Know Before You Go
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Visiting Portland for the holidays? From Thanksgiving through year’s end, Portland offers an abundance of celebrations, from the traditional to the unexpected.
Holiday Events & Festivals
The city’s official holiday season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with the hugely popular Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony held in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Top-notch performers like Pink Martini help lead the festivities and count down to the moment the towering tree is set aglow.
High above the city, the historic Pittock Mansion creates an equally enchanting scene. Each December, the mansion’s 16 rooms are filled with a breathtaking display of lights, trees and decorations revolving around a chosen theme.
Nearby, the Oregon Zoo provides a dazzling display of twinkling cheer with its ZooLights display, featuring more than a million colored bulbs. (Don’t miss BrewLights, an opportunity to experience ZooLights kids-free while sampling from dozens of beer, cider and seltzer vendors.)
Looking for more tree inspirations? Stroll through a yuletide forest comprising dozens of uniquely adorned Christmas trees at Providence Festival of Trees.
A storybook world comes to life each winter thanks to the Mount Hood Model Engineers. Each November the group allows a coveted glimpse at their elaborate model railroad display, which encompasses nearly 1,200 square feet. Train fans can hop aboard the Holiday Express Train, a vintage steam locomotive that carries Santa and his elves on a yuletide ride from on the Oregon Pacific Railroad in Southeast Portland.
Need some grown-up time? Toast the season with pals at the Holiday Ale Festival in Pioneer Courthouse Square, which boasts more than 50 seasonal craft brews and a special Sunday Beer Brunch.
Holiday Light Displays
In addition to the Oregon Zoo’s dazzling display of twinkling cheer during ZooLights, other beloved holiday light displays include Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway, the Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grottoand Southeast Portland’s Peacock Lane.
Anyone who appreciates a good carol will love Portland’s Singing Christmas Tree, an annual showcase of both traditional and contemporary holiday music, performed by more than 350 singers, dancers, local actors and a live orchestra. Choir lovers should also catch The Most Wonderful Season by the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. And get ready to clap and shout along with the region’s premier gospel singers at Gospel Christmas, another annual Oregon Symphony production.
Traditionalists may prefer to ring in the season with more classical fare, such as Handel’s Messiah performed by the Portland Baroque Orchestra. They’ll also enjoy Comfort & Joy, a concert of classical Christmas music presented by the Oregon Symphony.
For a creative twist on holiday tunes, try the annual Tuba Christmas Concert, where more than 300 tubas play in the middle of downtown Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Do your holiday shopping for locally made gifts at hip parties, makers' fairs, sprawling sales and garden grounds filled with handcrafted items.
Open every Saturday and Sunday from March–December, Portland Saturday Market is the largest arts-and-crafts fair in the U.S.
Ready to shop? Everything in this guide comes from Portland-based makers, and most of these goodies can be found at Made Here PDX. Happy holidays!
Holidays on Stage
What better way to celebrate the holidays than with circus performances backed by a 15-piece orchestra playing the Beatles’ White Album in its entirety?! It makes perfect sense in Portland, where White Album Christmas at the Alberta Rose Theatre has been a tradition since 2008.
Portland Revels launched its beloved Christmas Revels production in 1995. Since then, the troupe has celebrated historic winter solstice traditions each year, often focusing on different historical periods with themes like Commedia Italiana, Nordic Lights and Highland Voyage.
Last but not least, if there’s one can’t-miss seasonal event, it’s the Oregon Ballet Theatre presentation of The Nutcracker — the only George Balanchine-choreographed production of the holiday classic west of the Mississippi.
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