Bundle up and get outside to trip the light fantastic at one of these nighttime spectacles. Everything from English Tudors and a Victorian mansion to wooded trails and zoo train rails are bedecked in twinkling splendor. Watch your littles’ eyes light up at the nighttime sights, and then warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.
photo: Peacock Lane
This super-charming block of English Tudors between SE Stark and SE Belmont is a must-visit every holiday season. Your little lightbulbs will love debating which house is their favorite, and the sweet kidlet-run hot chocolate stand is giving all their proceeds to the Portland Police Cadet Division this Christmas season.
Insider’s tip: With record-breaking crowds, Portland Police may shut down vehicle access anytime pedestrians can’t be contained to the sidewalks. Peak times are especially prone: Dec. 15th and weekends after 7 p.m. Follow Peacock Lane on Facebook and Twitter to stay abreast of street closures. The best non-peak times to visit are before 8 p.m. midweek, or any evening Dec. 26-30.
6-11 p.m. (’til midnight on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve)
Free, but bring cash for cocoa
Between SE Stark Street and Belmont Street & one block East of Cesar Chavez/SE 39th
photo: ZooLights by Michael Durham, courtesy of Oregon Zoo
Oh the zoo, how we love you. The elves here start setting up this extravaganza pretty much in September. With over 1.5 million LED lights ranging from rotating animals on a carousel to penguins seemingly sliding down a glacier, there is something for every sugar plum here. The popular ZooLights train is back this year and it’s ready to take you and your junior engineers on a ride past never-before-seen lights.
Nov. 28– Jan. 4
5–8 p.m. guests allowed on the grounds ’til 9 p.m. Fri. & Sat. runs until 8:30 p.m. with roaming allowed until 9:30 p.m. ZooLights is closed Dec. 10, 24 and 25, and the zoo itself is closed Christmas day.
$7-$10 and is free for zoo members and kids 2 and under
Insider’s tip: Everyone, including members, now must pay to park, so consider taking the MAX instead.
4001 SW Canyon Rd.
Lighting of Maddax Woods
Stroll West Linn’s well-lit and accessible walkway through Maddax Woods while it’s transformed into a magical, glowing celebration of nature. Follow the path down to the river and end at a viewing platform on the Willamette where you should look–and listen–carefully. You may spot a black swan or hear a screech owl. Open already.
5785 River Street
photo: Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland at PIR
How would you like to have somewhere fun to go at 5 p.m. that doesn’t require leaving the car? Get the lil’ lightheads into the truckster and away you go. This light show claims to be the largest west of the Mississippi with over 250 displays. We love the giant poinsettia wreath and reindeer that jump over the car.
Thurs., Nov. 27–Sun., Dec. 28, including Christmas night.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-11 p.m.
$18 per carload. Cash or check only.
Tip: Check the website for special events when no cars are allowed, such as Walk Night Dec. 1, where dogs are welcome but vehicles are not. Cost: $6/walker.
1940 N Victory Blvd.
photo courtesy of Victorian Belle
Miracle of a Million Lights
Every room of the historic Victorian Belle mansion is decorated in a different theme, and the sprawling, 2.5-acre grounds are completely lit with holiday lights and displays. Plenty of whimsical surprises will delight the young ones, including an Elf Room, a Santa Room, 10 uniquely adorned Christmas trees, and a place for kids to make their own ornaments. Head to the gazebo to buy a cup of hot cider or cocoa, and watch the toy railroad circle the track while you listen to Christmas carolers.
6–10 p.m. daily.
$3-$6; free for kids 3 and under
Tip: Receive $1 off admission if you bring the coupon from their website along with a nonperishable food item for local food banks.
1441 N. McClellan St.
photo courtesy of How I See Life via creative commons flickr
The Grotto Festival of Lights
This bucolic green space transports one and all come Christmas time. They’re ready for your junior nutcrackers with puppet shows, carolers, hot cocoa, a petting zoo, lights galore (of course) and a choral lineup including school choirs, church groups and civic clubs.
Nov. 28–Dec. 30
5–9:30 p.m. Closed Christmas day
$5-$10/person; free for kids 2 and under
NE Sandy Blvd and NE 85th
photo courtesy of Sam Churchill via creative commons flickr
East and West Sides
Christmas Ships Parade
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Portland’s Christmas Ships Parade, a beloved family tradition for many Portlandians. Line up along the river banks or take cover somewhere warm. Whatever you decide, don’t miss the flotilla of gorgeous, lighted vessels.
Dec. 5–21, no parades Dec. 7 or 15
Times vary. On parade nights, a crew member from each fleet will live Tweet location updates to make it easier for everyone to track the ships. Follow @ChristmasShips for real-time updates. Look for tweets with #WillametteFleet or #ColumbiaFleet.
Locations aplenty along the Willamette and Columbia rivers.
photo courtesy of Aspen Meadow
Worth the Drive
Aspen Meadow Celebration of Lights
It’s an hour away but jam-packed with festivity. Your little turtledoves will love the kiddie toy land, mini train display, and a walk-through light celebration. Movies, concerts and special shows are also on hand, plus religious-themed plays inside a giant snow globe.
5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 5-11 p.m. Fri. & Sat.
Free. Suggested donation of nonperishable food items for the Oregon Food Bank.
24232 S. Upper Highland Rd.
Christmas Fantasy Trail
This luminescent display is for all of the little princesses and junior knights out there. Each Christmas, Wenzel Farm turns its charming fantasy trail into a Christmas wonderland. Walk through the 40-foot castle decorated with Christmas scenes or take a turn on the suspension bridge. Each of Wenzel’s fairy tale areas will be lit for the holidays, accompanied by Christmas music to delight even your youngest crumpets. Add in a maze, nightly bonfire and a crooked house, and it’s way worth the trip.
6–9 p.m. Mon-Sat., closed Sundays and Dec. 24-25
$5/adult; $4/child age 12 and under
19754 S. Ridge Rd.
Christmas in the Garden
We’ve got crazy love for The Oregon Garden. They wow us all year long and Christmas is no exception. With a well lit Rediscovery Forest of 150,000 twinklers, a German-style market complete with gluhwein and other adult beverages, and joy for the world aplenty, there is simply no reason not to check it out. Saurbraten, soft pretzels with fondue, bratwurst, hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese for the kids, plus fire pits dispersed throughout to help keep everybody warm.
Nov. 28–Dec. 21
$5/person over age 4; free/child age 4 and under. Each paid admission includes five $1 vouchers to be used at any booth in the market.
879 W. Main St.
Did we miss your favorite light display? Tell us in the comment section below!
— Halle Smith