Portland, Oregon is a great place to spend the Christmas season. Whether you prefer to pedal your bike around a racetrack decorated with sparkling lights, ride a Christmas train through a zoo filled with animated, lighted animal sculptures, or watch a rendition of the classic holiday ballet “The Nutcracker”, Portland will have a holiday activity to keep your family busy.
Each year, the Grotto holds a Christmas Festival of Lights. The Festival runs from just after Thanksgiving to a few days after Christmas. Walk through 62-acres of landscaped botanical gardens decorated with almost half a million twinkling lights. Take the kids to puppet shows, and to meet farm animals at the petting zoo. Listen to holiday music at over 140 choral and instrumental shows, all performed indoors, including performances by the Grotto Carolers. Stop by the gift shop on your way out to grab some religiously-themed books or gifts.
Since 1993, the Jubitz Winter Wonderland has transformed the Portland International Raceway into a drive-through light show. Drive your own car around the racetrack, enjoying over 250 light set displays, some fully animated. Some nights are reserved for bike riders. Bring some canned food for the annual food drive; according to the event’s website, over 35 tons of food has been donated to charity by past Winter Wonderland drives. The Winter Wonderland is open from Thanksgiving day until December 31.
For over 50 years, the Oregon Ballet Theatre has performed “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” ballet every December. Some performances include live music by the Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra. Seats can sell out quickly for this holiday tradition, so reserve yours early. Ballet fans will also want to catch “A Holiday Revue”, a show the Oregon Ballet Theatre’s website describes as a “hip and fun-filled romp through a bevy of Christmas standards” and a “swanky good time.”
On the day after Thanksgiving, head to Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland for the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. The tree is over 75 feet tall and decorated with thousands of sparkling lights. The event starts with music and speeches, and ends with the lighting ceremony. Be sure to arrive a bit early, as this event is popular and packed.
Every winter, the Oregon Zoo transforms into a menagerie of light sculpture animals. With over a million tiny lights and 200 animated animals, the whole family will enjoy the display. Costume characters like Rudolph, elves and furry animals will be on hand for photo opportunities. Grab some hot cocoa and popcorn and take a ride on the decorated holiday train. Zoolights is open from November 27 until New Years. Lights start coming on at 4:00 pm and the Zoo stays open until 8:00 during the week, and 8:30 on the weekends.
Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto
Jubitz Winter Wonderland
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Pioneer Courthouse Square Tree Lighting Ceremony
Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo