: Portland Winter Light Festival

Portland Celebrates the Arts

Jazz music, winter lights, Chinese dragons and more take the stage.
December 29, 2015 (Updated December 5, 2023)

If there’s one truth about winter, it’s that it’s often a time of reflection and creativity — a chance to sit back, relax and feed your soul with some live jazz, a cultural performance, a film screening or a dazzling light show. Portland’s got all of that happening this season. Beloved traditions are returning, and some are starting anew.

Whether it’s a show the arts center The Reser or another event around the city, here’s how to spend some time in the Portland Region this season soaking up the brilliant local art and culture scene.

Man plays trumpet
PDX Jazz Festival
Man plays saxophone
Courtesy of Mark Sheldon/PDX Jazz Festival

Jazz It Up

The world-famous Biamp PDX Jazz Festival takes center stage in Portland during Black History Month, celebrating over 20 years of jazz music and culture. Festival events take place at more than a dozen venues around town and feature the talent of many Portland-based artists. Purchase tickets to a festival event or enjoy a free public performance — watch for locations to be announced. 

See an African Film

The annual Cascade Festival of African Films shows us Africa through the eyes of Africans, rather than a vision of Africa packaged for Western viewers. The films celebrate Africa’s achievements, expose its failures, and reveal possibilities for a hopeful future. Festival host Portland Community College hopes to encourage American viewers to become interested in and study African cultures. Check their online calendar for in-person venues and streaming details. In-person screenings are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also catch the festival’s virtual marketplace featuring African and Black-owned restaurants and businesses in Portland. In this marketplace, you can order dinner in time for your film, or order a unique gift directly from the vendor.

Two Chinese dragons
Lunar New Year celebration
Colorful car with disco lights
Portland Winter Lights Festival

Light It Up

Portland Winter Light Festival illuminates the darkness of the winter season with a host of unique and interactive live performances staged around town. Attendees can participate in a range of festive events from fire dancing and lantern parades to pop-up art and fireside storytelling.

Celebrate Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year is the focus at Lan Su Chinese Garden for Lunar New Year. Perfect for families, this festival highlights Chinese culture in a celebration of lion dances, music, martial arts performances and Chinese folk art. Don’t miss the Lantern Viewing Evenings, which end with dramatic and memorable dragon processions.

Find Fertile Ground

The Fertile Ground Festival spotlights new work in the arts at venues around the city. This fringe festival highlights the city’s finest local artists and performers in live theater, dance, comedy, visual art and film. The festival includes workshops, dance performances, readings and multiple world premieres, all produced by Portland-based artists.


Courtesy of Jeremy Jeziorski / The Reser
Courtesy of Jeremy Jeziorski / The Reser

West Side Shines Bright

In Beaverton, the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, The Reser, is a dedicated arts space that features a 550-seat theater, art gallery, rehearsal, workshop and meeting space, lobby, outdoor plaza and adjacent parking structure. Check out their events and shows page to view upcoming performances ranging from classical music, symphonic choirs and musical plays.



About The

Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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