Portland already had its first snowfall of the year, but only time will tell if there’s a white Christmas in store. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate holiday cheer around town.
If you’re like us, you probably have a ton going on this time of year. There’s shopping to do and festivities to plan, and the kids being out of school only complicates matters. This tends to be stressful. But it’s important to take moment, breathe in the pine-scented air, and revel in the season. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite ways for the whole family to get into the holiday spirit.
Christmas In The Garden
If you only make one stop on the holiday tour this year, consider Oregon Garden Resort’s Christmas in the Garden. There’s a little bit of everything and you’re sure to find something for everyone to enjoy. This year’s festivities include the Rediscovery Forest decked out in more than 500,000 holiday lights. And if that’s not enough, you can visit with Santa Claus, peruse a marketplace full of local artisan vendors, and enjoy roving bands of carolers belting out holiday favorites. If you’re in the mood for physical activity, stop by the ice skating rink or go snowless tubing. New this year, the 150-foot-track recreates the thrill of hurtling down an icy hill, but without the threat of getting snow down your shirt.
It’s A Wonderful Life
It wouldn’t be the holiday season without settling in and watching at least a few seasonally appropriate movies. And what movie shouts Christmas more than Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life? Starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, it’s a true Hollywood Christmas classic, and you have a chance to see it like never before. On December 17 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland, the Oregon Symphony presents a special screening. Projected on the big screen in HD in the original black and white, the orchestra will perform the soundtrack along with the film. This has the makings of a truly unique holiday event for the whole family.
It just wouldn’t be the holiday season without taking the time to gawk at Christmas lights. And fortunately enough, Portland has some doozies to check out. The Miracle of a Million Lights at the Victorian Belle mansion transforms the 2.5-acre local landmark into an epic holiday experience. It even features ten distinct Christmas trees. Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Speedway offers the largest light show in the Northwest. If the animals themselves aren’t enough of an attraction, Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo offers a lighting extravaganza, as well as local musicians, dancers, and other entertainment. And if you want to see as many lights as possible, FestiBUS offers parties of up to 12 the chance to hit up a collection of the best holiday lights in the city.
Maybe the only thing more dazzling than elaborate Christmas light displays are elaborate Christmas light displays on the water. Originally starting all the way back in 1954, the Portland Christmas Ships Parade runs through December 18. The whole family can come down to watch more than 60 boats—ranging in size form 14 feet long all the way beyond 60—cruise down the Columbia River and spread holiday cheer to the Rose City. Many of the privately owned vessels have been part of the celebration for decades. Some have participated for more than 30 years. This is truly one of the city’s most enduring holiday traditions.
The Christmas Festival Of Lights
The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights offers so much more than just the decorations the name implies. Food, beverages, and gifts are available as you stroll through the outdoor attractions. But with five indoor concerts scheduled each evening, you have the opportunity to witness some of the region’s best choirs and musical talents in a welcoming 600-seat chapel. In addition to the largest Christmas choral festival in the world, there’s caroling, puppet shows, and even live animals to occupy the whole family.
Geeky Gift Ideas
Not sure what to get the geek on your holiday shopping list? Consider checking out the Geek the Halls Holiday Bazaar on December 17th and 18th at the Lloyd Center DoubleTree Hotel. Presented by the PDX Browncoats, this marks the event’s seventh year and features more than 75 vendors. You can find everything from handmade crafts with a specific nerdy flair to one-of-a-kind artwork to local artisanal distillers. If you can’t find something unique and perfect here, it might just be impossible.
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
One of the biggest perks of living in the Northwest is ready access to nature in all its forms. We’re close to camping, hiking, skiing, and any other outdoor activity we can think of. This time of year, one of the benefits is the chance to cut down your own Christmas tree. Of course, it’s possible, not to mention convenient, to buy pre-cut trees. But there’s something special and magical about rounding up the whole family, going into the woods (even if it’s really a designated tree farm), and picking out the most symbolic item of the season on your own.
These are just a few of the fun family holiday events and attractions around the Portland area. There are countless others to choose from. Let us know what favorites we might have missed in the comments below.