20 Totally FREE Things to Do in Portland This Summer
Most things cost money; it's one of life's little bummers. Want to have fun? See art? Catch a concert? Attend a lecture? Get ready to cough up. Luckily, though, Portland summers offer an escape from all that—the city utilizes its copious green space and just-right summer weather to host a slew of zero-cost outdoor events that keep the fun flowing without causing a hit to your wallet. Here are some of our favorites.
Cathedral Park Jazz Festival
July 15–17, Cathedral Park
For a 42nd year, some of the city's brightest jazz talent will gather beneath and around the St. Johns Bridge for three days of free music. The 2022 lineup includes the collective Bridge City Soul, the Mel Brown Trio, experimental group Brown Calculus, the house orchestra from N Mississippi's 1905, and more.
July 15–17, South Park Blocks
A new free festival organized and presented by the Portland Parks Foundation, Paseo looks primed to become a pretty big deal. More than 40 artists—drag performers, DJs, poets, musicians, and dancers among them—will gather in and around downtown’s Director Park to present a staggeringly diverse program. Keep your eyes peeled for sets from author/DJ Emilly Prado and queer scene mainstay DJ ALoSO, punk band Chainsaw Girl, a two-spirit drag show, and lots more.
Flicks on the Bricks
July 22–24, Pioneer Courthouse Square
Typically a summer-long affair, Portland's Living Room will condense its annual outdoor movie series to a single weekend this year. Starting with Spider-Man: No Way Home on Friday and wrapping with Roman Holiday on Sunday, the family-friendly engagement (raunchy titles like The Hangover will screen edited cuts) is slated to burn through 10 titles in three days, courtesy in part of a fancy new LED screen that allows for daylight screenings.
JAW New Play Festival
July 22–24, Portland Center Stage
PCS's annual staged reading gauntlet returns, packing four full-length plays, a showcase of youth work, dance performances, music, and more into a single weekend. Highlights include an untitled piece from New York comedian Larry Owens, who starred in the original production of fresh Best Musical Tony winner A Strange Loop, and an adaptation of Agamemnon set in 1969 Oakland.
Opera a la Cart
Various locations through July 31
Inspired by Portland’s countless food carts, Portland Opera’s “Opera a la Cart” brings local operatic talent to wineries, art festivals, and markets across town. The concert-ready truck sports a fold-out stage and a classic A-frame-style sandwich board listing the day's “menu” (program). All events are open to the public, though some require an RSVP.
Washington Park Summer Festival
Aug 5–7 , Washington Park
"Portland’s Crown Jewel" will once again come alive with the sound of music for this eclectic annual festival at its Rose Garden Amphitheater. The 2022 lineup includes flamenco, opera, a screening of Questlove's award-winning documentary Summer of Soul, and a performance from Albina Music Trust called "Time Sound" that features reimagined pieces from multiple generations of local jazz performers.
PDX Adult Soapbox Derby
Aug 20, Mt Tabor Park
Whether it's speed, style, or novelty that gets you down the mountain, the Adult Soapbox Derby has a prize for you. If you’ve been waiting for a chance at childhood redemption, have a “derby life” tattoo, or (like us) you just want to watch some of Portland’s finest cruise Mount Tabor in a hot dog car, race time’s at 10 a.m.
Hawthorne Street Fair
Aug 28, Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard
The Hawthorne neighborhood will keep the party going on one of the city's oldest street fairs in late August with its 38th annual event. This year, organizers are promising over 100 vendors and nonprofit, plus live music, beer gardens, kid-friendly activities, and sidewalk sales from the strip's copious boutiques.
Original Practice Shakespeare Festival
Various parks through Aug 28
Most weekend nights this summer, you can catch the folks at OPS having fun with Will’s catalogue: rain or shine, the troupe is bringing hits like The Tragedie of Macbeth and lesser-knowns like The Merry Wives of Windsor to Laurelhurst Park, Irving Park, Mt Tabor, Cully Park, and more, typically in productions imbued with the company's own irreverent twist.
