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Fun Things to Do for the Holidays

Ready to get in the holiday spirit? Portland is full of fun holiday events and activities to get you in the mood for hot chocolate, candy canes, and Santa Clause. Kick the season off with a variety of family friendly events for you and your loved ones to enjoy. 

Festival of Lights at the Grotto
The Festival of Lights at the Grotto is a spectacular event that features music and holiday light displays with over a half million bulbs. The beautiful outdoor garden setting, lighted Christmas trees and outdoor carolers create a warm holiday feel, and a life-sized nativity scene anchors the entire event. The event runs the Friday after Thanksgiving thru December 30, nightly from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Closed on Christmas day) For Ticket information visit thegrotto.org/christmas-festival-of-lights/

ZooLights Festival
During the holiday season, the Oregon Zoo becomes a Christmas wonderland of decorations and more than a million colorful lights. On scheduled evenings you and your family can stroll the zoo paths and see exciting animal-themed displays of light and motion. You will also have a chance to sip hot chocolate and snack on tasty treats, as well as enjoy live music and other festive performances. ZooLights will run thru January 5, 2019, although it will be closed December 24-25 for the holidays. To Purchase tickets or for more information visit: www.oregonzoo.org/visit/zoolights

Christmas Ship Parade
This annual Christmas event features 55 - 60 ships of all sizes, decked out with sparkling holiday lights. Until December 20th, boat owners proudly cruise the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, providing holiday cheer to shore side onlookers. Many restaurants and hotels along the Columbia and Willamette rivers are already taking reservations to watch the Christmas ship parade during dinner. To find out which river the boats will be on and when you can see them visit their website www.christmasships.org/.

Portland Hipster Santa
Men with bellies that shake like a bowl full of jelly are a dime a dozen during the holiday season, but luckily Portlanders have the one and only “Portland Santa,” (aka “Hipster Santa”). Portland Santa returns to Pioneer Place this year, complete with his Portland Airport carpet sofa, and is ready for his close-up with the kiddos every Thursday thru December 20.

Lights on Peacock Lane
The residents of Peacock Lane have been decorating their homes for the holidays since the 1920's. Their legendary light displays continue each December from the 15th until the 31st from 6 - 11 PM. The residents will be serving hot cocoa and cider from the handmade booth in the center of Peacock Lane. Peacock Lane is between SE Stark St. and SE Belmont St. and one block east of SE 39th. For more information visit https://www.peacocklane.org/.

Winter Wonderland
The granddaddy of Portland holiday events is Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway. Billed as the largest holiday light exhibit west of the Mississippi, this drive-through exhibit is truly huge, with glittering animated reindeer, elves, and even dinosaurs. It is open through Dec. 27th. As you drive through you can tune into their special radio station with Christmas tunes playing. This year they have special nights for bicyclists and dogs. For more information or to purchase tickets visit: http://winterwonderlandportland.com/special-events/.

Trains! Trains! Trains!
There is just something magical about trains around the holidays. Bundle up on hop on for a ride that will be fun for the whole family starting the day after Thanksgiving!

  • Holiday Express Train– Join Santa Claus and his elves for a magical ride behind Portland’s famous steam locomotive. Leaves from Oaks Park. http://www.orhf.org/the-holiday-express
  • Polar Express– Recreate the magic of the children’s book and feature film, The Polar Express, by dressing in your best pajamas for a festive ride on the Polar Express Train Ride via the Mount Hood Railroad. https://www.mthoodrr.com/train-to-christmas-town/
  • The Candy Cane Express– A festive steam-powered excursion on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad! Visit with Santa while enjoying cookies and hot cocoa. This train is decorated with lights and holiday decorations of the season. Departs from Garibaldi on the north Oregon coast. https://oregoncoastscenic.org/candy-cane-express/