How to Do a Portland Staycation

By Jack Rubinger

A trip to a Mexico, while not as expensive as Europe or Hawaii, can run a couple about $4,000 for a 10-day trip including accommodations, food, airfare and car rental.

While out-of-town vacations are fun, invigorating and soul-enhancing, with a little creativity, a small budget and a sense of adventure, one can broaden their horizons, learn to share quality time with their families and help keep the money in the local economy by doing a Portland staycation.

Katherine Endy at The Family Life Coach offered several quick tips. She suggested planning ahead and asking family members what kinds of things they want to do and creating a schedule, so everyone gets to do something they want. She believes deciding how much you want to spend can actually help you relax and just have fun.

One of the perks of being on vacation for parents is not having to cook and clean. Endy recommends hiring a house cleaner, like a high school or college student, to clean during your staycation.

“Explore your own city or town as though you’d never been there before. If you go into it with openness, curiosity and wonder, you’re bound to discover someplace you’ve never visited or didn’t even know was there,” said Endy. She suggested making the at-home part novel-eat meals outdoors, “camp out” in the living room or the backyard, allow the kids to stay up a little later or eat dessert every night.

Backyard/Driveway Fun

Corn hole is a fun game that can be played by both kids and adults. All you need are two slanted boards, each with a hole located near the top, plus four bean bags per team. Score points by getting the beanbag near or into the hole. Stores like Target carry corn hole kits, but it’s so much more fun to build one or have someone build one for you.

To make your own, check out Dan’s Custom Wood Designs & Custom Cornhole Boards. Work with him and he’ll help you choose what kind of wood to use. They can customize the boards, (like the Sasquatch one above) and you’ll wind up with a game that’ll last for years that won’t cost an arm and a leg (less than $350). Contact Dan at 971.406.6943.

Back in the day, whiffleball was a fun baseball spin-off involving a plastic bat, ball and a garage door for a strike zone. Two or four can play. It’s possible to throw wild curve balls. Use the neighbor’s driveway for the outfield.

While sandboxes have been around for years and there are plastic ones that can be purchased at stores, building your own sandbox is super fun and pretty cheap. Kids are fascinated with digging and playing in dirt, which is why a sandbox is a perfect alternative to the backyard mud pit. Self-contained, free of debris and easy to dig up with the most plastic of toys, a sandbox can keep kids occupied for hours. 

Building a sandbox is simple. Stack lumber in a square, fasten it together and fill it with sand. For about $300, a sandbox can be easily built with materials found at most hardware stores. Years later, the sandbox can become a raised bed for plants.

Start Your Own Summer Camp

Portland boasts a wide range of summer camps for kids. But it takes a bit of creativity and logistics to create your own summer camp. Start by talking to friends and learning their schedules. Then, determine who has time to take five to six kids for an afternoon. Set up a schedule, then let the fun begin—and use that homemade sandbox. The benefit is that different families can take responsibility, creating pockets of time to work and do errands.

For those whose kids need more structure, the USA Gymnastics Clubs is offering half day and full day gymnastics camps for kids ages 5-12 now through August 26. Parents can book by the day or by the week. 

Free Music

For staycationing adults, the folks at Ship Ahoy Tavern on SE Gladstone are hosting open mic nights on Wednesdays out on their outdoor patio. The talent level is pretty good and the enthusiasm and audience participation level are outstanding. It’s mostly guitar players and singers, but one day a saxophone player showed up, resulting in an impromptu band being formed. Just remember to buy a beer—or two.

For a family-friendly music scene, People’s Co-op also has free music on Wednesdays, as part of their farmer’s market.

Staying Cool

Instead of buying an air conditioner, consider creating a DIY air conditioner. Just fill a shallow pan or bowl with ice and place it in front of a fan. As the ice melts, the fan will pick up the cold water particles and blow them around the room creating a cool mist. 


Teatro Milagro has a great event planned for families Saturday, August 13. They are launching a touring show for schools about the young Frieda Kahlo.  The play will officially run in schools starting in September.

Also on Saturday, August 13, 6:30 pm, at Laurelhurst Park there’s going to be a free show by DJ Prashant and the Jai Ho! Dance Troupe.

On Thursday, August 18 at Essex Park, Sabroso, a Latin funk band, will play a free concert at 6:30 pm. 

Sewallcrest Park is hosting a free movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, Saturday, August 27, 7:30 pm.

Portland summers are the perfect season for staycations as the weather is beautiful, people are outside and there’s a much looser, more fun vibe. Now is the best time to get to know your neighbors and catch up. Ask them what they’re doing for fun. Share your plans and resources. 

How to Do a Portland Staycation

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