Get Cultured Around Portland—For Free!

A field guide to finding free access to art, history, and family-friendly museums at places that typically charge for the pleasure—and a few that don't

By Sarah Ostaszewski September 5, 2014

 ♦ Every fourth Friday of the month, the Portland Art Museum offers free general admission from 5–8 pm (and every other Friday it offers reduced admission for $5). Beginning in October, the two big exhibitions will be a retrospective of Blue Sky photography gallery and In Passionate Pursuit, works drawn from the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer collection. But there's always smaller exhibitions, plus the growing permanent collection. 1219 SW Park Avenue

♦ Admission to Portland's Museum of Contemporary Craft on the North Park Blocks is free on the first Thursday of every month, 11 am–8 pm. Current exhibitions include Fashioning Cascadia, Portland Garment Factory: Process/Progress, and Portland Collects British Ceramics. 724 NW Davis Street 

♦ Study up on Oregon and American history at the Oregon Historical Society, where admission is free with proof of Multnomah County residence. Don't live in the county? Every third Saturday of the month is family day, when for every adult admission paid up to 2 children receive also receive free admission. 1200 SW Park Avenue

♦ Bring the whole family to the Portland Children’s Museum for a Friday evening of fun. Courtesy of Target, admission on every first Friday of the month is free from 4–8 pm. There are no boundaries or traditional museum rules here, where playing and touching are strongly encouraged—all in the name of learning! 4015 SW Canyon Road

♦ For more family fun, the Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum at the historic Belmont Firehouse is another great option. Always free, the operation hours are second Saturdays of every month from 9 am–3 pm and every Wednesday from 9 am–3 pm. 900 SE 35th Avenue (at Belmont)

♦ For Friends of Oregon Nikkei Endowment—an annual membership starting at $20—the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center is free. The Legacy Center, open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am–3 pm and Sunday from 12–3 pm, is a Japanese American History Museum offering permanent and rotating exhibits of paintings, photos and sculpture. 121 NW Second Avenue 

♦ If staying indoors is not your preferred mode of viewing art, spend the day wandering through the International Rose Test Garden. Admission is always free, the flowers are always beautiful, and current hours are 7:30 am–9 pm daily.  850 SW Rose Garden Way 

Portland has a dazzling array of galleries downtown and across the city that are always free and generally have new shows every month. Most of the local colleges and universities also have galleries worth making a trip to:

Where do you go for free activities in Portland? Share your tips in the comments!
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