17 Free (& Fun!) Summer Activities
Whether you want to go for a hike, see an outdoor movie, hit the pool or see a concert, Portland has a boatload of summertime family-friendly freebies just waiting for you. In fact, from Flicks on the Bricks to splashing around in your favorite outdoor pool, there’s something to get into that’s free and fun every single day of summer break. Read on to see our list of favorites.
photo: Audubon Society by Marianne Walters
Hikes & Nature
Audubon Society of Portland
When: Daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Where: 5151 NW Cornell Rd.
The Scoop: 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. Go for the four miles of trails, educational birds, a wildlife center, nature store and lots of room to roam. The best part is that it’s open every day of the week.
Story and Stroll
When: Thursdays and Fridays, 1-2:15 p.m. and Sundays, 10-11:15 a.m.
Where: Tryon Creek Nature Center, 11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd.
The Scoop: 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, like Hide and Snake, Scoot: How Animals Move, and My Five Senses.
Leach Botanical Garden
When: Every Saturday, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Where: 6704 SE 122nd Ave.
The Scoop: A guided tour with a gardener/curator takes place the first Saturday of each month, but all other Saturdays are guided tours led by knowledgeable volunteers. There’s so much to see 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: Free Mondays and Tuesdays, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Where: SE 28th Ave and Woodstock Blvd.
The Scoop: Peak rhody color has passed for this year, but this amazing garden is still well worth a visit. Creeks, ducks, acres to roam, roses, trees and birds galore — it is a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon or morning with the kiddos.
photo: Flicks on the Bricks via Yelp
Flicks on the Bricks
When: Friday evenings at dusk, July 24 and 31, August 7, 14 and 21
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square, 715 SW Morrison St.
The Scoop: For five Friday nights over the summer our collective living room, Pioneer Square, is turned into an outdoor movie theater. Throw your chairs in the car, bring blankets and make a night of it — picnic basket and all. Pre-show entertainment will be on hand as well.
Movies in the Park
When: July 8-Sept. 11
Where: Parks throughout Portland; see website for locations and movie selections.
The Scoop: 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, the parks have games and live entertainment before the feature presentation begins, making it a great night out with the family. Movies from Big Hero 6 to The Imitation Game will be showing, so check the schedule for details about the movies to make sure the pick of the week is a good fit for your family.
photo: Another reason by K. Kendall via Flickr
Concerts & Music
Concerts in the Parks
When: July 6-Aug. 26
Where: Neighborhood parks around Portland; visit the website for locations and performances
The Scoop: From bluegrass to Motown music, 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, which is perfect for a warm summer evening when nobody wants to eat (or cook) inside.
Washington Park Summer Festival
When: Aug. 7-14, 6 p.m.
Where: Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater, 611 SW Kingston Ave.
The Scoop: A great solution to a hot August evening — an outdoor concert with the entire family. Performances take place nightly for a week straight, and include bluesy-Americana music to Taiko drumming. Don’t forget to pack your picnic blanket and dinner for your crew.
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays,12-1 p.m. July-Aug.
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square, 715 SW Morrison St.
The Scoop: For over 20 years, live music has been played midday in the summers downtown at Pioneer Square. Grab your team and enjoy the sun, some lunch and maybe even dance it up to 10 performances by local musicians, like Jeremy Wilson, Shoebox Letters and Lincoln’s Beard, curated by 101.9 Kink.
photo: AnneCN via cc
Portland’s Summer Playground and Free Lunch Program
When: June 18-Aug. 21
Where: Neighborhood Portland parks
The Scoop: A 100-plus 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. Most of the parks also offer free lunch every day to all kids 0-18.
When: Sundays: June 21, July 26, Aug. 23 and Sept. 27, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Where: NE, SE and SW neighborhoods
The Scoop: Cycle as many as 6-7 miles via blocked-off streets in your hood or someone else’s. Take pit stops at parks along each route for games, crafts, live music, playground fun, shade, food and hydration. Sunday Parkways is easily one of our city’s best family-friendly events each summer.
photo: Sellwood Park by Kevin B. via Yelp
Open Swim at Portland Public Pools
When: June 16-Aug. 28
Where: Columbia, Creston, Grant, Montavilla, Peninsula, and Pier pools
The Scoop: On select days 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.
photo: Kirt Edblom via cc
Sherwood Robin Hood Festival
When: July 17-19
Where: Old Town Sherwood, near Sherwood City Hall, 22560 SW Pine St., Sherwood
The Scoop: How cool is an entire weekend festival based around the original Robin Hood? There’s a parade, archery contests, castle building competitions, a knighting ceremony and tons more to do at this weekend-long festival.
When: Sat., August 1, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Where: NE Fremont from NE 42nd – NE 50th streets
The Scoop: A kids’ parade, live music, vendors, bouncy house and crafts await at this all day festival in northeast.
Hawthorne Street Fair
When: Sun., August 16 from 11 a.m.-7p.m.
Where: SE Hawthorne from 12th – 51st. avenues
The Scoop: Portland’s longest running street fair offers up crafts and games, as well as tons of restaurants and live music. The Kids at Heart area, off 35th Ave., will feature a kids’ performers stage, along with crafts, games and other activities for the little ones.
photo: Lisa H. via Yelp
Portland Children’s Museum
When: Free on the first Friday of each month from 4-8 p.m.
Where: 4015 SW Canyon Rd.
The Scoop: Join them on Free First Fridays to let the kids play while you wait for your house to cool down. Be sure to check out the newest exhibit, Outdoor Adventure, where kiddos can float boats, dam streams, build forts and climb trees.
Historic Belmont Firehouse
When: Wednesdays and every second Saturday of the month, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: 900 SE 35th Ave. at SE Belmont
The Scoop: On Open House Wednesdays and Safety Saturdays you and your junior firefighters can clock plenty of hours sliding down a pole, sitting in a fire truck and learning all about Portland’s fire department’s proud history.
What’s your favorite free summer activity? Let us know in the Comments section below!
— Marianne Walters