Portland’s Best Free (& Cheap) Family Events in October

two smiling kids lay in the fallen leaves during fall free things to do Shutterstock

From exploring hay mazes to making crafts, there are a ton of things to do in Portland this fall without having to break the bank

Autumn in Portland is here, and you can tell because families are heading to pumpkin patches and preparing for Halloween festivities. Sure, the summer sunshine and heat might be dissipating but you can still get out and about for fabulous fall festivals and other fun activities that don’t cost an arm and a leg. In fact, there are an abundance of endeavors that are downright affordable for families looking for thrills on the cheap.

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Put these free and cheap things to do in October on your calendar

Schedule Tree Time
Head to the Hoyt Arboretum with your preschoolers for a story and guided walk along the trails. You’ll explore the natural surroundings and may even get your hands dirty. Mon. & Sat. in Oct. Event details.

Play at Wee Wednesdays
Hoot-n-Annie’s is the place to be mid-week. Watch amazing local artists with the kids while they laugh, dance, and sing. Wed. in Oct. Event details.

Head to a family-friendly concert
Get some dinner and rock out with Mr. Hoo at the Oregon Public House to get you through Hump Day with the kids. Wed. in Oct. Event details.

Enjoy family play time
Play and learning go hand in hand. Bring the kids to the library to play with books, toys, and music, and have all the room you need to get your wiggles out together. Fri. in Oct. Event details.

Find treasures at the market
There’s handmade happiness each Saturday at this vibrant weekly artisan pop-up village for local small businesses creating arts, crafts, and foods from the Pacific Northwest. Sat. in Oct. Event details.

Do Discount Day at OMSI
Admission to OMSI is just $2 per person the first Sunday of every month, along with discounts to the theater, planetarium, and submarine tours. Oct. 2. Event details.

Celebrate the harvest 
Get your fall started in Hood River with fresh produce, apple cider, and pumpkin-carving contests, plus the kids will love activities like a bouncy house and rock wall. Oct. 7-9. Event details.

Related: Oh My Gourd! Our Favorite Pumpkin Patches for Portland Families 

Play at the Pavilion
Bring the littles to Friday Performance & Play outdoors at the Sellwood Community House Pavilion for family-friendly music and dance. Fri. in Oct. Event details.

Listen to live music
Local bands Jessa Campbell and The Saplings, Tevis Hodge Jr., Red Yarn, and Jump at the Sun will perform at this porch concert series from the Cathedral Park Performing Arts Collective. Oct. 8 & 22. Event details.

Support the Congenital Heart Walk 
Visit the Oregon Zoo and make a donation at this family-friendly event to support research about improving the quality of life for children with heart defects. Oct 8. Event details.

See giant pumpkins in action
Don’t miss this silly annual race featuring costumed competitors paddling boats made from actual hollowed out pumpkins. Further your pumpkin fix with weigh offs, pumpkin bowling, and other gourd-related activities. Oct. 15 & 16. Event details.

Drop in for crafts, stories
Stop by the Craft Factory each Saturday morning for Open Studio time and get set up with mountains worth of crafting materials to choose from. There’s also a story time. Sat. in Oct. Event details.

Visit llamas, sheep, and goats
Head to this festival celebrating natural fibers and appreciate where they came from by making friends with cuddly livestock. Learn from demonstrations and make your own crafts. Oct. 15 & 16. Event details.

Step up to the mic
Bring your family band, your improv, your singing voice, your jokes to this open mic night that’s just for kids and families. Just remember to reserve your performance slot. Oct. 14 & 28. Event details.

Related: Best of the Fests! 7 Fall Festivals That Celebrate the Season

Watch cartoons on the weekend
Kids and kids at heart are encouraged to come watch epic animation and get their fill of sugary cereal all weekend long at the 4th Wall. Sat. & Sun. in Oct. Event details.

Enjoy Community Art Day
Come take an art class, work on a collaborative project, and let the kids do their own thing at the creation station during this free, public event at Rose City Book Pub. Oct. 9 & 23. Event details.

