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Editor Pick

Budget Friendly Portland

Updated: April 19, 2023

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

Elephants Delicatessen

115 N.W. 22nd Ave.
The flagship location for a local chain, has the feel of a European market, with separate counters where you can order sandwiches, wood-fired pizzas, pot pies, specialty cheeses, charcuterie plates, olives and antipasti. Whether you choose to dine in or to-go, a filling breakfast, lunch or dinner can be had for $10 or less. Be sure to try their Tomato Orange soup ($3.95 for a half-pint)—it’s a longtime customer favorite made with tomatoes and fresh orange juice.

First Thursday Deals

Various locations
On the hunt for free things to do in Portland? The Portland Art Museum waives its admission fee on the first Thursday evening of the month (5 to 8 p.m.), which will save you about $20 per adult. If you visit during the day, be sure to show your AAA membership card for a discount. Many art galleries participate in First Thursday events, too, with walks and evening receptions taking place in the Pearl District, Old Town and other neighborhoods.

Food Carts

Various locations
Tacos, noodle soups, poutine, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and more—Portland’s food cart scene offers the chance to try dozens of foodie specialties for a low price per dish. You’ll find food carts at Pioneer Courthouse Square, on S.W. Third Avenue (between S.W. Washington and S.W. Harvey Milk streets) and on S.W. Fifth Avenue (between S.W. Harvey Milk and Oak streets), among other spots. The Cartopia Food Cart Pod (1207 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) is popular for late-night cheap eats (it stays open until 3 a.m.) and features a covered seating area with fire pits.

Forest Park

Accessed from various locations, including N.W. Cornell Road and N.W. Thurman Street
Get some fresh air—for free, of course—on a hike at Forest Park, considered one of the largest city parks in the United States. While the massive natural area covers a whopping 5,172 acres, you can get a taste of the scenery by hiking from several popular trailheads in the southeastern section; Lower Macleay Park, Upper Macleay Park and Pittock Mansion are popular access points for the 30-mile Wildwood Trail. Be sure to consult the Forest Park website for trail maps and conditions.Read More

Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Naito Parkway between S.W. Harrison and N.W. Gilsan streets
A walk, jog or bicycle ride through Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park is one of the fun things to do in Portland that won’t cost you a dime. (Well, it may cost you a few bucks if you rent some wheels from the city’s bike share program, Biketown.) A paved promenade follows the Willamette River’s west bank for 1.5 miles, with plenty of benches, grassy areas and things to see along the way.

Ken's Artisan Bakery

338 N.W. 21st Ave.
Wondering where the locals go for a quick, cheap breakfast in Portland? Check out for freshly baked breads, croissants, pastries and espresso (they also serve sandwiches and salads daily for lunch and pizza on Monday nights). Grab a treat—perhaps an Oregon croissant, stuffed with hazelnut cream and local berries—and enjoy it inside, on the outdoor patio or to-go. Most bakery items cost $4-$8.

Pittock Mansion

3229 N.W. Pittock Dr.
One of the best places to go for Portland sightseeing on a budget is Pittock Mansion. It’s free to wander the grounds and soak up panoramas of downtown from a scenic overlook behind the mansion. Benches and a grassy area encourage visitors to sit and stay a while. If you want to peek inside the French Renaissance-style mansion, admission is $11 for a self-guiding tour to see how one of Portland’s wealthy first families lived.Read More

Portland Saturday Market

2 S.W. Naito Pkwy.
Browse funky, crafty and quirky local wares at the Portland Saturday Market, which sets up each weekend (Sundays, too), March–December in Tom McCall Waterfront Park near the Burnside Bridge. One-of-a-kind artwork, jewelry, home décor, beauty products and more can be found at reasonable prices if you know how to haggle. Free live music performances give you even more bang for your buck.

Public Transportation (TriMet)

Save money on your Portland vacation by utilizing the city’s extensive public transportation system (TriMet). TriMet’s MAX Light Rail and the Portland Streetcar provide easy access to many areas of the city, including downtown, the Central Eastside, Portland State University, Northwest/Nob Hill and even Washington Park. For cheap travel from the airport to downtown, take the MAX Light Rail—trains depart every 15 minutes from the lower level of Portland International Airport. Fare for the MAX or the Portland Streetcar is just $2.50 for unlimited travel in a 2.5 hour period (or $5 for a day pass).

Washington Park

S.W. Rose Garden Way & S.W. Kingston Ave.
Budget-friendly sightseeing options abound in Washington Park, from the hillside blooms of the International Rose Test Garden and the towering conifers inside Hoyt Arboretum to the somber details of The Oregon Holocaust Memorial. You could spend an afternoon or an entire day exploring this crown jewel of the city’s park system. A free shuttle operates seasonally, and a MAX Light Rail station located within the park makes getting there a breeze.Read More
Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

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