Portland, OR For Cheap: Our Recommendations

Ahh Portland, Oregon… we love this city! Not only because it’s gorgeous, green, surrounded by mountains, and filled with strange and interesting people, but also because you don’t have to spend much money to have a good time here. As Portlandia residents and young, financially strained females, we (TTW’s Hannah and Kelsey) know the ins and outs of all things cheap around the city. We’ll break it down for you.


Getting Around:

  • Portland is very bike friendly, whether it’s riding your own or renting one. Both East and West side waterfronts are super accessible and can basically connect you to any part of the city. P-town also has a great deal of roads that are designed primarily for bicycles – save your gas money and pedal for a beer at one of the many kick-ass breweries around.
  • If you don’t have a car, worry not – public transportation here is awesome (and affordable)! TriMet is responsible for the public buses, which generally run every 5 to 20 minutes depending on where you are in the city, and tickets are $2.50 for 2.5 hours or $5 for the whole day. Download the TriMet app on your phone and get real-time estimates of when the next bus arrival is, plus you can easily download tickets using their PDX Bus App. The MAX and streetcar lines are just as easy to use and can get you all over the city – even to the parks!


  • Because Portland is the “City of Roses” going to the International Rose Garden is a must. During the summer there are free/guided tours daily, and aside from the roses themselves you can’t beat the views – the Portland skyline is right below you, as well as the sight of Mt. Hood lurking in the distance.


  • Portland has AMAZING parks, and they’re obviously free. Huge trees, green moss, and lush plant life – you don’t need much more! For hiking, Hannah recommends going to Forest Park, located in Northwest Portland. It’s the largest urban forest in the U.S. and has a variety of hikes of different lengths and difficulty levels. Another favorite is Mt. Tabor Park in Southeast. Mt. Tabor is more developed – it’s home to water reservoirs, has a playground, dog park, and beautiful views of both the city and Mt Hood on clear days. We’d also like to give a shout out to Laurelhurst and Cathedral parks. Laurelhurst has a photogenic pond in the center, as well as a large dog park and plenty of spots to picnic, lounge, or play Frisbee. Cathedral Park has iconic views of St Johns Bridge, as well as room to spread out and enjoy yourself.
  • If you want a viewpoint of Mt. Hood, the Gorge and Mt. St. Helens, then Rocky Butte is the place to go. Located in Northeast, it doesn’t require any hiking for a fantastic, panoramic view of the entire area. By the way, did we mention the Columbia River Gorge? Simply known as “the Gorge” around town, this stunning area is just a 20 minute drive from Portland, and is home to an endless number of hikes, waterfalls, and overlooks on both the Washington and Oregon sides.

Around Town

  • P-town is also known for its drinking scene, so the hole-in-the-wall pubs and dive bars do not disappoint. EastBurn Bar and Restaurant has $2.50 pints of microbrews every Tuesday, plus killer deals every other night of the week, and there are many happy hours around here worth attending. In the afternoons, Basecamp and Burnside Breweries both offer some sweet discounts and tasty food choices while Departure (downtown) has a more high-end yet affordable happy hour. Some of our favorite dives include the Water Trough and Bar of the Gods (both off East Hawthorne), Laurelthirst (East Burnside), the Ash Street Saloon and Yamhill Pub (SW Portland).


  • When Hannah’s looking for some cheap food after a climbing sesh, she usually turns to Ole! Ole! for their $5 Al Pastor burritos. They’re huge! She can get two full meals out of one burrito. The food carts here are also renowned for fantastic fare and decent prices, and there are literally more than 500 to choose from. Some hotspots include the downtown blocks of SW 3rd Ave and Stark St., SW 5th and Oak, SE Belmont and 45th, SE 52nd and Foster, and N. Skidmore and N. Mississippi. With everything from luxury grilled cheese sandwiches to authentic Vietnamese, you can find it at the food carts.
  • As voracious readers and avid writers, of course we love the Portland bookstore and coffee shop scene. If you visit Portlandia, it’s basically required that you visit Powell’s Books. You don’t even have to buy anything to have fun walking around looking at all of the titles and cool knickknacks – there’s the famous West Burnside location with multiple rooms filled to the brim with books, or the East Hawthorne location with a slightly smaller and more laid-back feel. You can sell old novels to either one, or select some new reading from the shelves, sip a latte, then simply give the book back at the end of your session. Kelsey has read many books over the course of a few days just sitting in the Hawthorne coffee shop.
  • Even in the strange and mystifying world of dating we’re living in, there are still some pretty rad and sexy places to take someone out in the City of Roses. One of Kelsey’s personal favorites is the Kennedy School located in NE Portlandia. It used to be an elementary school and was renovated into a movie theater, community space, restaurant, brewery and soaking pool – you can pay $5/hour to hang out in their giant outdoor hot tub, and simply pad down the hallway to grab a pitcher of beer or a Greyhound mixed drink ($4) for your bae.


  • Looking to see some live music? Okay… we’re going to let you in on a local secret, but keep it quiet. You’ve got to get on the Goodfoot! Located on SE Stark St., the Goodfoot has live music almost every night with prices around $5. Plus, on Tuesday nights, they usually have a free show with some of the best local acts around. It’s a teeny venue, but the family vibes and great sound provide for an excellent experience with lots of dancing involved. Plus, they have a pretty sweet upstairs area with tons of local art plastering the walls, pool tables, and cheap drinks. It’s the local go-to for a young crowd and great tunes. Downtown, the Ash Street Saloon or Dante’s also offer fantastic music and (generally) cheap drinks.
  • SHOPPING. Portland is known for its anti-corporate agenda, and there’s only a couple of real malls people go to. Kelsey prefers to stick to smaller boutiques, but those can get spendy, so here’s the real deal – THRIFT STORES. Portland is teeming with thrift stores, and you can find some truly killer deals on brand-new stuff. Kelsey has found unused American Apparel dresses for 75 percent off retail, practically unworn Birkenstocks, tennis shoes… You name it. The East Hawthorne area rules, especially the Red Light, which is home to everything from festy gear to sexy cocktail dresses (all for cheap). If you’re looking for more outdoorsy gear, then Next Adventure is the local favorite for used gear – their bargain basement is filled with tons of different gear for hiking, skiing, climbing – you name it. Also, the U.S. Outdoor Store downtown has an entire room upstairs with half-off gear from the previous season – buy your brand-new snowboarding jacket for next to nothing in the middle of July here.

There you have it folks – Portland on a dime. We hope this information is useful for you!

About the authors:



Kelsey Rains is a writer, editor, world traveler, and entrepreneur mostly based out of Portland, Oregon. Kelsey’s first ventures into writing and traveling started in college when she studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for five months. The experience left her speechless (for once) and she vowed to continue journeying through her 20’s. Kelsey has worked all sorts of jobs, but her main passion is writing and creating. She hopes to encourage others to fearlessly follow their passions and live fully in each moment. Like “Kelsey Rains” on Facebook, or check out her writing here: www.kelseycreating.com



Hannah Ayers is currently a nanny living in Portland, OR. She started traveling internationally at the ripe ol’ age of six and doesn’t want to stop anytime soon. The only activity that rivals her love of travel writing is her passion for rock climbing. She has enjoyed climbing in Squamish, BC, Leavenworth, WA, and most recently Malawi, Africa. She looks forward to her upcoming climbing trip to Bishop, CA.

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