See? I'm not the only one: Must-See Free Attractions in and around the Rose City. #1 on their list... Multnomah Falls and the Historic Columbia River Hwy. To that I'll add more than a few of my own.:
Just available just across the Big River in SW Washington is the Vancouver Farmer's Market which still allows dogs whereas Portland's Saturday Market no longer does. In fact, there are at least a dozen farmer's markets in the 'burbs around Portland. Besides the best local produce, fresh flowers and nursery stock there's almost always plenty of cool craft booths, music, great food and of course - people watching to enjoy. We have such interesting characters around here, People Watching should be the official regional sport.
First Thursday Gallery Walk. And if you love the arts, and you happen to be here in October you may also really enjoy the Portland Open Studios Tour. A great opportunity to see over a hundred local artists in their own studios at work.
In the spring and summer many of the local flower wholesalers have free frestivals to open their display gardens to the public: Woodland Tulip Festival (WA) . Hulda Klager Lilac Festival (also in Woodland, WA). Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (Woodburn, OR - don't get confused). Shreiner's Iris Gardens (Salem, WA) (where Mr. Stang proposed) Heirloom Roses Display gardens (St. Paul, OR) . Swan Island Dahlia Show (in Canby, OR not actually on Swan Island). This is of course a coy, and highly effective marketing ploy to get you to place pre-orders for the next season. And come away with a ton of very cheap, beautiful, fresh flowers if you've a mind to. (Tip - if you're planning a wedding on a budget, it's great to do so these peak bloom times as you can get a ton of gorgeous flowers, cheap right from the field).
More as I think of them...
All of these free attractions are probably one of the reasons a writer for the Travel section of the NY Times recently said, "Amid economic catastrophe — Oregon has the country’s second-highest unemployment rate — there was a general indifference to wealth. In its place was a dedication to the things that really matter: hearty food and drink, cultural pursuits both high and low, days in the outdoors and evenings out with friends. It’s the good life, and in Portland it still comes cheap." In other words - we're broke but we don't care.