Movies in the Park
Various locations through Sept 3
Portland Parks and Recreation’s annual “Summer Free For All” includes a slew of dusk screenings of family-friendly films in public parks throughout the city. Catch new Disney classic Encanto at Cully Park, get your requisite yearly Goonies screening in at Alberta Park, or check out Spielberg's West Side Story (2021) al fresco at Overlook Park—all for free!
Last Thursday of every month through Aug 28, Northeast Alberta Street
For 25 years, Alberta Street's Last Thursday has been the spot you’re bound to stumble on a fascinating gallery opening or so-cute-you-just-have-to-buy-it handmade bowl. The event runs 4–9 pm on the final Thursday of every summer month, and by evening, becomes one big street party, with some live music at select venues running later (though age requirements vary for indoor concerts).
Tuesdays through Aug 30, Pioneer Courthouse Square
Noon Tunes, sponsored by KINK and the Oregonian, is back for its 30th year for weekly lunch-hour concerts designed to break up sweaty weekday afternoons. Catch blues outfit The Rae Gordon band (8/2) or folk-rock Portlanders Chasing Ebenezer (8/16) will you chow down on your workday lunch.
Daily through Sept 1, Citywide
You know it’s summer in Portland when you catch a caravan of fluorescent-wheeled cyclists blaring disco on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday. A season-long festival that puts Portland’s bike culture front and center, Pedalpalooza has been bringing bike enthusiasts together since 2003 with hundreds of rides throughout the summer, including the World Naked Bike Ride, a global protest on oil dependency.
Concerts in the Parks
Various locations through Sept 3
Portland’s green spaces transform into full-on song and dance fests come summer, with more than enough live concerts to keep you on your toes. From an Afro-Latin dance party at Mt. Tabor to a family-friendly hip hop festival at George Park, it’s safe to say you won’t be short on entertainment or space to spread out and bust a move, should the spirit possess you.
Art in the Pearl
Sept 3–5, North Park Blocks
This annual craft fair has been going strong since the late ’90s, transforming the North Park Blocks into a momentary oasis of clay, metal, jewelry, prints, and more. The 2022 festival will feature more than 100 vendors and a to-be-announced program of hands-on art activities for kids and adults alike.
Comedy in the Park
Every other Friday through Sept 30, Laurelhurst Park
There’s no drink minimum at Kickstand Comedy’s summer series, hosted in partnership with the Portland Mercury: they swap cocktail tables for picnic blankets and host comics from near and far in Laurelhurst Park. The metaphorical doors are at 6, and local comic/hosts Tory Ward, Seth Allen, and Jaren George start each show at 6:30.
Portland Art Museum Miller Family Free Day
Monthly, Portland Art Museum
Once a month, admission to the Portland Art Museum is completely free. The next event lines up with the opening of Perspectives, an exhibit showcasing photographs by local BIPOC photographers of Portland’s 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Don’t Shoot Portland founder Teressa Raiford will host a panel discussion with the artists from 2–3 p.m., and DJ O.G. One will perform in the AUX/MUTE gallery. Free tickets can be reserved online starting July 13 and will be available on-site on the 16th.
Powell’s Author Events
Various dates year-round, Powell's City of Books & Powell's Cedar Hills Crossing
Powell’s has resumed in-person book event and hosts them most weekdays. They’re almost always free and feature a range of authors; as is the case with their epic stock of books, it’s easy to find something for every reader. You can catch locals like Jon Raymond and national names like Jesse Ball chat about what makes them (and their books) tick, and if you're not feeling a trip to the stores, never fear—virtual events will continue to host authors from around the world and are catalogued on the Powell's YouTube channel.
Every third Thursday, Literary Arts
Every third Thursday of the month, poets from all walks of life convene to share their work. Hosted by nonprofit Literary Arts, the open mic and poetry slam is a safe space for Portland’s literary community to come together, and also features performances from more well-known, seasoned poets. If you’ve ever wanted to show off your poetry chops, here’s your chance; if you'd rather just kick back and absorb some lovely verse, more power to you.