Low-cost funFun, thrifty things to do in Oregon

First published 8 March 2022

Want to get out and about in Oregon, but don’t want to break the bank doing it? Here are 10 awesome ways to spend the day, without emptying your bank account.

With so much to do and see, it’s easy to get out and about without having to spend a lot of money.

And remember, Amtrak Cascades is the most cost effective way to travel with the increasing gas prices and traffic congestion!

Scenic Bikeways

Scenic Bikeway routes are the best bike rides in Oregon and showcase beautiful scenery, state history and local communities. They run past state parks on paved paths and roads, cross mountain passes and high deserts.

The Oregon Scenic Bikeway program is the first of its kind in the country. The routes are nominated by locals and selected by Oregon State Parks. Bikeways are official state-designated routes with printable maps, gps and on-road signage.

Visit Travel Oregon Ride the Scenic Bikeways for additional information. Download the Oregon Scenic Bikeways Guide.

Remember, you can bring your bike along on Amtrak Cascades!

Salem Murals Invite Contemplation, Exploration

Artists have found plenty of inspiration in Salem's natural spaces – and how we interact with our environments – in creating a handful of colorful displays in Salem's downtown area.

Damien Gilley's "Mirror Maze" mural, for instance, draws on the glass-paneled buildings nearby to invite visitors to contemplate how they engage with modern, urban environments. Gilley drew on ideas of structure, community, and reflection in creating the brightly colored mural, which can be viewed on a rounded wall in the alley between Commercial and Liberty Streets NE.

Nearby, the towering "Waldo Stewards" mural (painted by Blaine Fontana) honors Salem's Waldo Park – the world's smallest redwood park. The painting, adorned with woodpeckers and other vibrant graphics designed to evoke notions of discovery, covers the east stairwell of the Chemeketa Parkade at 338 Commercial St NE; at several stories tall, it's almost impossible to miss.

Finally, James Mattingly's "Theatrical Heartscape" honors the rich history of the Elsinore Theater through depictions of iconic names in vaudeville and cinema – including W.C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin. Notably, the mural puts the Elsinore Theater into a broader context that expands beyond the city’s borders. “It doesn’t necessarily tell a Salem story,” says Christine D'Arcy, chair of the Salem Public Art Commission. “It tells a story about theater life in the early 20th century.” The mural can be viewed on the rear wall of the Elsinore Theater at 170 High St SE.

Take A Walk In The Woods

If you can't find a peaceful trail to hike or bike in Oregon, it just doesn't exist anywhere. You don't need to pay to experience the beauty around you in Oregon!

The options are endless... and absolutely worth it!

Helpful Tips for Exploring Oregon’s Outdoors
• Acquire the appropriate permits (a day-use permit is required in some areas).
• Wear appropriate clothing and footwear (including sunglasses and sunscreen).
• Carry plenty of water and snacks.
• Bring a printed map (cell service is limited in some outdoor areas).
• Help preserve Oregon’s natural spaces

Relax At Lost Lake

Lost Lake has been a favorite tourist destination for more than a century. A $9 entrance fee helps a non-profit organization maintain the old lodge, cabins and other improvements around the lake.

The lake is an ideal introduction to the outdoors for families. The easy Lost Lake Loop Hike features lots of places for kids to poke sticks in the water, collect fir cones, and delight in the extensive system of boardwalks that meander through ancient forests on the east shore and wetlands on the north side. Rowboats and canoes can be rented at the lodge, and there are several good swimming spots for kids along the lake shore. Perhaps the greatest attraction at Lost Lake is simply the view of Mount Hood's beautiful northwest face.

Tillamook Cheese Factory Tour

Tour The Tillamook Cheese Factory, where 171,000 pounds of cheese is made every day!

While the entire nation is familiar with the award-winning Tillamook cheeses, here in the Pacific Northwest we have the added benefit of enjoying their more than 40 offerings of ice cream.

The Ultimate Lazy River Float

Grab an inter tube and soak up the last rays of summer sun on a river. Some popular spots to float are the Sandy River, Deschutes River, and Clackamas River.

Go To The Beach

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is absolutely incredible— and it was in The Goonies! Have a picnic, explore the tide pools, or just relax with a book and breath in the crisp ocean air. The Cannon Beach area is also a walkable town so no real need to rent a car.

Take the Amtrak Cascades train to Portland and there are bus options to take you to the shore...

Explore the Gorge

There’s an endless amount of adventures to be had at the Columbia River Gorge— and they’re all free!

Visit Multnomah Falls (and countless other waterfalls), go swimming at Rooster Rock, relax in The Shire, or bike along the majestic Historic Columbia River up to the Vista House at Crown Point.

The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon Has More Waterfalls Than Anywhere Else In The Country.

Tour the Breweries

Make sure to check out Deschutes Brewery where you can take a free guided tour of the facilities, sipping four complimentary beer samples along the way!

For the bold, explore several options on the Portland Brewery Beer Tour!

Stop and Smell the Roses

The International Rose Test Garden is easily accessible in Portland's beloved Washington Park. Wander among the rows of fragrant and beautiful roses.

And of course, it’s totally free.

Portland is the City of Roses, after all!

See a Real Shipwreck

The Peter Iredale washed ashore in Warrenton over 100 years ago, and you can still go visit it today. While in the area, don't forget to visit Astoria as well...

Visit The Jordan Schnitzer Museum Of Art

This art museum in Eugene is beautiful on the inside, and outside.

Although usually adult tickets cost $5

Both 18-and-under visitors and college students have free entry.

There’s also pay-what-you-wish admission every Wednesday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and free general admission to everyone on the first Friday of every month.

Jordan Schnitzer Museum Of Art

Find Sasquatch

He's out there. Explore and maybe you will spot him.