Portland is full of bright ways to embrace the shorter days of winter: hundreds of thousands of lights in our neighborhoods, our waters and plenty of spots in between. Read on for some of the stars in the city’s constellation of holiday light displays.
The first twinkles come as the Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway kicks off the season with one of the largest holiday light shows in the Northwest. Grab some hot chocolate and drive (or walk or bike) through the more than 250 spectacular light pieces set up along the racetrack.
Next, the Oregon Zoo switches on ZooLights. This family favorite is a unique opportunity to see the zoo after hours and all aglow. ZooLights features carolers, bright trees and all sorts of animals (real and animatronic) — all illuminated with 1.5 million LED lights. (For the 21-and-over crowd, the zoo also hosts BrewLights, a kid-free evening to enjoy ZooLights and dozens of local beer, cider and seltzer vendors to sample from.)
At The Grotto in Northeast Portland, the Christmas Festival of Lights uses more than 500,000 lights and 150 choral performances to share the spirit at at the internationally renowned Catholic shrine. People of all faiths are welcome to the 62-acre park that features a rock cave carved into the base of a 110-foot cliff.
Some of Portland’s other natural wonders, the Columbia and Willamette rivers, also shine during the holiday season with the Christmas Ships Parade. This long-running tradition sees around 60 festively decorated boats floating on the area’s waterways nightly, delighting shore-bound onlookers in local hotels and restaurants. The entirely volunteer-run event has been lighting smiles since 1954.
The residents of Southeast Portland’s Peacock Lane have had the holiday glow since the 1920s. Every year from Dec. 15-31, houses on the street break out the twinkle lights and welcome onlookers with the season’s brightest greetings. The first three nights, the lane is closed off to car traffic — because nothing makes the season bright like a well-lit holiday stroll.