Women looking at a Christmas tree.

Fun Things to Do in Oregon During the Holidays

Ready to get in the holiday spirit? Oregon 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. Updated for the 2019 holiday season.

Pioneer Square Tree Lighting Ceremony

The day after Thanksgiving a crowd of more than 25,000 Portlanders will unite in a joyful sing-a-long led by Thomas Lauderdale, members of Pink Martini and a diverse array of our city’s talented musicians and chorale singers. The evening’s program will feature Mayor Wheeler, city dignitaries and Santa Claus as they ‘flip the switch’ to illuminate 14,000 colorful lights on our city’s centerpiece to the holiday season- the spectacular 75′ Douglas-fir.

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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 pm to 9:30 pm (Closed on Christmas day).

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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, 2020, although it will be closed December 25.

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Christmas Ships

This annual Christmas event features 55 - 60 ships of all sizes, decked out with sparkling holiday lights. Until December 22nd, 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. 

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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.

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Winter Wonderland at PIR

Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway is 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 January 4th, 2020. As you drive through you can tune into their special radio station with Christmas tunes playing. They also have special nights for bicyclists and dogs. 

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Fun Places to Find Santa

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. Learn More.
  • 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. Learn More.
  • 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. Learn More.

Who Doesn’t Love a Parade?

Kick-off the holidays with one of the festive parades Oregon has to offer.

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