Five fun things to do outside in Portland (that won't cost you a dime)

Every year when the snow thaws and the sun begins to peek out from behind the clouds, we look forward to daylight savings time and springing our clocks forward one hour. It’s time to put those Netflix marathons on pause and get outside!

Portland, Oregon is filled with a wide range of easily accessible outdoor activities, whether you're a visitor to our city, or a seasoned local headed out for a close-to-home adventure. We're surrounded by water and forests that offer plenty of things to do whether its the weekend or you're just getting off work.

Here are 5 of our favorite activities for enjoying time outside!

1. Swim in the Willamette River

Thanks in part to activism by the Human Access Project and other environmental advocates, the water quality of the Willamette River is approved for summer swimming most of the year. 

With a river running straight through the city, there are plenty of opportunities to swim or dip your feet. And in the summer, the heat remains present through 5 pm and beyond - what better way to cool off while skipping out on traffic than a nice swim?

If you're looking to mix things up even further, renting a stand-up paddle board or kayak is a serene yet lively activity that can be relatively dry (if you don’t fall off!) while enjoying the sensation of floating on the river. Even better, paddle boarding and kayaking through the center of the city provide stunning views of the Rose City that you wouldn’t be able to see on land. 

Our favorite spot: the docks off the Eastbank Esplanade off SE Clay (one block off SE Hawthorne Blvd)

swim docks on SE portlandAmy and Carlos enjoy dipping their feet at the Eastbank Esplanade dock. Pictured with Looptworks Packable Travel Backpack and Duffel Bag.

2. Explore the Wetland Wildlife

Take some time to enjoy the sunlight at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Spanning 141 acres, this floodplain wetland is an ideal location for picnics, doggy dates and early evening strolls. This refuge is one of Portland’s last marshland locations, and is a terrific habitat for wildlife, including more than 175 species of birds. Don’t forget your binoculars! If birds aren’t your thing, there is an abundance of wildlife in Oaks Bottom that you wouldn’t ordinarily see in other refuge locations. Nutria and beavers populate the backwaters, and salamanders, newts, and frogs can be found year round by the aptly named Tadpole Pond. 

nike bike town station

3. Go for a bike ride

With a network of neighborhood greenways crisscrossing the city, Portland is a friendly place to explore by bike. In addition to being a fantastic method of exploring the city, it has a remarkable side effect: it's great exercise!

If you don't have a bike or a friend you can borrow one from, the Biketown bike share program features 1,000 bikes at over 100 stations across downtown and several neighborhoods and is convenient and affordable. Take the scenic route to your destination to explore new neighborhoods and the different quadrants of Portland, or ride over one of our many bridges to get a new perspective on the River City.

4. Tour Washington Park

Head up to Washington Park for access to an abundance of activities great for the entire family! A forest in the heart of the city, this park is home to the Oregon Zoo, the Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and more. Accessible by foot, bike and public transit, this park has everything that needed for an entertaining day out in one of Portland’s favorite attractions.

Make sure to check out the calendar at to stay up to date on the latest events in the park!

5. Visit a Farmers Market

It’s no secret that Portlanders love local produce. And what better place to explore seasonal offerings than at one of the many Farmers Markets! With a market in just about every neighborhood, they're a great place to meet with up friends and family to spend an afternoon. Be sure to bring along a bag to properly store goods, and you’ll be all set! (our favorite items for this are our packable travel bags, which are small enough to tote in a jacket pocket stuffed into their own stuff sack)

Find more info on the locations of our favorite outdoor markets here. 

Bonus: Visit the Looptworks Retail Workshop

Here’s one more fun activity (tooting our own horn) visit the Looptworks Retail Workshop and get a tour of how we upcycle excess materials into new products and see what we’re upcycling next!

These are just a few of our favorite activities outside for taking advantage of the sunlight. In order to store swim trunks or a towel along with your day to day belongings, our packable backpack definitely comes in handy.

Please feel free to comment what you most enjoy about Portland below!