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.
See Portland’s newest theater and dance works every January at Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival.
VIRTUAL EVENT. Please visit the event website for current information. The 2021 Cascade Festival of African Films will be held virtually in 2021. The festival will remain free and open to the public, but films will be shown online. Visit the event website for more details and the list of films! Founded in 1991, the…
Brighten your February with glowing sculptures and thousands of twinkling lights at the annual Winter Lights Festival.
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…
This RACC-supported project is a fun, serial fiction podcast for young kids, families, dog lovers, and anyone that could use a hero right about now.
Fuller Rosen Gallery presents NO SANCTUARY, a two-person show of new work by Panteha Abareshi and Kayley Berezney. Set against the backdrop of a global pandemic, NO SANCTUARY explores the intimate relationship each artist has with their own health. Panteha Abareshi’s practice is rooted in her existence as a body with a genetic blood disorder…
TIMELINES FOR THE FUTURE: CHRISTINE HOWARD SANDOVAL is the first exhibition in Turnstones, Lucy Cotter’s program as Disjecta Curator in Residence 2020-21. “Turnstones” is a word found in a poem that, being unfamiliar, offers the freedom to imagine. It recalls how every structure that has sedimented over time contains another possibility and hopes to evoke…
Christmas at Grace Cathedral is a cherished San Francisco tradition; in 2020 Grace Cathedral asked Great Arts. Period. to help create a virtual holiday performance. Relive the magic of the holiday season with classic carols, sacred masterpieces, poetry, and more captured in the beautiful cathedral. Recorded live and while following all health & safety guidelines…
Winter Mercado this year will be different at the Portland Mercado. There will have fewer vendors in order to provide more space for customers to maintain social distancing during the pandemic. Come support local makers, artisans, and Latino entrepreneurs at the Portland Mercado
Carnation Contemporary is pleased to present Pangea, a solo show featuring recent work by Hannah Newman. Pangea releases a stream of potential energy from language and inanimate objects, sending resources and bodies into intersecting orbits. Rocks, minerals, research, digital technology, sound, and sculpture are mined for their poetic possibilities to create new supercontinents–clumps of information…
All of Portland is a stage in Resonance Ensemble’s new digital concert series, Under the Overpass. Beginning in the summer of 2020, artists were filmed in acoustic spaces under Portland’s famous bridges — six feet apart, masked, and yet making music together. On Wednesday, January 27 at 3:00 PM, Resonance will release its third episode…
“Observations from Nature” is a visual arts exhibition including a series of approximately one dozen hand thrown ceramic plate forms on view in the Fishbowl II window of Blackfish Gallery. These works depict illustrations of rural plant life created bytKate Simmons a Clackams County based artist and educator working in a variety of media.
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.
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…
Blanchet House’s 7th Annual Lend a Helping Hand Brunch will be held virtually on March 7, 2021, from 11 am – 12 pm. Blanchet House has provided free meals, clothing, and shelter to thousands of people during the pandemic. Join us in celebrating and supporting the Blanchet House community while honoring the legacy many have…
Disjecta Contemporary Art Center is pleased to present Unquiet Objects, the second exhibition in Turnstones, Lucy Cotter’s program as Curator in Residence 2020-21. Presenting works by ten international artists, Unquiet Objects questions the naturalized but uneasy separation of cultural objects from human life and social reality. The exhibition highlights the value of (art) objects as…
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