For anyone living in the Pacific Northwest, Portland is the perfect place for a frugal family getaway. Oregonians love their educational and outdoor pursuits, and these six activities are a great way to experience the city on a budget.
Located right on the Willamette River, Oaks Park is Portland’s amusement park and is one of my kid’s favorite places to go. There are carnival rides for kids of all ages and an indoor skating rink. On Saturday mornings kids can roller skate for just $6 per child and parents are free (it also includes a short group lesson and skates). Oaks Park offers Preschool Days on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for $6 (again, parents are free). During the winter, Preschool Days include skates, lessons and a snack. During the summer, kids can go on amusement rides followed by story time, cookies and milk! Be sure to check out the discounts page for all of the current opportunities to save money. Location: 7805 SE Oaks Park Way.
Portland Children’s Museum
Kids can explore their dramatic side on stage, play in the waterworks, care for animals in the pet hospital, or create in the art studio at the Portland Children’s Museum. Exhibits are interactive, so children are encouraged to touch and explore the displays. Fun traveling exhibits keep each visit fresh and adventurous. It’s another family favorite for us! Admission is free for the entire family every first Friday of the month from 4 to 8 p.m. I suggest getting there about 10 minutes before 4 p.m. to take advantage of smaller crowds. Location: 4015 SW Canyon Road.
Oregon’s most visited attraction, the Oregon Zoo, has over 2,200 animals and more than 1,000 exotic plants. Exhibits range from ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest to my family’s favorite, the plains of the Serengeti. Don’t miss a chance to visit the zoo on holidays, when there are often animal enrichment activities scheduled. Animal enrichment activities give the zoo’s animals a chance to engage in diverse activities that vary from their normal routines, and they can be watched for free (with general admission) when visiting the zoo. Save big bucks by visiting the Oregon Zoo on the second Tuesday of every month when admission is just $4 per person. Location: 4001 SW Canyon Road.
International Rose Test Garden
The International Rose Test Garden is a great place to let your kids get some energy out while you peruse the beautiful park. It’s the oldest public rose test garden in the United States and has almost 10,000 rose bushes to admire. Take a self-guided tour and bring along some snacks to have a beautiful mid-day picnic and enjoy the beautiful views from atop Portland. Location: 400 SW Kingston Ave.
The Oregon Museum of Space and Industry is another great attraction for families with children of all ages. In addition to the regular exhibits about space, robots, human development and science, OMSI also has a planetarium, submarine and Omnimax Theatre. While admission is usually $12 per adult and $9 per child, you can get in for just $5 person on every second Sunday of the month. Location: 1945 SE Water Ave.
A unique fountain is the centerpiece of Jamison Square, making it the perfect place to relax and cool off in the hot summer months. Sit in the grassy field while you watch your kids play in the fountains (it’s a public park so admission is free), enjoy some people-watching or admire the larger-than-life sculptures that surround the area. While you are there, hop on the Portland Streetcar for just $1 per person to see more of urban Portland. It will take you right past Cupcake Jones, a favorite for cupcake lovers. Jamison Square location: 810 NW 11th Ave.
If you want to get out of the city and see the Columbia Gorge, head to Multnomah Falls for a day hike. Take the short ¼ mile hike up to Benson Bridge or head to the very top for an incredible view (it’s a strenuous one-mile hike but even our 5-year old made it). Pack a lunch to save money, or go in to the beautifully preserved historic Multnomah Falls Lodge.
Family Fun Pass
Planning on visiting many of Portland’s tourist hot-spots? Grab a Family Fun Pass for just $89. It will get up to four people into eight Portland area attractions for just $89. The pass includes Portland’s popular destinations like The Chinese Garden, The Children’s Museum, Pittock Mansion and more.
To get some exercise and see Portland from on high, check out the 4T Trail. You’ll hike from the Oregon Zoo up to Oregon’s only health and research university, Oregon Health and Sciences University. From the top, you can take the free Aerial Tram down overlooking scenic views of the river and SW Portland. Once you get there, the trolley can take you back downtown for just $2, and the same ticket can get you on the train downtown back to your car at the zoo.
If you want authentic Portland, browse the diverse and budget-friendly Food Carts list. This classic Portland experience features nearly anything imaginable, from Peruvian food to fancy grilled cheese or light-as-a-feather crepes. While you might be thinking carnival food, the food cart experience is far from carnival fare! It’s more like mini-gourmet kitchens on wheels. They are affordable and represent real Portland, and it’s definitely an experience any tourist will love (try a filling spinach artichoke crepe for $6).
This has been a guest post by Tiffany from Oregon
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