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20 Completely FREE Things to Do in Portland This Summer

You can bet your bottom dollar you won’t have to spend it at the Bastille Festival, Chef in the Market, or the Portlandia Mermaid Parade. These summer delights won't cost you a thing.

By Caitlin Medearis June 1, 2017

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Screen time at Pioneer Courthouse Square 

This summer has been a long time coming, so it’s time to celebrate the good climes with some fun in the city. All the better when all that fun—from La La Land alfresco to Farnell Newton at Fernhill Park—is free of charge, leaving you just enough loose change to spring for an outfit for the World Naked Bike Ride. Read on for 20 things to do this summer that won’t empty your wallet.

1. Original Practice Shakespeare Festival

Thru Aug 20 (check website for locations and times)
OPS revives First Folio versions of Shakespeare shows at Portland parks all summer long, using the same methods as back in the Bard’s day: few rehearsals, an onstage prompter, and, of course, lots of interaction with the audience. OPS ups its game this year with 33 shows across Portland parks.

2. Portland Street Fairs

Thru Sept 9
See the best Portland has to offer in local food, crafts, and live music when our neighborhoods come out to play! Check out some highlights:

  • July 30: Montavilla Street Fair
  • Aug 6: Lents Street Fair
  • Aug 13 and 27: Jade District Night Market
  • Aug 20: Multnomah Days 

3. Sunday Parkways

June 25 (NoPo), July 23 (NE), August 20 (Outer NE), September 24 (Sellwood), 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Warm weather calls for family neighborhood outings, and the return of these car-free zones for explorers to hike, bike, stroll, or run. Check out a new neighborhood on one Sunday every month.

4. Pedalpalooza

Thru June 30, various locations
Enjoy themed bike rides everyday, with something for every taste. Pick your poison: are you down for a Beyoncé vs. Gaga ride? Or maybe Radiohead Rodeo? A Grateful Dead ride? A Cully bar crawl? Pedalpalooza has something for everyone.

5. Chef in the Market

June 3–Sept 30, various locations
Yeah, you know about all of Portland's farmers markets, but did you know you can get free cooking demos from some of the top chefs in the business, including Ruchikala’s Kusuma Rao, Heirloom’s Kathryn Yeomans, or Crown Paella’s Scott Ketterman? Perfect for the home chef looking to learn new skills. The best part: you get to taste their creations at the end!

6. World Naked Bike Ride

8 p.m. Sat, June 24, meeting location TBA
Don your birthday suit and join the thousands nude bikers riding across the city to support safe road travel, clean energy, and positive body image.

7. Summer Free for All: Concerts in the Park

July 5–Sept 8, check website for dates and locations
Like free music? Like lounging in one of our leafy green parks? Of course you do! Almost every night this summer, you can enjoy a free concert in different parks across Portland with something for everyone—classical, rock, country, blues and more. Here are a few highlights:

  • July 15: King Louie & LaRhonda Steele
  • July 21: Farnell Newton & the Ownership Connection
  • Aug 3: Sabroso
  • Aug 14: Pete Krebs & His Portland Playboys
  • Aug 27: Rogue Bluegrass Band

8. Summer Free for All: Movies in the Park

July 6–Sept 8, check website for dates and locations
As if free music weren't enough to get you out this summer, free movies are also available in parks across the city. Here are some to have on your radar:

  • July 9: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • July 21: La La Land
  • Aug 4: Moana
  • Sept 2: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

9. Shakespeare in the Park

July 6–Sept 4, check website for dates and locations
For the 40th year, free Shakespeare plays by the Portland Actors Ensemble come to life across Portland parks. This year, get ready to jump into the Bard’s world with Troilus and Cressida, a tragic love story of hierarchy and honor, or, if you’re in the mood for a rom-com, check out The Winter’s Tale.

10. Ten Tiny Dances

July 8, Beaverton City Park
Ten dances, all choreographed for a four-by-four foot tiny stage, return to various locations in downtown Beaverton.

11. Bastille Festival

July 8, Jamison Square Park
Celebrate Bastille Day comme les Français with the Alliance Française de Portland. That means sipping on French wine, nibbling on French food, watching street performers and live music, and maybe taking part in a costume parade. Pourquoi non?

12. Tin House Summer Readings

July 9–16, Reed College Amphitheater
There are few better spots to hear authors hold forth than Reed College’s leafy amphitheater, which this year hosts 21 writers as part of Tin House’s Summer Workshop. Highlights include Pulitzer-winning novelist Anthony Doerr, Loving Day author Mat Johnson, poetry dynamo Morgan Parker, and journalist Emily Witt. 

13. Cathedral Park Jazz Festival

July 14–16, Cathedral Park
The longest running jazz and blues festival west of the Mississippi celebrates its 27th year. Soak up the smooth sounds of our area’s best R&B, jazz, and blues performers playing all weekend long in the park’s natural amphitheater.

14. Flicks on the Bricks

July 21–Aug 18, Pioneer Courthouse Square
Portland’s living room puts on a free movie every Friday night for five weeks. Don’t forget your pillows, and get comfy with pre-movie music from Kink FM. Highlights include The Little Mermaid on July 28 (for "Poor Unfortunate Souls" alone) and La La Land on August 4. 

15. Portland Zine Symposium

July 22–23, Jade/Apano Multicultural Space (JAMS)
Now in its 17th year, this free celebration of indie publishing aims especially to boost women, nonbinary creators, and communities of color, with a weekend of panels, tabling, and skill-share workshops.

16. PDX Pop Now

July 22–24, AudioCinema
The all-ages, volunteer-run music fest brings the best of Portland’s up-and-coming pop, punk, and hip-hop performers. This year, check out the reunion of Eat Skull, Mini Blinds’ synth-pop sound, and punk outfit Public Eye.

17. JAW

July 28–30, Portland Center Stage
Catch free staged readings of new work by four playwrights from across the country, whittled down from nearly 200 submissions. This year’s plays riff on cricket (the sport, not Jiminy), a mission to Mars, and the aftermath of the 2014 Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine.

18. Hawaiian Festival

10 a.m.–7 p.m. Sat, July 29, Esther Short Park, Vancouver
Come get tropical at the finale of 3 Days of Aloha with the Ke Kukui Foundation, which invites Portland to celebrate Hawaiian culture with Polynesian music, dancing, raffles, food, and crafts.

19. Portlandia Mermaid Parade

Noon–4 p.m. Sat, July 29, Japanese American Historical Plaza
Merpeople unite! Don your best underwater costume and join (or just watch) the sea of landlocked mermaids as they march through the city. You can even register your own float!

20. Galaxy Dance Festival

Aug 3–5, Director Park
Polaris Dance Theatre returns to Director Park with free dance classes and performances, including ballet, hip-hop, ballroom, jazz, and belly dancing. Get funky in the heart of downtown.

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