Panorama of downtown Portland at night. View from SE Portland across the Willamette River.
Panorama of downtown Portland at night. View from SE Portland across the Willamette River.

Portland has been popular among twenty-somethings all over the country for years now. Ever since indie rock guitarist Carry Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney sold the idea of the hit show Portlandia, popularity for this Pacific Northwest city has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, so has the rent and the general cost of living. The Portland scene is currently inundated with thousands of young people all hoping to be a part of the thriving art, music, literary and tech communities, and are embracing the precept that Portland is, in fact, the place “young people go to retire.” The best advice for those looking to experience the City of Roses on the cheap: plan an inexpensive trip.

Youth hostels are a cheap solution for those looking to cut lodging costs and this is particularly true for the Portland Hawthorne Hostel. Located in the heart of southeast Portland, you can have a cozy bed, Wi-Fi, and plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants within walking distance for under $30 a night. The only catch is that these fill up fast, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Portland's White Stag sign. Photo by Steve Morgan.
Portland’s White Stag sign. Photo by Steve Morgan.

Portland is well known for its vibrant music scene. Underground garage rock, folk rock and indie music are especially popular and there are numerous cheap and free shows happening every night. Dive bar venues such as The Firkin Tavern, The Know, Kelly’s Olympian and Ash Street Saloon all offer live shows for under $10 a head.

Portland has some of the best food in the country. Food carts are a notorious low-cost hunger solution frequented by bar hopping twenty-somethings late into Saturday night as well as friendly middle-aged tourists on Sunday mornings. There are numerous locations of food cart “pods” in all quadrants of the city, offering a range of options such as Hawaiian, Mediterranean, Thai and Italian cuisines all for under $15 a plate.

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Portland is a big town for wordsmiths. This cloudy city has been home to authors such as Ursula K Le Guin and Chuck Palahniuk. If you are looking for the mecca of used books, check out Powell’s City of Books. You can literally get lost in the thousands of titles from classics to graphic novels to books of art and everything in between. Powells also hosts live readings from some of the world’s best-known authors.

You can’t talk about the Pacific Northwest without talking about nature. Located on the west side of town is Forest Park, which has more than 5,000 acres of green wooded area to explore at no cost. If you have a vehicle, a drive to Mount Hood, Multnomah Falls, and Bagby Hot Springs is just a stone throws away–although it’s recommended that you attempt these outings in good weather. Oregon can get wet and muddy.

The offerings in Portland are vast. While Portland is no longer the cheap alternative to San Francisco, L.A. or Seattle you can still experience it on the cheap.

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After reading books about far off places as a child, Vivian was hooked on travel writing. She traveled during her college years and wrote about wine, oil painting and wild hogs. She's planning her next adventures and writing about anything and everything travel related.

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