Holiday lights create a beautiful glow and give families a good reason to celebrate the season. Now, imagine stunning moving displays, twinkling lights, and glowing tunnels, and you’ve got a show-stopping festival of light! Portland has many long-running light displays that are family traditions. Whether you’ve been here forever or are brand new, you’ll find a tradition to start (or share with friends) below. Grab the hot chocolate, and read on for more!

photo: sam via flickr

Oregon Zoolights

A bigger than ever light display guides visitors on a glowing tour of the zoo with over a million and a half lights! Tunnels and moving displays are a bright attraction, and all your favorite animals are there, too. Get special treats with light-up cotton candy or a train ride, or just wander and enjoy the show.

Insider Tips: Skip parking and ride the MAX! Crowds are generally busiest the first part of the evening, so if your kids can stay up later without turning into wild beasts themselves, you might find thinner crowds after 7:30 p.m.

$11.95-$14.95/adults, $4.95-$9.95/children 3-11, free for members and kids 2 & under
Check the calendar for Value Nights
Nov. 25 – Jan. 1, 5-9 p.m.
4001 SW Canyon Rd.
Portland, OR
503-226-1561
Online: oregonzoo.org

The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights

Running since 1988, the Grotto’s Festival of Lights is a Portland institution. Showcasing nearly 160 concerts, the festival blends holiday festivities with serene reflection in a beautiful lighted garden. Kids will have fun listening to the outdoor caroling, watching puppet shows and joining the petting zoo, and the whole family can warm up with hot drinks and snacks.

$11/adults, $6/children 3-12, free for children 2 and under
Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 5-10 p.m. (Closed Christmas Day.)
Enter at 85th and Sandy
Portland, OR
503-254-7371
Online: thegrotto.org

Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway

You want to be impressed? Maybe a little blown away, but also stay warm and cozy? Get the family to Winter Wonderland! The Northwest’s largest light show spans the track at the raceway, making a great drive on a chilly night. Over 230 giant set pieces are alight, many animated, all fun. Running since 1993, the Winter Wonderland offers some special nights where you can bring the family pup (Lights and Leashes Dog Walk Night), or bike the raceway (Bike the Lights Nights). All proceeds from the event benefit the Sunshine Division, which provides food and clothing to Portland families in need.

$20-22/car,
Nov. 24-Dec. 26
Sun.-Thur. 5:30- 9:30 p.m., Fri.- Sat., 5- 11 p.m.
Portland International Raceway
1940 N Victory Blvd
Portland, OR
Online: winterwonderlandportland.com

photo: mike via flickr

Peacock Lane in Southeast Portland

It’s not Christmas without a visit to the North Pole of Portland: Peacock Lane! The residents of this street have been trying to out-do each other with Christmas displays going all the way back to the 1920’s! These beautiful homes are truly decked out, making it quite the sight, and at zero cost. You can drive or walk the street, but either way, bring your patience to join the crowds Hot drinks will be on hand if you’re walking, and if you drive, here’s a tip: turn off your headlights to best enjoy the show! (but don’t forget to turn them back on once you leave!).

Free
Dec. 15-31, 6-11 p.m.
Pedestrian Only Nights, Dec. 15th-17th
SE Peacock Lane, between SE Stark and Belmont Streets
Portland, OR
Online: peacocklane.org

Fantasy Trail at Wenzel Farm

You may have come for Halloween, but don’t think you’ve already seen everything. Christmas on the Fantasy trail is a whole new experience! Thousands of lights decorate the woods along a wooden path, and a 40 foot castle awaits– complete with a tunnel, maze, suspension bridge and more! Come ready for refreshments, nightly bonfires, and Christmas enchantment.

$6/adults, $5/children 12 and under. Cash only.
Mon.-Sat., Dec. 2-30, 6-9 p.m.,
Closed Dec. 24 & 25.
19754 South Ridge Road
Oregon City, OR
503-631-2047
Online: fantasytrail.com

photo: The Oregon Garden

Christmas in the Garden

Come to the Garden for one of the biggest light displays around! 600,000 lights decorate this European-style outdoor market, located in Silverton, Oregon (near Salem). Bring the family for show-stopping displays, an artisan market, ice skating, snowless tubing, and photos with Santa. German food and drink will warm you up inside while the fire pits take care of the rest.

The garden itself is an 80-acre botanical garden and is worth visiting anytime, but don’t miss out on this holiday extravaganza! Overnights stays are available at the nearby
Oregon Garden Resort

$12/adults, $6/children 5-11, free for children 4 and under
5pm – 9pm
Wed. through Sun.: Nov. 24 – Dec. 17
Daily: Dec. 18 – Dec. 23, closed December 24 & 25
Daily: December 26 – Dec. 31

879 W. Main St.
Silverton, OR
Online: oregongarden.org

Christmas Ship Parade

The Christmas ships are coming! A fleet of ships have sailed down the Willamette and Columbia Rivers every year for 63 years! Grab a perch with a view (restaurants along the route book up quick!), pack your thermos and blankets, and watch the floating lights go by. This is a great parade, and the best part is, you can catch it almost every night in December! Be sure to check online for when they’ll be closest to you, as the route changes.

Free
Dec. 1-21
Columbia and Willamette Rivers, check online schedule for details.
Online: christmasships.org

Miracle of a Million Lights

For the month of December Victorian Belle is known as ​“The Miracle of a Million Lights” and is open to the public for tours of the decorated house and grounds. The entire 2.5 acres is filled with a million plus twinkling lights that turn this historic Portland landmark into a Christmas Wonderland!

Tour the richly appointed historic Victorian Belle aglow with 20+ uniquely decorated Christmas trees and elaborate decorations. View rooms filled with period antiques and vintage heirlooms with majestic themes. This is truly a treat for all ages.

Enjoy homemade apple cider, holiday cookies or really enjoy the moment and indulge in our famous chocolate covered bacon and house cut caramel! While enjoying your food and refreshments, you can sit and be entertained with live musical performances by known performing artists, local choirs, musicians, groups and even dance crews. Stroll down the walkway to visit the heated outdoor movie theater and grab some popcorn and watch your Christmas Classics and more!

$8 for adults (18-64), $5 for students (4-17), $4 for Seniors (65+), Children 3 under free
1441 N McClellan St.
Portland, Or
503-970-0213
Online: victorianbelle.com/the-miracle-of-a-million-lights

What’s your favorite holiday light display? Tell us in the comments below!

—Katrina Emery