With less than 20 days until Christmas, we’re in the home stretch of the holiday season. We hope you’re finding time to appreciate the beauty of the season amidst the mad scramble to cook meals, buy gifts, and prepare for family visits.
If you need a breather but don’t know what to do, look no further. This list of lights will have you getting out in the crisp Portland night, enjoying beautiful displays from the West Hills to Mt. Hood.
1. Tuba Christmas at Pioneer Courthouse Square
If you live in the metro area, you’ve probably already seen the Pioneer Square tree. The lighting ceremony last month kicked off the holiday season. A rotating lineup of performers and events will take turns at the tree’s base throughout the rest of December.
Arguably the most popular of these is the Tuba Christmas Concert. Now in its 28th year, the massive concert fills Portland’s living room with nearly 300 tuba players. It’s all free and just a few blocks from many of the most popular shopping spots downtown.
2. Peacock Lane
With the huge crowds that flock here year after year, chances are you already know about Peacock Lane. But it’s worth a mention just in case someone reading this still hasn’t experienced this classic piece of Portland’s holiday season. Dozens of homes make it one of the biggest displays in the city. Each house picks unique themes with over-the-top decorations—some opt for classic characters like the Grinch, while others modernize their displays with references to movies like Star Wars.
While driving is allowed most nights (except December 15–17), the lines are long. It’s best to park a few blocks away or ride Trimet. Police will close the street to cars if crowds become excessive.
3. Cosmic Tubing at Skibowl
Since we can’t count on a white Christmas in the Willamette Valley, those in search of snow may have to drive to Mt. Hood. But did you know that Mt. Hood’s Skibowl hosts some of the best holiday parties of the year?
The whole family will love cosmic tubing, which includes 600,000+ LED lights, black lights, laser light shows, music, and more. And with family-sized innertubes, the whole family can ride together. Plus, it’s all set to music from a live DJ. Cosmic Tubing runs through March, but Skibowl will start scaling back the frequency of sessions in January.
December 8, 14–31
December 8: 6:00–8:00 p.m.; December 14–31: 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m., 7:15–9:15, 9:30–11:30
Adults are $25–$31, children under 48” are $20–$26
4. Sandy Light Show
This is a great stop for Portlanders on their way to Mt. Hood. A dedicated family in this Sandy neighborhood goes all out for the holidays. The home and yard get decked out with high-tech lights that flash in time to the songs of the season. You’ll find the Sandy Light Show on Fir Drive, just a few blocks off Highway 26 in downtown Sandy.
It isn’t far from other Sandy staples like Joe’s Donut Shop. If your next stop is Mt. Hood, you can also use your Sandy visit to pick up a Sno-Park pass. You’ll need one to park at any of the mountain’s resorts. $4 day passes are sold at the Arco Gas Station and the Ace Hardware store on Highway 26.
December 7–January 1
Lights go on at dusk
5. The Train to Christmas Town
If you’re already at Mt. Hood, drive just a bit farther north for an experience straight out of a story book. The Train to Christmas Town departs from Hood River and recreates the story of a children’s book that shares the same name. The train’s whole crew takes part with holiday costumes, music, and treats.
While there are lights and decorations, the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge is what shines the brightest on this ride.
December 7–9, 13–16, 19–23, 26–27
Departure times vary by day, usually from 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Adults are $35.25–$83.75, children are $27.75–$71.25
6. The Holiday Express
Want the train experience without the drive to the Gorge? Check out The Holiday Express for a themed ride through the heart of southeast Portland. The vintage train cars take riders on a roughly 45-minute loop that starts and ends at Oaks Park.
Book a daytime ride to check out the wildlife as the train rolls through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, or book a ticket for dusk and watch the train come alive with lights and decorations. Passengers can also count on seeing Santa aboard every train.
December 8–9, 15–16
Trains depart hourly, 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Adults are $18–$21.50, children are $11.50–$15, and group prices are available
7. A Pittock Mansion Christmas
For a vintage holiday experience, look no further than Pittock Mansion. Nestled in Forest Park, the property offers a stunning view of downtown Portland. You can tour the historic home year-round, but organizers have decorated each room in the fashion of an early twentieth-century Christmas for the holiday season. The focus this year is on popular hobbies and pastimes of the era, which the Pittock family might have enjoyed during their Christmas celebrations.
Parking is especially scarce during A Pittock Mansion Christmas. Visitors are encouraged to use ride share services. Daytime visitors feeling up to a hike can reach Pittock Mansion from lower Macleay Park. The trailhead is within walking distance from popular shopping and dining spots on NW 21st and 23rd streets.
Open daily through December 31
10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Adults are $12, seniors 65+ are $11, youth 6–18 are $9, and children younger than 6 are free
8. Holidays on Franklin Street
People in Clark County might be looking for lights on their side of the Columbia River to avoid the bridges clogged with shoppers. If that describes you, check out Holidays on Franklin Street. It’s similar to Peacock Lane, with massive cartoon characters and other symbols of the season adorning homes along the street. Highlights include a 24-piece, 70-foot nativity scene.
Snow machines will bring extra holiday cheer at 7:00 p.m. on December 22 and 23 and at the top of the hour throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Open nightly through December 31
Lights go on at dusk
9. Christmas on the Campground
Those in search of a more traditional Christmas experience might consider Christmas on the Campground. The Portland Apostolic Faith Church fills its southeast Portland property with Yuletide cheer for a weekend in December. Kids can take a hayride tour of displays featuring thousands of lights. There’s also music, a petting zoo, and a live nativity play put on by the church’s Sunday school.
December 14: 6:00–9:00 p.m.; December 15–16: 5:00–8:00 p.m.
10. Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto
No list of Portland lights would be complete without mentioning the Grotto. With a botanical garden and an ornately decorated Catholic shrine as its backdrop, the Christmas Festival of Lights has become a holiday tradition for the entire Portland community.
Every night features several choir performances, so music lovers might want to check the schedule before planning their trip. The Grotto also encourages visitors to bring a can of food for Snow Cap, a food pantry that serves East Multnomah County.
Through December 30
Adults are $12, seniors 65+ and military members are $11, children 3–12 are $6, and toddlers are free
Now let’s hear what you think. Leave a comment and let us know which of these places you liked best, or if there’s another we should’ve highlighted. Happy holidays, and enjoy the lights!