7 Best Things to Do for the Holidays in Portland, Oregon

Christmas Tree in Portland, OR
svetlana57 / Getty Images

There are lots of fun, family-friendly things to do in the City of Roses during the holidays, including checking out festive holiday light displays, attending community events, seeing legendary performances like "The Nutcracker" put on each year by the Oregon Ballet Theatre, and listening to Christmas music of all kinds. And thanks to the city's underlying "Keep Portland Weird" attitude, you can also expect to find plenty of wacky and unusual activities beyond the traditional holiday cheer. Here's a look at some of our favorite things to do if you're planning a trip to Portland, Oregon, during the holiday season.

01 of 07

Walk Along the Fantasy Trail at Wenzel Farm

Wenzel Farm Fantasy Trail

Fantasy Trail Wenzel Farm Inc.

19754 S Ridge Rd, Oregon City, OR 97045-8690, USA
Phone +1 503-631-2047

Back again during the month of December—the attraction took a brief hiatus during the pandemic but has otherwise been running annually for over 30 years—the Fantasy Trail on Wenzel Farm is made up of more than 1,000 feet of festively decorated pathway, leading visitors on a mystical journey through the woods surrounded by thousands of holiday lights.

Listen to all your favorite holiday tunes as you enjoy a stroll, then check out the Christmas scenes in the decked out 40-foot castle, as well as some of the farm's other attractions including a maze, suspension bridge, crooked house, walk-through tunnel before warming up by the bonfire.

02 of 07

See the Portland Courthouse Square Tree Lighting

Pioneer Courthouse Square at Christmas in Portland, Oregon

Pioneer Courthouse Square

715 SW Morrison St Suite 702, Portland, OR 97205, USA
Phone +1 503-223-1613

This annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony kicks off each holiday season in Portland. The family-friendly event, which includes the lighting of a huge 75-foot Christmas tree as well as a fun holiday sing-a-long, is typically held the day after Thanksgiving at Portland's Courthouse Square at 6 p.m. Each year, the Douglas fir tree is decorated with more than 14,000 colorful lights and stands tall until well after the holiday season ends, usually until the first week or two of January.

03 of 07

Be Amazed by ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo

Portland zoo zoolights

Sam Churchill / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221-2705, USA
Phone +1 503-226-1561

During the holiday season, the Oregon Zoo becomes a winter wonderland of decorations, sporting more than one million colorful lights. From the day after Thanksgiving until just after the New Year, you and your family can stroll the zoo's paths and check out animal-themed displays of light and motion. You will also have a chance to sip hot chocolate and snack on tasty treats, as well as enjoy live music and see other festive performances. To take it all in, ride the lighted train, jump on the carousel, or taste a variety of meals from Portland's famous food carts.

04 of 07

Cheer On the Portland Christmas Ship Parade

Portland Christmas Ship Parade

Sam Churchill / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Portland, OR, USA

Portland's Christmas Ships Parade is an annual event held on the Columbia and Willamette rivers that features an average of 50 to 60 boats, all decked out in festive holiday lights. The parade can be viewed from a number of different public parks, bridges, and other locations throughout the city. You can also visit a Meet and Greet at Tom McCall Park and check out the boats, chat with the folks who sail them, and see Santa up close. The Christmas Ships Parade, an annual tradition since 1954 takes place for several weeks in December. Check the schedule online to see when each fleet will be sailing down each of the respective rivers.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Attend a Holiday Theater Performance

Portland singing christmas tree

Portland's Singing Christmas Tree

14986 NW Cornell Rd, Portland, OR 97229-5460, USA
Phone +1 503-292-9293

A number of holiday-themed plays and musicals tend to appear in Portland's many theaters this time of year, often running for several weeks during the winter season, so check your favorite theater's website to see what'll be playing when you're in town.

George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" has become a popular annual event, performed by the legendary Oregon Ballet Theatre company with its gorgeous sets and well-known musical score. No other show has become a holiday tradition for so many. Performances are scheduled throughout the month of December, and are a dazzling and memorable way to enjoy the magic of the season.

Something else you can expect to see here every holiday season is Portland's Singing Christmas Tree, an annual event that has been bringing holiday joy to the Pacific Northwest since 1962. Each year, more than 350 adult and young singers perform holiday classics and contemporary renditions of Christmas songs at the Sunset Presbyterian Church. Get your tickets early to avoid disappointment, as these popular performances tend to fill up fast.

06 of 07

Visit The Grotto's Christmas Festival of Lights

Grotto Portland Festival of Lights

The Grotto

8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR 97220-5028, USA
Phone +1 503-254-7371

The Grotto, a 62-acre Catholic Shrine and botanical garden in Portland, presents the Christmas Festival of Lights each year. This walk-through event includes a variety of family-friendly experiences held in a beautiful setting. In addition to spectacular outdoor lighting displays, visitors can enjoy indoor holiday music concerts, puppet shows, songs performed by carolers, holiday snacks and beverages, and access to a petting zoo. The Christmas Festival of Lights typically runs from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas week.

07 of 07

Experience Winter Wonderland Portland

Winter Wonderland Portland

Winter Wonderland

1940 N Victory Blvd, Portland, OR 97217, USA

Winter Wonderland Portland, one of the largest holiday-themed light shows in the Northwest, is held at the Portland International Raceway each winter season. You and your family won't even have to worry about the cold—guests stay in their cars and drive through this festive holiday experience, which is great to experience even on especially cold or rainy evenings. Guests will get to see more than 250 colorful light displays, including 40 fully animated scenes, all presented right on the famous raceway. Winter Wonderland opens the day after Thanksgiving and stays open until just after the New Year.

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7 Best Things to Do for the Holidays in Portland, Oregon