Portland’s Best Free (& Cheap) Events for Kids & Families in August

Summer is in full swing in Portland. You can tell because folks are hitting the splash pads and playgrounds with abandon, and hoping this sweet summer sunshine lasts forever (or at least through Labor Day). Lucky for Portland families summer in the city is chock full of fun activities that don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, there are an abundance of activities that are downright affordable for families looking for thrills on the cheap. So put your wallet away, and read on for some of our best ideas.

Free Things to Do in August


Walk among the dinosaurs
If you haven’t checked out Dinolandia yet, now’s your chance. It’s a hit with little dino lovers for sure. Daily, through Sep. 10. Event details.

Make art together
Drop in to create something cool with the kids at the book pub. Second & fourth Saturdays. Event details.

Take a ladybug walk
Perfect for the littlest legs, preschoolers and caregivers can explore parks around Portland with environmental educators as guides. We’re sure you’ll find bugs, plants and other wonders of nature. Mon. & Thurs. through Sep. 1. Event details.

photo:The Grove LA

Attend outdoor storytime
Meet in the park for songs, stories and rhymes at this outdoor storytime. Mon. & Tue. through Aug. 31. Event details.

Listen to an outdoor concert
Modern, salsa, blues and rock. You’ll find all the bands at this outdoor concert series. Wed. through Sep. 1. Event details.

Step up to the mic
Bring your family band, your improv, your singing voice, your jokes to this open mic night that’s just for kids and families. Just remember to reserve your performance slot. Aug. 5 & 19. Event details.

Make your afternoon crafty
Work on your family craft projects with like-minded crafters at this drop-in session that’s totally free wheeling. Fri. in Aug. Event details.

Schedule Tree Time
Head to the Hoyt Arboretum with your preschoolers for a story and guided walk along the trails. You’ll explore the natural surroundings and may even get your hands dirty. Mon. & Sat. in Aug. Event details.

Watch Winnie the Pooh
Bring your picnic blankets, lawn chairs and a healthy dinner to enjoy this family-friendly production that combines your favorite Winnie the Pooh tales with five Chinese Taoist folktales. Fri.-Sun., Aug. 5-22. Event details.

Head to Big Truck Day
Trucks, cars and fun are what you’ll find at this free, family-focused event with cool cars as well as hot rods, refreshments and entertainment. Aug. 13. Event details.

Enjoy the Northwest Art & Air Festival
This beloved festival provides a weekend full of hot air balloons, artists, live music and delicious food. Come early to see the balloons lift off or stay late to watch the glow on Friday. Aug. 26-28. Event details.

Hit a summer sidewalk party
Join Anjali & The Kid for a free, all-ages Summer Sidewalk Party at Bar Carlo. DJs start spinning at 3 p.m. Aug. 27. Event details.

Always Free in Portland

Visit a Favorite Museum
From the tiniest tots to grandparents, and every age in-between, there’s something fascinating for everyone at the hands-on, interactive exhibits at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Explore the Physics Lab and the Science Playground, or hop aboard the USS Blueback Submarine. On the first Sunday of every month, admission at OMSI is just $2, and Submarine tours, Planetarium shows and the theater are just $5 per person. 

Kids 17 and under are always free at the Portland Art Museum, where families can get inspired in the enormous galleries full of art. Let kids take the lead by chatting about the colors and shapes they see, or which pieces they particularly like. The museum also participates in the Blue Star Museums Program, which offers free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families.

If you’ve got little train lovers, be sure to make a stop at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Railroad enthusiasts can check out historic trains and browse the latest exhibit. Admission is always free, although donations are accepted and appreciated. The center is open Thursday through Sunday from 1-5 p.m. 

At the Historic Belmont Firehouse, families can explore hands-on exhibits, stories and history while learning fire and safety education. Kids will love checking out the fire pole and the emergency response simulator, as well as all of the firefighting tools and equipment. Every Wednesday is Open House, and families are welcome to come and visit free from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. The firehouse also offers Safety Saturdays on the second Saturday of each month. 

For history buffs, the Oregon Historical Society awaits you. Located downtown, and always free for Multnomah County residents (with proof of residency), the museum houses a variety of exhibits designed to bring Oregon's history to life. The permanent History Hub exhibit delves into the topic of diversity, with hands-on activities and displays.

A girl on a playground laughing at summer jokes

Head to a Park or Playground
Portland has no shortage of parks and playgrounds, including spaces where kids of all abilities can play. It’s always a treat to visit your neighborhood green space. Why not shake things up and visit a park in a different neighborhood? Set a family challenge to visit a new Portland park before summer ends. You can find all of It's as easy as packing snacks and heading outdoors.

Catch a Flick
At McMenamin’s Kennedy School, families can enjoy second-run movies while relaxing on comfy couches and snacking on pizza, burgers and salads from the menu, along with wine, beer and ciders for those over 21. Movie tickets are $5/adult, and just $3 for kids age 11 & under.

Take a Hike
Pack up some snacks and water, slick on the sunscreen and head out for a glorious hike on one of the many trails around Portland. Younger kids might enjoy adventuring around Hoyt Arboretum, which has a variety trails, including a 1-mile paved path perfect for strollers. Tryon Creek State Natural Area has plenty of nature trails, plus guided nature walks and a junior ranger program to get kids motivated. Kids will also love exploring the flora and fauna of the Leach Botantical Garden. For kids who can do more serious hiking, Latourell Falls has a 2.4 mile loop, gorgeous waterfall views and is often less crowded than Multnomah Falls. 

Make a Splash
Grab your suits and take a dip for a Family Swim, Open Swim or Parent/Preschool Swim at one of the local pools through Portland Parks and Rec. Admission varies slightly by location, but is generally less than $6 per person, with kids 2 and under swimming for free. Swim times also vary with each location, so check each pool’s schedule for the most current information.

—Allison Sutcliffe & Annette Benedetti

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