music and crowd are always family-friendly and inviting – and food is for sale – perfect for a warm summer evening when nobody wants to eat (or cook) inside!

Washington Park Summer Festival
When: Evenings August 1-10
Where: Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater
A great solution to a hot August evening – an outdoor concert with the entire family. Don’t forget a blanket to sit on, and snacks or a picnic dinner. The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus kicks off the event on August 1st this summer.

Noon Tunes
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon – 1:00 pm July 10 – August 16
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland
For twenty-two years, live music has been played midday in the summers downtown at Pioneer Square. How fun! Grab your team and enjoy the sun, some lunch and maybe even dance it up!

Fun at the Park

sunday parkways

Portland’s Summer Playground Program
When: Weekdays throughout the summer
Where: Neighborhood Portland parks
A 100+ year tradition of free summer fun for Portland kids including a mobile climbing wall, crafts, organized sports, camp songs and so much more – it’s like going to summer camp, but at your neighborhood park! Check out the website to see what is offered at the park near your house.

Sunday Parkways
When: Sundays: June 23, July 28, August 25 and September 29 from 11:00 – 4:00 pm
Where: NE, North, SE and SW Portland
Come cycle with your community and see new parts of all the ‘hoods of Portland. Stop off in the many parks along each route for games, crafts, live music, playground fun, shade, food and hydration, then get back on your bikes for more pedal time fun. Sunday Parkways is easily one of our city’s best family-friendly events each summer.


Open Swim at Portland Public Pools
When: Dates throughout the summer
Where: 13 different Portland public pool locations
Throughout the summer, Portland public pools open their waters to free open swim times so you can visit and do some splashing for free with the entire family. The website can help you find the pool closest to your house – about half are indoor and half are outdoor.

Learn to Swim Week
When: June 18-21
Where: Neighborhood pools around Portland
To kick off the swim lesson season each summer, Portland pools offer a week of free lessons to neighborhood kids! Registration is on Saturday, June 16, just before lessons begin and registration must be done in person, not online. Limited space is available.




Sherwood Robin Hood Festival
When: July 19-20 (it’s always the third week in July)
Where: Sherwood neighborhood, just outside of downtown Portland
How cool is this? An entire weekend festival based around the original Robin Hood – there is a parade, archery contests, castle building competitions, a knighting ceremony and much more. Fun for the entire family and best of all, it’s free.

Fremont Festival
When: Saturday, August 3 from 8:30 – 6:00 pm
Where: NE Fremont from NE 42nd – NE 52nd, Portland
A 5k run, kiddo parade, vendors, bouncy house and crafts await at this all day family-friendly festival in NE. Worth marking the calendar and making the trip!

Hawthorne Street Fair
When: Sunday, August 18 from 11:00 – 7:00 pm
Where: SE Hawthorne from 12th – 52nd, Portland
Portland’s longest running street fair, this is one for the books! Crafts, play, fun and games – it is all to be had here. Plus tons of restaurants and live music to be enjoyed. Salud!

Keep an eye on the Red Tricycle Family Events Calendar as well for more free activities that pop up throughout the summer.

- Liz Overson

Thanks for the photos Beaumont Village and Summer Free for All Facebook pages, Audubon Society of Portland,, and Historic Belmont Firehouse.


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