The Ultimate Guide to Christmas lights in Oregon (2023)
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Christmas lights held extra magic in Oregon in 2020. Some neighbors put their lights up a little earlier than other years. Others kept their lights up a little longer than normal, well into January or February.
In the PNW, many of us were waking up in the dark. Going to work in the dark. Spending all daylight hours indoors working. And coming home in the dark.
In the darkest months of the year, during one of the darkest years we have seen, it was as if we as a community knew we all needed that extra light and hope. And what light and hope we had, we did our best to share and spread to those around us.
To continue in the spirit of spreading cheer, I’ve gathered some of the best places to view Christmas lights in Oregon this holiday season.
ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo
ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo is an entrancing animal-themed walk through experience, and a Portland holiday staple. So bundle up warm for a one-mile stroll through the zoo, as you marvel at the sparkling 1.5 million lights. The animals will all be tucked away warm and slumbering by this hour, but there’s still plenty to do and see.
Take time to stop and explore the food trucks, ride the carousel, and pause to take some fun photos. And be sure to make time for a ride on the light-adorned zoo train for a unique view of ZooLights. You can eat dinner, snack on elephant ears and kettle corn, or warm up with a hot coca. All in all, plan to spend about an hour and a half here.
Dates: November 24th, 2023, to January 7th, 2024, starting at 4:30 pm (closing time varies dependent on the night). There are a few nights this season that ZooLights will be closed, so check the zoo’s website for details.
Cost: $12-26/person. Prices vary through out the season. Check out the zoo’s website to find out about value nights. Although Zoo Lights is not included in your Zoo membership, a 20% discount is offered to Zoo members. Plus, there’s also a special members night November 19th, 2023.
TIP: You must purchase your tickets online in advance.
Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway
Opening the day after Thanksgiving at the Portland International Raceway, this will be Winter Wonderland’s 31st year running. Proceeds from this event go to the Sunshine Division, which provides healthy meals for Portland families in need, year round.
For bicyclists and dog-lovers, this year there will be three special car-free nights open to view the lights. Tuesday November 28th is Bike the Lights Night. And Monday, November 27th and Wednesday, November 29th are Lights & Leashes Nights.
Dates: November 24th to December 31st, 2023. Opening and closing times vary, depending on the night.
Cost: $37/car (Monday-Thursday), $43/car (Sunday), $48/car (Friday-Saturday), and holiday pricing from December 15th to 25th is $48/car. Admission is $15 for adults ($5 for kids 6-12; free for kids 5 and under) on special nights.
TIP: It’s best to attend this light show early in the evening, weeknights, or early in December. Peak times are later in the evening, weekends, and the week of Christmas, when wait times can be as long as an hour.
Lightopia in Hillsboro
Lightopia is a new Christmas light show as of 2021, founded by Hillsboro firefighters, bringing Christmas and meals to local families in need. It’s located in Hillsboro at the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex, right off highway US-26.
I find this light display to be the most enjoyable and relaxing, as this half mile, 15-20 minute drive-through is less trafficked compared to other light shows (for now, at least!).
Dates: December 5th to December 30th, 2023, open 5 to 8 pm (Monday through Thursday) and 5 to 9 pm (Friday through Sunday). Closed Christmas Day.
Cost: This is a free event. However, you’re encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy or non-perishable food item. Donations will go to the Hillsboro Firefighters Toy & Joy Drive and the Hillsboro School District Food Pantry.
TIP: Although it is free, you still must make reservations online in advance. Reservations open on Tuesdays or Thursdays for the following week. First Reservations open November 30th.
Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto
This event is located at The Grotto, or the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, in Northeast Portland. The Grotto covers 62 acres and is a shrine of the Roman Catholic Order of the Friar Servants of Mary. For the Christmas Festival of Lights, an astounding 2 million lights illuminate a quarter mile walk through the Grotto.
Spend the night enjoying the lights, outdoor Christmas carols, snacking on doughnuts and warming up with hot cocoa. Also, be sure to check out the online schedule, as concerts are offered indoors, every night of the event. You’ll want to plan to spend about an hour to an hour and a half here.
Dates: November 24th to December 30th, 2023 (Closed Christmas Day). Open 4:45 or 5 pm to 10 pm
Cost: $18 for adults, $8 for children (3-11), free for children 2 and under. Order in advance online to save $1-2/ticket.
