Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Gresham, OR

  • Published 2023/01/27

Gresham is a city in Multnomah County, Oregon, filled with nature and heritage.

Visit this city if you want to discover a new place to clear your mind and contemplate.

It boasts a community that upholds tradition and heritage combined with modern innovations.

It is just minutes from top destinations and important sites like the Multnomah Falls, Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and the Portland International Airport.

Whether you’re looking for a quick getaway or an extended stay, Gresham is a great city for a vacation.

With a culture rooted in agriculture and the homestead lifestyle, the community has so much to offer and teach visitors at no cost.

If you’re thinking of traveling to the area soon, read this list of free things to do in Gresham, Oregon.

Take a Stroll along the Gresham Japanese Garden

Scenic view of Gresham Japanese Garden

Rigucci /

Gresham Japanese Garden, also known as Tsuru Island, is a well-known landmark in the city.

Designed by retired professional landscaper Jim Card, the garden features a magnificent arching bridge and different types of plants and flowers.

Amon plants that you may find here are broadleaf evergreens, vivid azaleas, pruned pines, and groundcovers.

Arched bridge at Gresham Japanese Garden

Thye-Wee Gn /

If you want to visit the garden and have an interactive tour, you may ask for Jim’s Garden Notes, which will give you more information about the plants you’ll see in the garden.

You may find the garden in the Historic Downtown Gresham inside the Main City Park.

If you’re looking for a place where you can find peace and be surrounded by nature, visit the Gresham Japanese Garden.

A gazebo at Gresham Japanese Garden

Rigucci /

Hang Out at Aspen Highlands Park

Spend some time at Aspen Highlands Park and get a feel of what it’s like to be a part of the local community.

The 3.7-acre park is located near Highland Elementary School.

If you’re bringing kids, you may take them to try the playground and allow them to meet new friends.

The park also has a futsal court if you want to stay active.

Walking paths are available if you want to explore and observe the surrounding nature.

After a tiring day, you may share a meal with friends and family at the picnic areas available at Aspen Highlands Park.

Explore the Gresham Arts Plaza

Sculptures at Arts Plaza

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to spend time outdoors, you should visit the Gresham Arts Plaza.

You won’t run out of things to explore here, with its several amenities ready for use.

Art lovers would especially enjoy strolling around and checking out the art displays in the area.

It is the perfect place for gathering with friends and family as it serves as a venue for events and special celebrations all year round.

The grounds of Arts Plaza

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gresham Arts Plaza also has picnic areas where you can spend quality time with a group of people.

It features the Children’s Fountain, a popular water feature among visitors, especially during summer.

Located in the center of the city’s downtown area, the Arts Plaza is conveniently near public transit.

See Beautiful Scenery at Hogan Butte Nature Park

Hogan Butte Nature Park is on top of the Hogan Butte.

The 47-acre park, with an elevation of 930 feet, gives a panoramic view of nearby mountains, including Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

You may also see the Columbia River Gorge and get a beautiful view of the city below from the park.

A paved trail of interpretive loops stretches for half a mile, so you may stay active while surrounded by stunning mountains and forest views.

To learn more about the area, educational signages are available in English, Spanish, and Russian.

The beautiful Hogan Butte Nature Park will feel like a retreat from the busy urban life.

Do not miss out on this nature park in Gresham!

Sit Back and Relax at Bella Vista Park

Swing set at Bella Vista Park

Rigucci /

Another one of Gresham’s outdoor areas is Bella Vista Park, located in the city’s Northwest neighborhood.

The 8.1-acre park has swings and benches where you can stay and hang out with friends.

You may also find a quiet spot and read a book surrounded by a peaceful atmosphere.

Wooden bench at Bella Vista Park

Rigucci /

Walking paths are available around the park if you want to stay active.

Other amenities available in the park include a half-basketball court, a playground, and picnic tables.

Surrounded by the views of rolling hills and lush greenery, Bella Vista Park will provide you with a great outdoor and nature experience.

Play All Day at Gradin Sports Park

You will enjoy spending the day at Gradin Sports Park if you’re the athletic type.

The 32.3-acre community park features sports fields, including soccer fields, softball fields, half-court basketball courts, and horseshoe courts.

A skate park is also available here, so bring your skates!

It also has seven picnic shelters where you can eat snacks after a tiring but fun day of playing around.

You won’t just have a space where you can play.

You’ll also get the most excellent views of the surrounding buttes in the neighborhood.

Nature lovers will enjoy walking around the Gresham Arboretum with its mile-long paved path surrounded by lush trees.

Gradin Sports Park proves that Gresham has much to offer regarding outdoor recreation.

Discover Local History at Gresham Historical Museum

Exterior of Gresham Historical Museum

Ian Poellet (User:Werewombat), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gresham Historical Museum features a collection of historical items from the city.

Run by the Gresham Historical Society, the museum is located in Historic Downtown Gresham.

Here you’ll see a glimpse of the past when you look at the items once used by the locals and old photographs.

You will also learn the significance of the displays to modern society.

