Best Summer Ever

21 Totally FREE Things to Do in Portland This Summer

From movies and concerts in the park to the annual adult soapbox derby to a Willamette River swim with the mayor, here's the guide to your best (and cheapest) summer ever.

By Talullah Plummer-Blanco June 20, 2018

The Unipiper in action at the Hawthorne Street Fair, returning this year on August 26

Good in the Hood Festival

June 22–24, King School Park
Enjoy a weekend packed with jazz, blues, Latin pop, neo-soul, conscious hip-hop, a plethora of multicultural food and arts and craft vendors, and a parade. Highlights of this year’s annual fest include a live performance by legendary R&B vocalist Howard Hewett and music by DJ Pryce Miyagi.

Chef in the Market

10 a.m. every Saturday thru Sept 29, PSU Farmers Market
Want to learn to transform your seasonal farmers market loot into meals so delicious that friends and family praise your culinary genius? These cooking demos from some of Portland’s top chefs—such as Olympia Provisions' Eric Joppie, Ataula’s Jose Chesa, and Kachka’s Bonnie Morales—will set you on your way. The best part? At the end, you get to taste the chef’s creation for free.

World Naked Bike Ride

8 p.m. Sat, June 23, Cathedral Park
Lather your body in paint or keep your birthday suit simple and join the thousands of nude cyclists riding for human-powered transportation, safe streets, and body positivity.

Sunday Parkways

11 a.m.–4 p.m. occasional Sundays thru Sept 23
Spend your Sunday safely riding with fellow cyclists through a few of Portland’s beautiful neighborhoods, entirely traffic-free.

  • 6/24 – North Portland
  • 7/22 – Green Loop (Downtown and Inner South East)
  • 8/19 – Outer Northeast Portland
  • 9/23 – Northeast Portland

Summer Free for All: Concerts in the Park

July 6–Sept 7, check website for dates and locations
Are you a concert junky without a dollar to spare? Don’t you fret. Nearly every night this summer, you can enjoy a free concert in different parks across Portland. No matter your taste in music, there's something for everyone, from blues to Latin jazz to hip-hop to indie pop. 

Summer Free for All: Movies in the Park

July 6–Sept 7, check website for dates and locations
Bring blankets and pillows and recreate your bedroom in nearly any Portland park to enjoy a summer of movie madness, with both classics and newer flicks on the docket. 

Tin House Summer Readings

July 8–14, Reed College Cerf Amphitheatre
As the heat rises in Portland, another packed shelf of wondrous writers—among this year’s cohort are novelists Tayari Jones and Alexander Chee, essayist Melissa Febos, and poets Shane McCrae and Danez Smith—take to Reed College’s leafy outdoor amphitheater and share their work. 

Mayoral Swim with Ted

6 p.m. Wed, July 11, Station 21 Firehouse Dock
Why exchange mere formalities with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler when you could take a dip with him instead? Make sure to wear your most formal swimwear for this paddle across the Willamette.

Portland Street Fairs

Thru Sept. 8, see websites for details
Every Portland neighborhood has its eccentricities. Discover them all while enjoying live music, food, shopping, and more. A few highlights:

Portland Kennel Club Dog Show

July 20–22, Portland Expo Center
Fulfill your dream of watching purebred poodles with holier-than-thou personalities—better groomed than you, even on your best day—perform all sorts of tricks.   

PDX Pop Now!

July 21–22, AudioCinema
Fifteen years in, the mandate at this beloved music fest hasn’t changed: all ages, 100 percent local, entirely free. Highlights this time around include ethereal folk outfit Lenore, rapper Donte Thomas, and fiery instrumental trio Máscaras.


July 27–29, The Armory
Come summer, theater often means Shakespeare in the park. Not so at Portland Center Stage’s annual playwriting festival, which features free staged readings of four fresh works. In its 20th year, the offerings riff on school integration, nail-salon pilgrimages, and a man with many avian friends.

Portland Zine Symposium

11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat–Sun, July 28–29, Wattles Boys and Girls Club
Delve deep into DIY zine culture and explore the many facets of independent publishing with more than 150 tables from around the world, plus workshops, panels, and discussions. Free childcare provided!

Portlandia Mermaid Parade

Noon–4 p.m. Sat, Jul. 29, Japanese American Historical Plaza
Don’t believe mermaids exist? Come watch merpeople of all stripes flood the streets of Portland. Or, better yet, join them—you might just be convinced.

Portland Festival Symphony Concerts

Aug. 4–12, Portland Parks
Enrich your summer evenings with classical concerts from the Portland Festival Symphony, directed by Gregory Vajda and Lajos Balogh. Arrive promptly at 6 p.m. and don’t forget your favorite bottle of Merlot, triple crème Brie, and, of course, grape juice for the kiddos.

  • 8/4 – Cathedral Park
  • 8/5 – Glenfair Park
  • 8/11 – Laurelhurst Park
  • 8/12 – Peninsula Park 

Forest for the Trees

Aug 5–11, across Portland
The city is the urban canvas for this annual weeklong festival, which brings international artists to town to collaborate with Portland counterparts on large-scale public murals.

Portland Art Museum’s Miller Family Free Day

10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun, Aug. 5, Portland Art Museum
Calling all art admirers: From abstract expressionism to vintage automobiles, take in all the exhibits your heart desires at the Portland Art Museum.

Unwind 2018

4 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Fri, Aug. 17, Portland Saturday Market
TGIF! The work week is over. Enjoy free live music presented by the Portland Saturday Market, with cocktails, wine, beer, and food available for purchase. 

PDX Adult Soapbox Derby

9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat, Aug 18, Mount Tabor
Every year, the laws of gravity, aerodymanics, and creative whackery buckle and warp as homemade conveyances hurtle down the twisty slopes of Mount Tabor in an expletive-filled race to the bottom. High-velocity hijinks guaranteed.

Festa Italiana Portland

11 a.m.–11 p.m. Thu–Sat, Aug. 23-25, Pioneer Courthouse Square
Spend a weekend celebrating Italian American culture, with nonstop entertainment, wine and beer gardens, and, most importantly, Italian cuisine. Magnifico!

Art in the Pearl

Sept. 1–3, Pearl District’s North Park Blocks
The annual outdoor art fest returns for the 22nd year. Roam Northwest Portland’s Park Blocks and enjoy a plethora of art vendors, take in some theater and music, or join in a variety of hands-on activities for people of all ages. 

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