The Best Portland Winter Festivals & Christmas Events

Article by Lost Plate Food Tours

Published on November 22, 2019

Grab a warm drink and get your cheer on with this list of the best Portland winter festivals and holiday events happening each holiday season! From lights to trains to parties to extreme sports, Portland is the place to be for the holidays and we’ve got you covered.

Zoo Lights

This is a must-see spectacle if you are visiting Portland in December. We mean that so literally we made it bold, italicized, and underlined, so you know we mean business. The Oregon Zoo completely transforms its beautiful grounds with over a million and a half lights. In addition to seeing zoo animals like elephants, penguins, and otters, you can also ride the famous Zoo Train and experience the zoo like you never have before. To make the evening even better, there are a plethora of food carts, drinks, and even live music. Check the Oregon Zoo Lights calendar for exact dates, times, and events.

Christmas Lights Galore

Portland has no shortage of places that are all lit up for the holiday season. The Christmas Ship Parade runs for just over two weeks in December, where every evening owners outfit their ships in festive lights and make their way up and down the river. Lights at the Grotto start-up after Thanksgiving and is a beautiful old church where visitors will be able to walk through a stunning display of lights and enjoy choir performances of Christmas tunes, with five different groups performing a short set each night. Peacock Lane is known as “Portland’s Christmas Street” where each house gets into the spirit. Lights at Portland International Raceway is the perfect Christmas event for families where you can head down to the racetrack and take in the lights show set up around the track from the comfort of your own vehicle.

Christmas Markets

Many craft fairs come to Portland just in time for the holiday season. The Portland Bazaar is a pop up that has something for everyone; you’re sure to find something to get you in the holiday spirit. Also check out The Crafty Wonderland Market which makes an appearance every holiday season. This market features 250+ artists selling amazing handmade goods, and there’s no admission! If you can’t make the market this year, Crafty Wonderland does have a brick and mortar store in Portland where they carry items by over 200 of the vendors who attend the market!

Portland Night Market

The Portland Night Market is a seriously cool Portland marketplace celebrating the best of the best Portland vendors. You’ll find everything from art to wine to handmade goods to music (and even a hidden speakeasy!). This free event takes place in a huge warehouse underneath the Morrison Bridge where you can meet some of Portland’s coolest creators and purveyors, all while eating and drinking the night away. This event only happens a few times a year, and the December market is a great place to find the perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list.

Holiday Performances

If no Christmas season is complete for you without seeing the Nutcracker or attending the theater, Portland has got you covered! The theaters in Portland are alive with the holiday spirit during performances of The Nutcracker, the Portland’s Gay Men’s Chorus, Tuba Christmas, The Singing Christmas Tree, and you can always find a showing of A Christmas Carol. These are just a sample of some of the shows that you can check out during the holidays. Click here for schedules and more info.

The Train to Christmas Town

About an hour outside of Portland sits the quaint picturesque town of Hood River. Bring the family here and jump on the Train to Christmas Town. During the 70-minute train ride you will listen to music, munch on cookies and hot cocoa, and watch as elves dance down the aisles. Kids even get to meet Santa Claus and get a special present from him.

Eat Out

Don’t feel like cooking on Christmas? Burned the Turkey? Want to sneak away from your annoying relatives? Well, you’re in luck because there are plenty of amazing restaurants in Portland open on Christmas. You’ll need to do your research to find our who is open, but Duck House is always good bet. We recommend following EaterPDX as they usually have list of open restaurants every holiday season. 

New Years Eve Parties

Portland isn’t known for having the best nightlife scene, but that changes every year on New Years Eve. In addition to local bars and restaurants holding fun events, one of the more famous NYE events is the Champagne Ball, where one ticket grants you access to multiple bars and dance floors, and over 1500 party goers. Dress up in your cocktail party best and ring in the new year with style and fun!

Winter Sports

Portland doesn’t see much snow in the city, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love our winter sports. If you’re in the city, lace up the ice skates and check out the skating rink at the Lloyd Center Mall. If you’re up for a drive, head an hour out of town to Mount Hood. There are three separate ski resorts for your skiing and snowboarding addiction, tons of snowshoeing trails, and even a tubing adventure park. For something less extreme, grab a drink and a fantastic meal at Timberline Lodge with a perfect view of the mountain peak.

Portland Food Tour

Lost Plate leads the best food tours in town, and that doesn’t slow down in the cold winter months. You can relax on heated patios on the Portland Food Cart Tour, or warm up with cups on hot coffee on the Downtown Coffee & Donut Tour. On each tour, a local guide will take you around to local spots to eat, drink, and have fun. Plus all food and drink is included on every tour so it’s an amazing value! They also offer gift cards if you’re looking for a gift for a local loved one. What a fun holiday-time event!

Winter Light Festival

Every February, the entire city lights up during the Portland Light Festival. This newer festival transforms Downtown and other neighborhoods around Portland into large, and sometimes interactive, art installations and performances. Expect fire, bright lights, lit up moving sculptures, and more! Bundle up, grab your umbrella, and travel around the city by foot or bike to see these exhibits yourself.

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