The holidays are here! Things are still far from normal and the usual Portland traditions won’t be the same this year. Still, there are events that have adjusted accordingly to let everyone enjoy a jolly season. If you’re looking for events to help you celebrate the holidays, make sure to read through our list of awesome activities here in Portland!
Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway
Witness the largest light show in the Northwest by visiting Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway. There are over 250 light set pieces and fully animated scenes to see at the track. You can also enjoy listening to recorded holiday songs as you’re watching the display. If you’re worried about the virus, fret not because you can enjoy the spectacular views right in the comfort of your own car!
What’s more to love? All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Sunshine Division’s hunger relief efforts. What a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays knowing you’re doing it for a cause!
The display runs from November 27 to January 2 (except Christmas Day, December 25), 5:30-9:30 PM Sunday-Thursday, and 5-11 PM Friday-Saturday. Tickets are available for $24-$32 via the event website.
To ensure everyone’s safety, the event is going cashless this year. Payments must be made before entering the racetrack. Food donations are also not accepted this year. Everyone is encouraged to make financial contributions upon ticket purchase instead.
Pioneer Courthouse Square Holiday Tree Lighting
Another Portland tradition that just couldn’t be missed is the Holiday Tree Lighting at Portland’s “living room,” the Pioneer Courthouse Square. The Portland Parks Department will be decorating this year’s donated tree and the lighting will take place on November 27.
As they say, this event marks the official beginning of the holiday season here in Portland. Even though there will be no in-person events at the square, you may still witness the event virtually. The online concert will be streamed on the Square’s Facebook and Instagram pages. The event will also be aired on November 27 at KGW-TV.
What’s a Portland holiday without a trip to ZooLights? The pandemic can’t stop this annual tradition. This year, you can walk through 1.5 million dashing lights or drive through the display. Things will be a bit different, but it will always be magical!
ZooLights will open from November 22 to January 10 (except Christmas Day, December 25), at varying schedules per week. Admission tickets are at $18-$23 for walkthrough during Monday, Wednesday, and Friday-Sunday. Drive-thru rates are at $30-$40 per car on Tuesday and Thursday. Oregon Zoo members are entitled to a 25% discount on tickets. All tickets must be purchased in advance via their website.
Masks are required to enter the venue and visitors will be required to follow one-way paths to ensure safe physical distancing.
Cinnamon Bear Holiday Sing-along at Oaks Park
This 80-year tradition in the Northwest isn’t going anywhere! To celebrate this unusual holiday season, the Cinnamon Bear Holiday Sing-along is set to be enjoyed via a vehicle-based experience. It will be transformed into a drive-in concert, safely distanced from other attendees.
Of course, the well-loved Cinnamon Bear, Chipper the Squirrel, and Santa Claus will all be there! This is an awesome family experience that you won’t want to miss. Tickets are available for $49 per car and must be purchased in advance via their website. More information about ticket selling will be up soon.
The concert will take place at Oaks Park on various nights from November 27 to December 31. Showtimes will be at 6 PM and 8 PM, Thursday to Sunday.
Photos with Santa at Washington Square
Your kids can still meet Santa this year but at a safe distance! Make sure to visit Washington Square to snap that picture with Santa himself. Just like in the previous years, the experience will always be free. However, professional photo packages are available so you can commemorate this season’s unique holiday celebration.
Santa and his elves will all wear masks. Every visitor will be required to wear face coverings as well. Hand sanitizers will also be available upon entry and exit to ensure the public’s safety.
The event runs from November 20 to December 24. Reservations are preferred. Head over to their website to book your slot.
Last on this list is attending the Christmas Ships exhibition. On its 66th year, the annual Christmas Ships tradition in Portland couldn’t be a more perfect way to celebrate the season! It’s practically socially distanced to begin with, so you don’t have to worry at all! Witness the beauty of over 50 light boats scattered across the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. The brightly decorated ships are ready to shine their light on the glassy surface of the water! It’s truly an exciting sight to behold.
The ships will be on display from December 4 to 22. Check out the Columbia River schedule here and the Willamette River schedule here. Docks will be off access to spectators this year. However, the best locations to witness the display are included in the schedule links listed above.
Interested to register your own boat? The committee is still accepting applications. As long as your boat can do a minimum of six knots and you have a desire to decorate, you may register via this link. If you’re feeling a little generous, you may also donate to participating boat owners to help fund the celebration. Visit this page to know more.
That’s it for our list of Portland holiday events you can visit! Please make sure to follow all safety guidelines to keep yourself safe no matter where you go. It’s also important to evaluate risks before participating in these activities. Don’t forget to maintain a safe distance from everyone!