20-Plus Free Things to Do with Kids in December

It’s December. And after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday… well, many of us are already at the end of our budget for the year. Here are lots of ideas for getting out of the house with the kids and having some fun—all without spending a dime.

Attend a tree lighting. Christmas tree lighting celebrations are taking place all across the Portland-metro area. In addition to seeing the lights, you will also often get to see Santa, hear music, and enjoy other holiday festivities.

Don’t eat ants. What’s better than story time? Story time with the author and illustrator of the book! Head to Green Bean Books on December 5 to join Kelly Fry for a special story time with her new picture book, Don’t Eat Ants. A craft will follow the reading.

See a puppet show. There are many opportunities to see puppet shows in Portland this month! Puppetkabob is performing The Snowflake Man on December 2, Ms. Yvonne is performing The Gingerbread Boy on December 21, and you can check out local favorite Penny’s Puppet Productio’s performance of Golden Mitten and the Three Polar Bears on December 28!

Make art. There are so many opportunities for making free art at local libraries this month. You can paint ceramics, make birdfeeders for winter birds, explore printmaking, craft traditional corn husk ornaments, and more. Check out our calendar for all the options.

Celebrate winter traditions. Head to Milwaukie on December 9 to learn about holiday traditions from around the world, including Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa, through music, games and food. Rumor has it there will be a hot chocolate bar!

Visit Santa. While some visits with Santa can be pretty spendy, there are plenty of opportunities that are free. Check out a bunch here. (Does your kid like Santa and fire trucks? Check out this free event.)

Visit a Museum. When the weather turns rainy, it’s sometimes nice to just avoid the outdoors and hole up in a museum for a few hours. Many local museums are always free, and additional museums have special free days. Check out when to go to score the best deal here.

Get outside. What’s that? You don’t want to stay inside? No problem. Check out one of these rainy day nature walks.

Head to Fort Vancouver. I recently took the kids to Fort Vancouver for the first time, and we all had a total blast. Check it out for yourselves on December 9, when you can see the sights and sounds of the 1840s holiday season. Enjoy wreath making, holiday beverages, caroling and more. Kids 15 and under are free. It’s $5 for adults.

Skip the parking fees. The perfect chance to get out and explore. Enjoy free parking at Oxbow and Blue Lake regional parks, Broughton Beach, M. James Gleason Memorial Boat Ramp and Chinook Landing Marine Park on December 10.

Take in the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition, but an expensive one. If you don’t have the budget for it this year (or even if you do!) check out the Little Ears concert series’ performance of The Nutcracker. The story will be narrated by local library Susan Smallsreed, while a four-hand arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece will be performed by pianists Maria Antonia Garcia and Momoko Muramatsu. Sounds so amazing! Put it in your calendar for December 12.

Happy Chanukah! Celebrate the first night of Chanukah on December 12 at Director Park with traditional food, children’s crafts and a Menorah lighting.

Check out a holiday market. You may need to leave your wallet at home so as not to be too tempted (it doesn’t cost anything to browse!), or support local artisans at one of these area holiday markets and craft fairs. It’s always fun to see how many talented artists there are in our midst. Often there will be story time, music, or other fun activities for kids.

Go on a virtual train ride. Can’t make it to one of the area’s holiday train rides this year? Head to the St. Johns library on December 19 instead for a reading of the classic Polar Express followed by a holiday craft making opportunity.

Get scientific. The library is offering several cool chances to learn a bit about science with their Science from the North Pole event. Be in the know on all sorts of icy fun!

Give back. Tis the season to make the world a little brighter. You and your kids can volunteer together with many organizations around town. We’ve just compiled a list of environmental volunteer opportunities for kids. Check them out here. And find more volunteering events on our calendar.

Experience a new culture. Come see a special performance by Leikarringen of Portland. The children will perform a variety of dances from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Happy Kwanzaa! Head to the North Portland library on December 30 to celebrate Kwanzaa, a holiday that honors African American Culture, heritage, and values. There will be a storytime, candle ceremony, and family craft.

Happy December!


Ali Wilkinson
Follow me

Ali Wilkinson

Online Editor at PDX Parent
Ali Wilkinson is the Online Editor for PDX Parent, and is one of the founders of PDX Kids Calendar. She loves exploring Portland with her three small children, especially when the explorations lead outdoors, to music or to ice cream. You can read more from Ali at www.runknitlove.com.
Ali Wilkinson
Follow me

Latest posts by Ali Wilkinson (see all)