The stars aren’t the only thing twinkling at night in Portland through the month of December. Our city is bringing on the holiday cheer with incredible light displays that will leave your family in awe. It’s time to bundle up and celebrate the season of light! You’ll want to check out these long-running celebrations that make great family traditions! 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. This year kids can top it off with a visit to Santa, and you’ll find performances of live music throughout!

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.

$12.95-$17.95/adults, $7.95-$12.95/children 3-11, free for members and kids 2 & under
Check the calendar for Value Nights. (Note: these prices reflect purchases made online.)
Nov. 29 – Jan. 5, 5-9 p.m.
4001 SW Canyon Rd.
Portland, OR

photo: via Christmas Ships

Christmas Ship Parade

The Christmas ships are coming! A fleet of ships have sailed down the Willamette and Columbia Rivers every year for 64 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. And watch for the special events when the route hosts a Meet and Greet, when you can meet the skippers and see the boats up close. Perfect for tiny boat enthusiasts!

Dec. 5-22
Columbia and Willamette Rivers, check online schedule for details.

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.

$7/adults, $6/children 12 and under. Cash only.
Mon.-Sat., Dec. 2-28, 6-9 p.m.
Closed Dec. 24 & 25.
19754 South Ridge Road
Oregon City, OR

photo: The Oregon Garden

Christmas in the Garden

Come to the Garden for one of the biggest light displays around! One million 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.

Single Day Admission from $5-$15, free for children 10 and under (ice skating pass is separate)

Various bundles for ice skating, Christmas Market Season Pass, and Nov. 29- Jan 5, open most dates..
5– 9 p.m.
879 W. Main St.
Silverton, OR

photo: via Victorian Belle

Miracle of a Million Lights

Visit this beautiful Victorian Belle house for the holidays and see why it’s called “The Miracle of a Million Lights.” Over 35 different Christmas trees join even more elaborate decorations in the beautiful period rooms around the house. Stroll around the 2.5 acres lit up with twinkling lights, enjoy homemade apple cider and cookies, and watch live musical performances during your visit! Get a taste of Christmas Wonderland at this historic Portland landmark.

$8/ adults $5/children 4-17, free for kids 3 and under
Dec 8-28, nightly
1441 N McClellan St.
Portland, OR

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 250 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.

Tip: Go during the week and early in December to beat the crowds and enjoy at your own pace! 
Nov. 29-Jan. 4
Sun.-Thur. 5:30- 9:30 p.m., Fri.- Sat., 5- 11 p.m.
Portland International Raceway
1940 N Victory Blvd
Portland, OR

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!).

Dec. 15-31, 6-11 p.m.
SE Peacock Lane, between SE Stark and Belmont Streets
Portland, OR

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. It’s the largest Christmas choral festival in the world! Kids will have fun listening to the outdoor caroling, watching the master puppeteer put on shows and joining the petting zoo, and the whole family can warm up with hot drinks and snacks.

$12/adults, $6/children 3-12, free for children 2 and under
Nov. 29-Dec. 30, 5-9:30 p.m. (Closed Christmas Day.)
Enter at 85th and Sandy
Portland, OR

—Annette Benedetti


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