Pioneer Courthouse Square Tree Lighting Ceremony
Don’t miss the 39th annual tree lighting at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland. It will take place the day after Thanksgiving from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. At 75 feet tall, this Douglas fir will be a beautiful sight to see, and Santa himself will do the honors of lighting her up!
The event is back, live and in person, after going virtual during the pandemic. And this year, Thomas Lauderdale from Pink Martini will lead a holiday sing-a-long. So show up to spread some holiday cheer by singing loudly, so all can hear!
Date: Friday November 24th, 2023, 5:30-6:30 pm
Portland Christmas Ships Parade
The Portland Christmas Ships Parade began with just one boat in 1954. Hosted by the Columbia and Willamette River fleets, it now includes 55 to 60 boats in the Christmas Ship Fleet.
There are multiple options for viewing this parade. You can simply find a spot to stand on the river bank and watch. However, a cozier option many people choose is to watch the parade from one of the restaurants or hotels that line the Columbia and Willamette Rivers in Portland.
If you visit the Christmas Ships Parade website, you’ll find a schedule listing the parade route, as well as good restaurants and hotels along the route. Just be sure to make your reservations early, as some may start to fill up as much as a year in advance!
Dates: December 1st to December 17th, 2023
Cost: Free to $$$?, dependent upon where you choose to watch the parade from. The Christmas Ships Parade is supported solely by donations, so if you go, considered making a donation online.
Pittock Mansion Christmas: Winter Wonderland
Ok, so this is not exactly Christmas lights in Oregon, but Pittock Mansion has a beautiful holiday display each year. This year’s theme is “Winter Wonderland,” where you’ll find snow angels, gingerbread, snowmen and more. Explore Henry Pittock’s Mansion decorated for the holidays and catch a breathtaking view of Portland from the mansion’s grounds.
Dates: November 19, 2023, to January 4th, 2024. 10 am-4 pm (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day)
Cost: $16.50 for adults, $12.50 for children, free for children 5 and under and to members
Silverton Christmas Market at the Oregon Garden Resort
The Silverton Christmas Market is an event that has got it all going on. Where do I even begin?! I suppose I’ll start with the Christmas lights, since this is a post about Christmas lights in Oregon, after all. The light display includes 1 million lights, starts at the Oregon Garden Resort main lodge, and winds through the grounds.
You can book an over night stay at the Oregon Garden Resort to make the most of the experience. Explore the traditional German Christmas Market, sip on some glühwein, meet Santa and Frosty, and go snowless tubing. There’s even a Biergarten serving local brews.
Dates: November 17th, 2023, December 31st, 2023, 5-9pm. Closed November 22-23 and December 24-25.
Cost: $15-20 for adults, $5-8 for children (6-12), free for children 5 and under. Week days are less expensive than weekends, and Silverton residents receive will receive a discount with proof of residence. Snowless tubing is $5-9. Parking starts at $20.
TIPS: Order tickets online in advance, as this event frequently sells out! Also, no cash is accepted at this event.
Magic of Lights at the Oregon State Fair and Expo Center
Salem’s Magic of Lights is held at the Oregon State Fair and Expo Center. This dazzling drive through display is just over a mile of sparkling lights, featuring beloved holiday characters and scenes. Spend a few extra dollars to purchase a Dash Pass, and skip the lines!
Dates: November 17th to December 31st, 2023, Monday-Thursday 5:30-9 pm, Friday-Sunday 5:30-10 pm
Cost: $22/vehicle (in advance online), $30/vehicle (Monday-Thursday), $35/vehicle (Friday-Sunday)
Seaside Parade of Lights and Tree Lighting
Do something unique this holiday season and head out to the Oregon coast for a parade. The Seaside Parade of Lights will start on Necanicum Dr and move through downtown Seaside. The tree lighting takes place after the parade.
Date: November 24th, 2023. Parade starts at 7pm, Tree Lighting at 8pm
I hope this guide to Christmas lights in Oregon was helpful. If you’re looking for Christmas lights in Washington, Flannels or Flip Flops has got you covered! Looking for more things to do in the PNW? Check out these 10 PNW travel blogs you need to read in 2022.