If you’re bringing kids with you, you should also try the scavenger hunts offered by the museum!

Don’t forget to add the Gresham Historical Museum to your itinerary.

Stop by the Little Lending Library

You may find the Little Lending Library installation outside the Gresham Historical Museum.

The art display resembles a tiny Tudor-style house containing books on its shelves.

Commissioned by the organization Gresham Outdoor Public Art, the piece is a valuable corner for book lovers to share and lend books to each other.

The “Little Lending Library” was created by Mark Klobas to inspire the community to go outside and come together in the name of books.

If you’re a book lover, check out this piece of art in the city of Gresham!

Drop by the Historic Zimmerman Heritage Farm Park

House at the Historic Zimmerman Heritage Farm Park

Finetooth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Zimmerman Heritage Farm if you want to see for yourself the beauty of old dairy farms in the area.

The 5.98-acre park that stands today used to be a part of the Zimmerman Dairy Farm, an over 600-acre land built in the 1900s.

The Zimmerman House, which you will find in the estate, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Now a museum, the house was once the home of three generations of the Zimmerman family.

You may drop by the place to learn more about the family and its history.

See the Beautiful Berry Harvest Mural

You may find the outdoor mural “Berry Harvest” in the downtown area of Gresham.

The Berry Harvest Mural, depicting people picking berries circa 1915, symbolizes and celebrates the city’s local history rooted in berry farming.

The Gresham Outdoor Public Art organization commissioned it.

Don Gray, the artist behind the mural, was a long-time resident of Oregon.

When you pass the Berry Harvest Mural, stop by, take pictures, and appreciate local art!

Bring Your Family to Nadaka Nature Park

Welcome sign of Nakada Nature Park

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nadaka Nature Park is a magnificent open space and recreational area for nature lovers.

The 12-acre park has a community garden, picnic shelters, public art displays, and walking loops, among many other attractions.

The property also features a nature-based play area that’s made for children, making it the perfect place to visit if you want to get your kids out in nature.

An otter at Nakada Nature Park

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can find it in the Wilkes East Neighborhood; the city acquired it from the Camp Fire Girl organization in 1995.

The park also hosts outdoor events that cater to outdoor enthusiasts, like bird walks, clean-ups, and nature walks, so be sure to check that out!

Drop by Nakada Nature Park if you want to get closer to nature.

Bird information board at Nakada Nature Park

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Drop by Rockwood Central Park

Welcome sign of Rockwood Central Park

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you find yourself in the neighborhood of Rockwood, drop by Rockwood Central Park.

You may bring your kids to the park so that they can enjoy its unique playground structures.

The 9.4-acre park also features a disc golf course with nine holes, a soccer field, a basketball court, and two softball fields.

Picnic tables are also available for lounging.

While you let your kids play around, you may look for the perfect spot to rest, read a book, or go people-watching.

Rockwood Central Park is a gem in the beautiful neighborhood of Rockwood.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

After exploring the city of Gresham, you should take the chance also to visit other nearby attractions.

Learn the History of Vista House

You can’t leave the area without dropping by the Vista House at the Crown Point State Scenic Corridor in Multnomah County.

The place is in Corbett, Oregon, 23 minutes from Gresham.

Built in 1917, the establishment is a museum and well-known scenic point along the Historic Columbia River Parkway.

It was initially built as a rest stop for travelers going down the majestic Columbia River Gorge.

The house doesn’t charge admission fees, but you can stop by the gift shop and cafe if you want to treat yourself.

Add the magnificent Vista House to your Gresham itinerary!

Tour the Zymoglyphic Museum

Visit the Zymoglyphic Museum and find a fascinating display of artifacts from the “Zymoglyphic region,” a fictional world created by Jim Stewart.

It is located on Alder Street in Portland, Oregon, 17 minutes from Gresham.

Here you’ll find creepy and whimsical displays of skeletons of made-up creatures.

Lovers of fantasy and taxidermy will find this place a wonderland bursting with creativity.

Get ready to be inspired by the creatures you’ll find at the Zymoglyphic Museum!

Discover Antique Toys at Kidd’s Toy Museum

Another museum you may visit for free is Kidd’s Toy Museum in Portland, 20 minutes from Gresham.

The local and independent museum is a personal collection of Frank Kidd, who started collecting antique toys and banks to fill out the spaces in his office.

Today, the museum is next to an auto parts business owned by his family.

Most of the antique items were made from 1869 to 1939.

Rooms of the place are filled with all kinds of old toys, including dolls and figurines, die-cast trains, and molds for sand-casting of cap guns, among many others.

Discover the beauty of antiques at Kidd’s Toy Museum!

Final Thoughts

If you want to spend more time outdoors without breaking the bank, you should visit Gresham.

You won’t run out of opportunities for free outdoor recreation in this city.

Surrounded by sprawling mountains and lush greenery, the city may also give you peace of mind that you won’t find anywhere else.

Before heading out, bookmark this list of free things to do in Gresham, Oregon!

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