Christmas In Portland: A Fairytale Holiday

By Swathi Ramaswamy on Jan 08, 2019
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Portland celebrates Christmas with a rich variety of events happening across the city. In no other city will you find an entire cruise dedicated to Cinnamon Bear from the 1920’s radio show. The Pioneer Courthouse Square Tree Lighting, Lights on Peacock Lane, the Christmas Ship Parade and Santa Con are some of the events that successfully create holiday cheer among the residents.

Pandora’s winter lights and Longfellow’s red scarf bring cheer in every nook and corner of this city, and no celebration is complete without involving the local brewers with the Holiday Ale Festival in Pioneer Courthouse Square. The events may sound normal, but the spirit with which it is done is something not found in most cities. For instance, carols are sung everywhere to commemorate the festival, but Portland will probably have about 250 tubes on hand to play the carols. Here are a few of the Christmas events in Portland that make the holiday season exciting.

PC: wikimedia.commons

Witness the Grotto Festival of Lights

The local choirs in Grotto sing the local hits with cathedral-quality sound under the dazzling lights at the Festival of Lights. This spectacular event has 150 indoor music concerts and dramatic displays where they enact the history of Christmas. There are over half a million bulbs used in the light display for the outdoor garden setting and the Christmas trees. You can sit in the garden and listen to the carolers under the bedazzling setting to get a warm holiday feeling. They also have a puppet show based on Christmas in the evening that carries on for almost an hour. The Festival of Lights is started right after Thanksgiving, through the end of December between 5 in the evening and 9 pm. The tickets cost around $5-$10 depending on the age.

Visit the Oregon Zoo

Dive back into childhood with this magical sight at the Oregon Zoo. Animals may not be your thing but who doesn’t like them made out of neon lights frolicking in the dark illuminating the city? The real animals are out there too, but they appear harmlessly among the lights. The Oregon Zoo situated on Canyon Road brings the concept of the zoo to life with lights twinkling away in the dark every day between 5 in the evening till 9 pm. The attraction is not limited to just animals; they have a puppet show, a train ride for the entire family and beverages like hot chocolate to keep the chill at bay. It is a place for kids and adults where everyone can loosen up a little and enjoy the spectacular lights through the train ride. You can experience the Zoo Lights anytime between 5 to 9 in the evening, and they cost somewhere between $10 and $15.

Attend the Pioneer Courthouse Tree Arrival and Lighting Ceremony

Every year, right after Thanksgiving, thousands of people in Portland come together in the heart of the city and witness the arrival of the massive Christmas tree that dominates the Pioneer Courthouse Square. You can simply stand there and stare up at the 75 foot Christmas tree, adorned with 14 thousand lights while listening to a massive tuba band playing holiday music. There are other activities that take place as well, such as the appearance of Santa Claus and a sing-a-long, featuring well-known musicians.

Take the Cinnamon Bear Cruise

Remember the Cinnamon Bear from the 1920’s radio show? Yes, there is an entire cruise that goes on for a month, starting from mid-November dedicated to this bear! It is a two-hour cruise where you can take your kids and enjoy the hot chocolate while interacting with the characters who also entertain you with their stories and music. The time is magical, and there is a perfect blend of events to ensure that your kid has a wonderful time. You also get to take home a picture with the Cinnamon Bear seated on his magical throne. The cruise costs about $43 for adults and $33-$20 for kids between the age of 1 and 12. The cost covers the picture with the Cinnamon Bear and a light snack buffet on the cruise.

Attend the Santa Con

A few thousand individuals dress up as Santa and parade across the areas of Pearl and Chinatown during Santa Con. It is not as famous as the Stumptown Santacon that takes place in New York, but this Portland Christmas parade is equally entertaining. They drink and make merry as they interact with one another and bar hop in the neighbourhood. It may seem foolish to a few, and sometimes this event has turned into a wild night as well. It starts at Splash Lounge at around 1 in the afternoon. The cost for participating is generally $10.

The Christmas Ship Parade

This annual Christmas event has been in tradition for over 60 years now in Portland and features a parade of about 55 Portland Christmas ships of all sizes decked with sparkling lights. The reflection of the lights in the water makes the entire experience enchanting and truly breathtaking. The ships may range from 14 feet to 65 feet in length, and for two weeks the ship owners proudly cruise the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. They have a website with all the details including the river where the cruise is going to take place each night. The shoreside onlookers watch the ship parade from the restaurants and hotels along the rivers over dinner. On two particular days, a meet and greet session is conducted near River Place Marina to allow the onlookers to view the boats from up close.

Visit the Peacock Lane

The Southeast Sunnyside neighbourhood has uniquely decorated Tudor homes during the holiday season. The residents of Peacock Lane have been carrying on this tradition since the 1920s where they decorate their houses with light displays from mid-December till New Year’s Eve from 6 in the evening to 11 pm. The residents also serve hot cocoa and cider from booths located at the centre of Peacock Lane. You should wait for a pedestrian-only night to experience the true beauty of their elaborate decorations.

So whatever plans you had for Christmas, put them aside, pack your bags and hop on the next flight to Portland to have a never before experience celebrating the Christmas.

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