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.
Forest Park Conservancy will be celebrating Earth Day Oregon this year on Saturday, April 24, and we’re inviting you to join! We will create small volunteer experiences for small groups spread throughout Forest Park. We will be planting native species and removing invasive species throughout Forest Park. Our goal is to provide fun, helpful ways…
Open every Saturday from March–December, Portland Saturday Market is the largest arts-and-crafts fair in the U.S.
The Portland Flea + Food is a monthly market held on the last Sunday of the month in Portland, Oregon. Every market features 80+ local artists, makers, and curators of the best vintage, handmade and locally-sourced goods in town.
The 2021 St. Johns Bizarre has been canceled. 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…
In 2021, Rose Festival Fleet Week will be virtual, with ship tours and stories about members of the sea services shared virtually, on video. Please visit the event website for current information. Since the very beginning of the Rose Festival back in 1907, visiting ships and other fleet-related elements (like submarines) have been making their…
This annual rose show is the nation’s largest and long-running rose show, bringing more than 4,000 blooms to Lloyd Center in Northeast Portland. Explore a huge variety of roses, from the quarter-inch micro-minis to the 8 inch standard blooms.
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).
Lavaun Benavidez-Heaster was a legally blind paper collage artist and a cherished member of the Alberta Street Gallery community. A longtime advocate for others with disabilities, she was a champion for accessibility. Embracing her Indigenous heritage and Ladina culture through her art, she created vibrant, touchable work and guided the gallery toward greater diversity. Lavaun…
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.
Unsavory Times, a 30-minute documentary from Brian Kimmel of Optic Nerve Productions, focuses on Portland’s iconic restaurant Higgins and its struggle to survive and persevere during stay-at-home orders and beyond. An after-film panel discussion, moderated by OHS Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk, industry experts, and local restauranteurs, will discuss what the future holds for Oregon’s food…
Fuller Rosen Gallery is delighted to announce umm no, a solo show of new work by Portland-based artist Yuyang Zhang. umm no presents two distinct bodies of work by Zhang; a selection of digital collages and paintings created during quarantine in 2020-21. The gallery will also exhibit a textile banner designed by the artist in…
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…
Portland Baroque Orchestra presents the very first performance from Great Arts. Period.’s new studio: Seasons of Bulgaria. Join PBO violinist Toma Iliev as he takes us on a journey through the year with four folk-inspired solo violin pieces by fellow Bulgarian, composer Peter Hristoskov. From the lively dances of Spring to the tumultuous yet hopeful…
Join Habitat for Humanity Portland Region for a powerful and inspiring virtual event that will raise funds to build and repair homes for families and individuals across the Portland region. Featuring award-winning journalist Ann Curry, this is a program you won’t want to miss.
Ceramic Showcase and The Gathering of the Guilds are hosting their first virtual show together. The website will feature more than 200 exceptional artists, from 6 Pacific Northwest guilds, working in Metals, Glass, Wood, Beads, Fibers and Clay! Find your favorite artists and learn the best way to purchase from them – ranging from online…
Zebrafish, a popular aquarium fish, can reveal the inner workings of the nervous system, according to exciting research from OHSU Professor Kelly Monk, Ph.D. Dr. Monk will share insights on her team’s recent discoveries and how they are opening up exciting opportunities to learn more about brain biology and neurological disease.
Join FCCO’s 23rd Annual Furball. This event will feature a Mission Control, satellite sponsor locations, and crew members joining from far and wide for an evening of exploration and raising much-needed funds for spaying/neutering feral cats in our region. Please consider donating to the auction and/or being a sponsor of the event. You will directly…
In November 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms. Join OHSU Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Chris Stauffer, M.D., on a journey through the history, research and modern-day application of psychedelic therapy.
Some people who contract COVID-19 have no symptoms, while some have serious, long-lasting health issues. Peter Spencer, M.D., and Juliette Preston, M.D., will give an overview of what the international and local OHSU communities are doing to track the full-body effects of COVID-19, particularly on the brain. Following their talks, Jacqueline Bernard, M.D., and Andrew…
Experience an abundance of the most fragrant and beautiful lavender in existence. Explore the twists and turns of a Lavender-a-maze. Experience everything lavender you can imagine. Award winning essential oils, plants, and products. If it can be made with this magical herb, Wayward Winds Lavendar Farms do it! Enjoy our Vintage Marketplace and rustic charm.
Celebrate art with free, family-friendly fun at the annual Gresham Arts Festival with more than 140 artists, live music, a break dance competition and more. The Gresham Arts Festival draws thousands from around the region each year to Gresham’s charming downtown streets to meet, browse and shop from a carefully curated selection of Northwest artisans,…
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…
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