Portland boasts a stellar music scene, ample museums and galleries, and some of the best arts walks and festivals anywhere — and exploring them all doesn’t take busting your budget. This itinerary of cheap things to do in Portland is designed to help any arts lover make the most of a weekend day in the city.
Getting Around on a Budget
For each of our budget itineraries, we recommend getting an all-day TriMet pass ($5) good for the city’s public light rail, streetcar and bus.
Introduced in 2016, Portland’s bike-share program brings 1,000 smart bicycles to the central city.
Portland's efficient light rail system connects the metro area and downtown core. Learn how to ride and where to go on MAX.
In April 2019, Portland launched a year-long citywide trial in of shareable electric scooters ("e-scooters"). Before boarding, check out our dos and don’ts for riding e-scooters in Portland.
Cheap Arts Activities in Portland
Breakfast and Browsing in Hawthorne District
Estimated cost: $7.50
Indulge in a heaping, music-themed breakfast sandwich at Fried Egg I’m in Love, which began as a beloved Portland food cart. Savor your gooey pesto and parmesan “Yolko Ono” sandwich ($7.50) amidst an egg-themed mural and plenty of yolk-yellow accents.
Stroll the boulevard and check out nearby murals using online maps from Portland Street Art Alliance (don’t forget to snap some souvenir photos in front of these works of art!). Next, do some vintage shopping — or browsing, to protect your pocketbook — at House of Vintage, Red Light or Savvy Plus. Hawthorne is known for its resale shops and even if you don’t buy, you’ll find plenty of entertaining eye candy.
Travel Time to Next Destination
Pedal Downtown for Public Art
Estimated cost: $6–7
Next, hop on a neon orange Biketown rental at a nearby kiosk for a quick ride to downtown Portland. You’ll pay a $5 sign-up fee plus $0.08 per minute, and the downhill ride will take about 15 minutes ($6.20).
Dock the bike and spend an hour or two scoping out some of the city’s expansive public art collection. Download this free walking map to explore more than 100 centrally located sites, both indoors and out. Standouts include Manuel Izquierdo’s The Dreamer (Southwest Third Avenue and Market Street) and Roland Hinton Perry’s Elk (Southwest Main Street and Third Avenue).
Don’t leave downtown without heading to the free Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University. Opened in 2019, this multi-floor museum features works by Northwest artists, as well as art by PSU faculty and students. The museum also hosts frequent events and rotates in works by national and international artists, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Hockney.
Lunch and a Concert
Estimated cost: $5–10
For lunch, pick up some food cart fare ($5–10) and head to the elegant Old Church for its Wednesday lunchtime concert series (free). Soak in the classics performed by concert pianists, cellists and other musicians in this impressive restored 1882 church-turned-concert hall.
Travel Time to Next Destination
Get Lost in a City of Books
Estimated cost: Free
Weave through nine color-coded rooms packed with books at the three-story Powell’s City of Books (free), open since 1971. (There’s a map to help you find your way.) On Sundays, visitors can join a free 45-minute tour. Any day, you can get a glimpse of the rare book room, which houses 9,000 volumes valued at $1.8 million. Their oldest book dates back to 1480! Don’t miss the stellar art book collection and frequent free reading in the top-floor Pearl Room.
Punk Rock Pizza
Estimated cost: $2–8
Across the street, grab a hand-tossed slice at Sizzle Pie and take a photo with the pizza-themed food pyramid mural. The punk rock pizza shop offers $2 half-slices, crave-worthy salads and plenty of options for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Estimated cost: Free–$6
Up the block, catch an art house film at the plush Living Room Theaters ($6 on Mondays and Tuesdays). Or duck into the basement of the Crystal Hotel for free live music from rotating musicians-in-residence at Al’s Den (free). Back on the eastside, you can also catch free local music at Rontoms‘ Sunday Sessions (free).
Free Live Music and Comedy in Portland
Discover a new favorite comic or musician at Portland's free concerts and comedy nights, scattered across the city and scheduled throughout the week.
Cheap Things to Do in Portland for History Buffs
Experience Portland’s history without breaking your budget.
Powell’s City of Books
Covering an entire city block, Powell's is a landmark, a great bookstore and a microcosm of the city itself.
Visual Arts in Portland
View paintings, sculptures and other visual art in a wide range of galleries, public spaces and unexpected venues.
Piano Push Play Brings Music to the People
Piano Push Play invites local artists to transform old, donated pianos into whimsical works of art which are distributed across the city.
Popular Food Carts
Rather than being overwhelmed by the hundreds of food carts in Portland, choose a day's worth of meals from these popular food carts.
The Portland Greek Festival is celebrated as the largest Greek Festival on the west coast with more than 15,000 people attending. This cultural experience features Greek food, music, dance and shopping! The Agora – the Greek marketplace features imported merchandise, clothing, jewelry, icons, flokati rugs and cookbooks. Among the fabulous food, exclusive cooking demonstrations, and…
Open every Saturday and Sunday from March–December, Portland Saturday Market is the largest arts-and-crafts fair in the U.S.
This annual race series consists of paddlers piloting a gaggle of gigantic gourds through a water course.
