PORTLAND, Ore. — With the air getting colder and winter weather complicating roadways, it's good to have fun activities close to home. Thankfully, there are five excellent holiday light displays all opening soon in and around the Portland metro area:
Chief among these are the lights at the Oregon Zoo. The Oregon ZooLights are a big deal every year, drawing massive crowds, and this year is expected to be no different. The display will be dazzling, and is estimated to have more than 1.5 million individual lights.
You can experience this year's lights in two different ways, on foot and by car. The traditional walking tour will give visitors the opportunity to see some of the various animals still on display through the winter months. The driving tour, which was a COVID innovation, will only be available on select dates and won't feature the animals.
The Oregon ZooLights will open with the limited "brew lights" series Nov. 18 and 19. The brew light nights are 21+ and will feature local beer, live music, and food carts. After the brew nights, the ZooLights will open for two member-exclusive previews Nov. 21 and 22 before opening to the general public.
Tickets for the walking tour can range from $21 to $29 depending on the date and tour time. Tickets for the driving tour are a flat $65. The cost of attending the brew nights ranges from $35 a night to $65. The Oregon ZooLights are open seven days a week until Jan. 5, with the exception of Christmas Day. For the full event calendar, visit the Oregon ZooLights page.
Christmas Ships Parade
Another great opportunity to see holiday lights can be found on the Willamette and Columbia rivers, where the Christmas Ship Parade is back this year for its 68th season.
The fleet will sail up and down the river showing off their colors on select December nights up through Dec. 21. Popular viewing locations include the North Portland Harbor, McCuddy's Steamboat Landing, the Vancouver waterfront and Hayden Bay. A full list of locations, dates, and times are available on the Christmas Ships website.
The Christmas Ship Parade started in 1954 with one sailboat decked out in red and green ribbon. The parade now attracts an average of 60 boats between the club's Columbia and Willamette river fleets.
Each boater designs and illuminates their individual boat, giving the parade character and diversity. For those boaters interested in joining, the Christmas Ship Parade is always looking for new members. For more information, take a look at their New Skippers Guide.
Portland has a reputation as a festive place for the holidays, and the city's Peacock Lane makes sure to uphold it each year. With the moniker "Portland's Christmas Street," Peacock Lane is home to some of the most creative and extensive lighting displays in the metro area. Located on Portland's South East side, strolling down Peacock Lane is an absolutely free, can't-be-beat holiday activity.
Originating close to a century ago, the historic lane features Tudor-style homes decorated in eclectic and varying style. With no central theme, each house takes on a character of its own and becomes an exhibit in the much larger holiday museum that is Peacock Lane.
Part of the fun is witnessing each neighbor's take on the season. With no set plan or agenda, there's no predicting what shape exhibits will take or when residents will kick off the celebration.
The Grotto Festival of Lights
For the more religious holiday observer, the lights at Portland's Grotto are the place to be. A place of serenity and tranquility throughout the year, The Grotto hosts its Festival of Lights starting Nov. 26. The festival is open 5-10 p.m. Nov. 26 through Dec. 16 and 4:30-10 p.m. Dec. 17 through Dec. 30.
Tickets for the event are on sale now on the Grotto's website. They're $14 when purchased in advance and $16 at the gate. Youth tickets are $7 online and $8 at the door. Kids under 2 can get in for free, capacity permitting.
This year's festival will feature lights, caroling, puppet shows and music. The festival is a walk-through event, so expect to walk about a quarter mile. It takes on average an hour and a half to see the whole thing.
Last but not least, holiday adrenaline junkies can speed on over to Portland International Raceway for the annual Winter Wonderland event. Hailed as the biggest holiday light show west of the Mississippi, this year's 30th anniversary event features over 250 different displays, some of which are even animated.
In addition to being a lot of fun, this year's Winter Wonderland is for a good cause. All proceeds will benefit hunger relief efforts around the Portland area and giving food to families in need.
Starting back in 1993, PDX Raceway's Winter Wonderland is fun for the whole family, from kids looking for holiday sparkle to adults looking to drive a professional track. The Winter Wonderland takes you on a circuit around the historic PDX Speedway track, so please, no chains or studded tires.
The Winter Wonderland will open Nov. 25 and remain open through the end of December. You can hit the track Monday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m., or anytime 4:30-11 p.m. Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Additionally, the Winter Wonderland will have special extended hours, 4:30-11 p.m., Dec 16-25.