Travelers may tend to overlook the Oregon Coast during winter, contemplating only the snow-capped Cascades and the high, dry deserts beyond.
This is a mistake.
The swirling mists and high seas of winter give the rocky coast an ethereal quality best enjoyed for a few hours, then viewed from the other side of a window with a favorite book, good food and drink, and some music. Thus the Oregon Coast’s cities and towns save some of their best festivals for winter, when the weather is sometimes rough but the provisions and company remain superb. Winter festivals take place along the length of the Oregon Coast, offering up food, music, natural treasures and hospitality. It’s a time when hotels have seasonal specials and the beaches belong to you. Enjoy the season. (And pack a raincoat.)
Nov. 6-8, 2020
Stormy Weather Arts Festival
A little rain doesn’t stop the city of Cannon Beach from celebrating the arts. Since 1987, the cozy North Coast town has hosted the Stormy Weather Arts Festival every first weekend of November. Local galleries and performance venues open their doors for special receptions, live music and viewings of artists at work — painting, sculpting, glassblowing and more. See for yourself why Cannon Beach is recognized as one of the best art towns in America. (Photo credit: Gary Hayes)
Nov. 7-8, 2020
Wild Rivers Mushroom Festival
Curious about foraging for Oregon’s wild mushrooms? The Wild Rivers Mushroom Festival is your chance to learn from the pros, with expert-led field forays and workshops held over the two-day celebration in Brookings. Vendors will sell fungi-related products, and you can taste mushroom-themed meals at participating local restaurants and breweries all weekend long.
Nov. 28-Dec. 31, 2019
Shore Acres State Park Holiday Lights
Tens of thousands of people visit the Shore Acres State Park Holiday Lights display south of Coos Bay throughout December, when more than 300,000 LED bulbs light up the historic park on the edge of a wind- and wave-beaten bluff. Now in its 33rd year, the festival features nature-oriented light sculptures (think butterflies, pelicans and whales), and kids will enjoy visiting an LED Santa. Be sure to sample refreshments in the decorated garden house and music in the performance pavilion.
Jan. 24-26, 2020
Florence Winter Music Festival
Great music has a way of banishing winter doldrums. Since 2003 the Florence Winter Music Festival has brought some of the greatest names of the folk genre to the Florence Events Center. Previous headliners include Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Tom Paxton. This year’s lineup features a mix of soulful singers and fiery fiddle tunes. The festival has something for everyone, including an artisan fair and pie sale with yummy samples for visitors.
Jan. 18-19, 2020
Yachats Agate Festival
Winter is the time for beachcombing, as storms unearth agates and fossils buried by sand all summer, so the truly dedicated rock hounds do their hunting just after winter storms. There’s no better time and place to view beach treasures than the annual Yachats Agate Festival. The festival is a destination for salty rock hounds from around the Pacific Northwest, with expert guest speakers, demonstrations and a “Rock Doc” to identify your specimens.
Feb. 20-23, 2020
Newport Seafood & Wine Festival
Oregonians are lucky to have both fresh seafood and world-class wine country about an hour’s drive apart. Thus Newport’s multi-day Seafood & Wine Festival has been a pretty big deal since it started in 1978. The picturesque beach town swells with crowds that fill the festival’s 50,000-foot tent venue, with dozens of vendors offering samples starting at $1. Much of the food and wine is locally sourced (including fresh Dungeness crab from Oregon’s winter commercial fishing season) from the Pacific Northwest.
Feb. 14-16, 2020
Gorse Blossom Festival
Now in its third year, the Gorse Blossom Festival is becoming a favorite South Coast winter celebration. Named after an invasive weed found along the coastline, the festival benefits education and weed removal efforts — all while hosting a series of fun-filled events in Bandon. The festival kicks off with a Science Pub on Thursday, followed by a weekend of music and vendors, winemaker and brewmaster dinners, beach cleanups, pub crawls, fire dancers and a lot more. It’s also a great opportunity for non-locals to explore the Wild Rivers Coast, perhaps even take a fat bike for a spin.
Feb. 28-March 1, 2020
Astoria FisherPoets Gathering
Stroll by Astoria’s Wet Dog Cafe or the Voodoo Room on the right dark and stormy night this winter, and you may hear the haunting sounds of an old sea shanty or a rousing sailor’s poem wafting into the street. Every winter dozens of fisher poets and musicians settle into Astoria to ply their arts at 10 unique venues, creating a poet’s gathering that taps ancient mariner traditions of poetry, song, storytelling, and late-night drinking and dancing. The festival offers writers’ workshops, and performers run the gamut; the only requirements are that they have worked in commercial fishing and they must have a poem. (Photo credit: Stuart Isett)
If You Go:
Be sure to check road and weather conditions before heading out and carry snow chains or traction tires when advised.
Whenever you’re adventuring in the winter, wear waterproof layers, appropriate snow boots and don’t forget your sunglasses. Learn how to come prepared by brushing up on tips at How to Winter Like an Oregonian. Always follow Leave No Trace principals, including packing in and out, leaving what you find where it’s at, and respecting wildlife and other visitors.