Close out Hispanic Heritage Month
Bring the kids to celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage Month with pinatas, a low rider car show, and much more. Oct. 15. Event details.

Explore corn mazes
Get lost in an epic, all-ages corn maze at Sauvie Island that winds through almost two miles of corn. Bring snacks for the journey, which can take up to 45 minutes. Sauvie Island also hosts another favorite of the harvest season that takes a creative approach to their annual corn maze with a changing theme that often includes giant letters carved into the corn. Thu.-Sun through Oct. 31.

Celebrate Dia de Muertos
Everyone is welcome at the family-friendly festival where you’ll enjoy stories, songs, crafts, and more. Oct. 25. Event details.

Head to a Killer Pumpkin Fest 
Celebrate all things Halloween with storytelling, pumpkin beer, costume contests, ax throwing, pumpkin smashing, and many more activities for a full day of spookiness and fun. Oct. 29. Event details.

These events are always free in Portland

kids trick or treat in costume at a door on Halloween

Go Trick or Treating
Grab a borrowed costume or one from a local consignment shop and head to one of our favorite neighborhoods to trick or treat on Halloween.

Visit a Favorite Museum
From the tiniest tots to grandparents, and every age in-between, there’s something fascinating for everyone at the hands-on, interactive exhibits at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Explore the Physics Lab and the Science Playground, or hop aboard the USS Blueback Submarine. On the first Sunday of every month, admission at OMSI is just $2, and Submarine tours, Planetarium shows and the theater are also discounted.

Kids 17 and younger are always free at the Portland Art Museum, where families can get inspired in the enormous galleries full of art. Let kids take the lead by chatting about the colors and shapes they see, or which pieces they particularly like. The museum also participates in the Blue Star Museums Program, which offers free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families.

If you’ve got little train lovers, be sure to make a stop at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Railroad enthusiasts can check out historic trains and browse the latest exhibit. Admission is always free, although donations are accepted and appreciated. The center is open Thursday through Sunday from 1-5 p.m.

At the Historic Belmont Firehouse, families can explore hands-on exhibits, stories and history while learning fire and safety education. Kids will love checking out the fire pole and the emergency response simulator, as well as all of the firefighting tools and equipment. Every Wednesday is Open House, and families are welcome to come and visit free from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. The firehouse also offers Safety Saturdays on the second Saturday of each month.

For history buffs, the Oregon Historical Society awaits you. Located downtown, and always free for Multnomah County residents (with proof of residency), the museum houses a variety of exhibits designed to bring Oregon’s history to life. The permanent History Hub exhibit delves into the topic of diversity, with hands-on activities and displays.

Related: Your Guide to Free & Discount Days at Portland Museums Is Here

Head to a Park or Playground
Portland has no shortage of parks and playgrounds, including spaces where kids of all abilities can play. It’s always a treat to visit your neighborhood green space. Why not shake things up and visit a park in a different neighborhood? Set a family challenge to visit a new Portland park before summer ends. You can find all of it’s as easy as packing snacks and heading outdoors.

Catch a Flick
At McMenamin’s Kennedy School, families can enjoy second-run movies while relaxing on comfy couches and snacking on pizza, burgers and salads from the menu, along with wine, beer and ciders for those over 21. Movie tickets are $5 for adults, and just $3 for kids age 11 and younger.

Take a Hike
Pack up some snacks and water, slick on the sunscreen and head out for a glorious hike on one of the many trails around Portland. Younger kids might enjoy adventuring around Hoyt Arboretum, which has a variety trails, including a 1-mile paved path perfect for strollers. Tryon Creek State Natural Area has plenty of nature trails, plus guided nature walks and a junior ranger program to get kids motivated. Kids will also love exploring the flora and fauna of the Leach Botantical Garden. For kids who can do more serious hiking, Latourell Falls has a 2.4 mile loop, gorgeous waterfall views and is often less crowded than Multnomah Falls.

Related: Spectacular Waterfall Trails to Hit Now


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