Honor Veterans Day with Portland’s annual Veterans Day Parade. The Parade begins at 9:30 a.m. at Northeast 40th and Northeast Sandy Boulevard and travels down Sandy, ending at Sandy & 48th in front of Ross Hollywood Chapel, which is the site of the Veterans Memorial Flag pole. At the conclusion of the parade, there is…
GeekCraft Expo is a curated craft market specializing in handmade, “geek”-themed crafts of all kinds; clothing, accessories, toys, home decoration, furniture, art . . . if it’s geeky and made by hand, it can be found at a GeekCraft Expo. Cosplay is highly encouraged and admission is free (you just need to pre-register).
The St. Johns Bizarre is a uniquely crafted celebration that kicks off the summer street fair season in Portland with music, kids’ activities and more. Held annually on the second Saturday in May, the Bizarre brings music, crafts and food to the crowds attending the St. Johns Parade. After the parade, the entire six block…
Enjoy 35% – 60% off on over 200 regular priced items in stationery, clothing, jewelry, books, housewares and more! Come take advantage of this sale while visiting your favorite Chinese garden in Portland. All sales are final. No additional discounts apply. Garden admission or membership required.
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art has championed the practice of contemporary artists since 1995. TBA:20 brings together a global audience in a truly contemporary way. For everyone already in the PICA community, and for those attending TBA for the very first time, PICA invites you to join them in witnessing works by artists from around…
Print exhibition with 30+ prints of images of people, places and things that no longer exist in Portland. From the magnificent to the mundane.
Fuller Rosen Gallery proudly presents Loopholes, a two-person show featuring new work by Devin Harclerode and Laura Camila Medina. Loopholes explores myth-making as it relates to personal experience, memory, and manipulation. Harclerode and Medina use a unique lexicon of symbols, language, and imagery to guide the viewer through their constructed realities. Loopholes will be the…
Enjoy free admission to the Museum the first Thursday of each month from 5 – 8 p.m.
On the First Thursday of the month from 5-8 p.m, the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education participates in the city-wide First Thursday Gallery Walk. During the First Thursday hours, the museum is open and free to the public.
A comedy open mic hosted by Eddie Churnetski and Benton Crider. 18+ until 8 p.m., 21+ after 8 p.m. If you are under 21 and would like to go up early, please message the Trash Amp Productions Facebook page.
Portland Baroque Orchestra presents the second part of Bach’s six beloved sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord performed by Artistic Director Monica Huggett and harpsichordist Byron Schenkman. Huggett and Schenkman’s performance of Part I premiered in August. Veiw the online premiere on YouTube. This performance, like all of PBO’s 20-21 Season, is presented through Great…
This exhibition will feature new works by May Maylisa Cat, Curtis Reid Henderson, Christina Kemp, Cristina Niculescu and Lynn Yarne. GLEAN is a juried art program that taps into the creativity of artists to inspire people to think about their consumption habits, the waste they generate and the resources they throw away. In light of…
Writing is often thought of as something done in isolation; we know there is immense power when writing is done in community. Join Write Around Portland for creativity and community-building, with generative writing exercises, sharing and strengths-based feedback. Thier workshop model, refined over 21 years, is proven for people of all writing levels: from the…
Local voices come alive for National Coming Out Day. Our Bold Voices presents local stories, live Q&A, and music. National Coming Out Day is celebrated annually since 1988 to raise awareness of the LGBT+ community and the ongoing struggle for civil rights.
Soovin Kim, Chamber Music Northwest’s new Co-Artistic Director, kicks off the season with a free performance of Bach’s majestic set of six sonatas and partitas for solo violin. Kim is internationally recognized for his solo and chamber music performances as well as his work as a teacher and an artistic director. Witness Kim bring each…
If you are looking for a deeper understanding of the root causes of racial disparities in housing, you will not want to miss this event. Free to attend. Learn about the impacts of Portland’s racist housing practices. Hear from one of Portland’s most highly regarded leaders—Rukaiyah Adams— as she helps bring to light racial disparities…
As the virus bore down on our planet, infectious disease researcher Dr. William Messer and data scientist Dr. Peter Graven helped OHSU and Oregon plot a path to safety. What do we know now about the virus and what can we expect as winter approaches? This is one of three in the Marquam Talks virtual…
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) annual Light The Night will look a little different this year— with a $750,000 fundraising goal, the October 17th walk welcomes teams of friends, family and co-workers to join the fight against blood cancers. The virtual event will still include many of the meaningful events including the Circle of…
A public labyrinth walk held on the third Monday of every month on the beautiful wood labyrinth at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. No prior experience needed, and there is no wrong way to walk.
Every third Wednesday of the month at noon, photography enthusiasts gather at the Portland Art Museum to hear talks by regional photographers, gallerists, historians, curators and collectors.
Neurologist and medical anthropologist Dr. Raina Croff combines neighborhood walks with active reminiscence to forestall memory loss in older African Americans, while reclaiming their sense of place, self and social connection. This is one of three in the Marquam Talks virtual lecture series sponsored by Oregon Health & Science University. It is free and all…
Lents International Farmers Market opens on Sunday, June 2, 2019 and is open every Sunday through November 24, 2019. The Lents International Farmers Market (LIFM) is the only one in Portland with an intentional international focus. LIFM provides fresh, affordable and culturally appropriate produce to the diverse community of Lents neighbors. Founded in 2006 by…