Rainstorms or not, Portland, Oregon is filled with holiday spirit. Since the Pacific Northwest is known for having some damp, grey weather this time of year, the sparkle of lights and decorations is more than welcome. Here are some great places to enjoy holiday events and decorations and 5 of my favorite wow spots to experience Christmas in Portland.
1—Christmas in Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square and Downtown
After Thanksgiving, the holiday season in Portland is kicked off with the lighting of a 75-foot Douglas fir tree. Surrounding the square are shops and stores such as Nordstrom, Macy’s and the Pioneer Place Mall. All decorate for the season and entice shoppers inside for a bit of tax-free shopping.
There are performances by school children and dance groups throughout the season. One spectacular event is The Annual Tuba Christmas Concert held Dec. 9, 2017 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. bringing the square to life with the sound of 300 tubas performing a medley of seasonal songs in unison. (Free)
2—Christmas in Portland on the Rivers with the Christmas Ships
Each December, the Christmas Ships parade up and down the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. They parade for 15 nights in December. Well over 50 lighted sailboats and yachts draw viewers to the riverbanks and bridges of Portland and nearby river towns.
The ships, all skippered by volunteers, ply the waters according to schedule. Families wait patently in the dark and applause breaks out when the Christmas Ships round a bend or float under a bridge to come into sight. Light displays move, music plays and the ships bring holiday magic to the rivers.
This year the Christmas Ships will host “Meet and Greet” events on December 16 and 17, 2017 from 8 – 10 p.m. on Saturday and 2 – 5 p.m. on Sunday on the public dock in downtown Portland in front of the RiverPlace Hotel. You’ll be able to see the ships up close and visit with the skippers. The public dock entrance is right in front of “Three Degrees” restaurant (1510 SW Harbor Way).
Schedule, details and weather information impacting the sailings can be found on the Christmas Ships website. (Free)
3—Winter Wonderland Lights at Portland International Raceway
Baby it’s cold outside! A great way to keep warm and enjoy the holiday lights is to head for Portland International Raceway (PIR) just south of the I-5 Bridge into Washington State. The lighting display is recognized throughout the Pacific Northwest as the “Largest Holiday Light Show West of the Mississippi.”
You can drive on the racetrack to view the huge displays November 24 through December 26, 2017. Click here for the complete schedule. Be sure and check the website or Facebook page for closures in case of severe weather. (Entrance fee)
4—Christmas in Portland: A Very Portland Christmas at Pittock Mansion
Pittock Mansion, high in the west hills overlooking Portland, was home to Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock in the early 1900s. The elegant mansion was restored by the City of Portland in the 1960s.
Each holiday season, volunteers transform the museum into a winter wonderland with decorated trees, elegant table settings, themed rooms and a look into family life of days gone by.
Local musicians will play in the mansion’s Music Room during A Very Portland Christmas. Visitors will experience the iconic places, people, and events of Portland like Powell’s Books, Packy the elephant, and Peacock Lane. These elements are incorporated into the decorative stylings of volunteers and professional designers who transform the Mansion into a holiday wonderland.
The mansion is open for this event daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day from November 20, 2017 – December 31, 2017. (Entrance fee, free shuttle service from Washington Park.)
5—Christmas in Portland Festival of Lights at the Grotto
In Northeast Portland you’ll find a peaceful 62-acre conference center with gardens transformed into a wonderland of lights and Christmas events from the Friday after Thanksgiving through the 30th of December. The Grotto is open nightly 5 to 9:30 p.m.
The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights is the largest Christmas choral festival in the world. The festival features nearly 160 indoor holiday concerts performed by many of the region’s finest school, church and civic choirs. Click here for the full event schedule.
Five indoor concerts are scheduled each evening. In addition, continuous family entertainment in The Grotto’s plaza area includes outdoor caroling, puppet shows and a live animal petting zoo. (Entrance fee, free parking)
When You Go to Portland for Christmas
Travel Portland lists many more holiday events. Remember to wear layers and bring waterproof gear. Portland can be dry and sunny in December or cold and icy. Christmas in Portland will be a time to make memories. Find more ideas for your visit to Portland in these Portland articles by Wander authors.