Winter is upon us, and with shorter nights and colder temperatures, it’s tempting to hunker down at home. Yet Oregon offers plenty of excuses to get out and about during the coziest time of the year. From bedazzling light displays to celebrations of the arts, here are some Oregon events that will have you ready to bundle up and head out the door.
Portland Winter Ice Rink, Portland: Bring the crew for a few days of fun at the brand-new outdoor ice rink (under a tent, open mid-December through January), located under the west end of the Morrison Bridge. Bundle up and spend the day ice skating with river views and enjoying the marketplace, where you can browse the pop-up shops for holiday gifts, grab a bite to eat and sip hot coffee and cocoa. Consider spending an overnight at the funky Hotel Rose, next door. Fill your days with more festive events throughout the Rose City including the annual Portland Holiday Brew Fest, The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, performances of The Nutcracker, the annual Tuba Christmas Concert, shopping local at Crafty Wonderland and the Portland Bazaar, and more.
Umpqua Valley Festival of Lights, Roseburg: Holiday-light fans won’t want to miss River Forks Park’s annual drive-through experience, a fundraiser for the Roseburg Rotary Club. The festival features at least half a million lights throughout more than 90 displays, including animated Disney characters and the world’s largest nutcracker.
Holiday in the Grove, Forest Grove: Ring in the festive season with this annual celebration, which includes decorative storefronts, a stocking-design contest and a holiday-light parade. Plus, don’t miss visiting their artisans holiday market to shop for local handmade ornaments.
Silverton Christmas Market, Silverton: This Oregon spin on a traditional German Christmas market includes food and gift vendors, visits from Santa and a biergarten with live music. There’s even a light path decked out with over a million twinkling fairy lights, and a snow-less tubing hill and hot cocoa for all-ages fun.
Christmas Ships Parade, Portland: This longstanding annual tradition brings cheer to the Willamette and Columbia rivers, with parading boats decked out with colorful lights and holiday displays.
Globe at Night, statewide: Join in this international campaign to raise awareness of the impact of light pollution. Wherever you are in Oregon, you’re invited to measure the night-sky brightness and submit your observations from your computer or mobile device. The data is used to monitor levels of light pollution around world, and learn about impacts of light pollution on plants, animals and human health. The campaigns happen each month and take place when the moon is not out. Find the Globe at Night app on your smartphone to learn more and join in.
Oregon Whale Watch Week, coastwide: Trained volunteers are stationed at more than a dozen locations coastwide to help visitors spot thousands of gray whales as they make their winter migration along the Coast. Check out the best spots to watch whales, or head to the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay for more.
Nature’s Coastal Holiday Festival of Lights, Brookings: Celebrate the holiday cheer with the largest light festival on the coast. Over 3 million lights transform Azalea Park into a dazzling holiday wonderland. Plan your trip for a Friday or Saturday night for a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Christmas in the Pines, Prineville: This festive drive-thru lights display is a favorite community tradition. It’s family-friendly, held weekend evenings in December (check website for details) and free with a donation of non-perishable food, pet food or cash.
New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Block Party, La Grande: Ring in the new year in Eastern Oregon at La Grande’s annual Main Street Downtown celebration, where the community will gather under a warming tent for activities by local organizations.
First Day Hikes (statewide): Bundle up and ring in the new year with some fresh air and gorgeous scenery. Oregon State Parks is hosting its annual First Day Hikes, with rangers leading guided hikes at nearly two dozen state parks. These are free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. Check posted details on accessibility, pets and winter conditions for the best experience, and pack your winter hiking essentials.
Portland Music Month (Portland): Celebrate live music during the dark winter nights at more than a dozen beloved Rose City music venues during the month of January; check the calendar for the lineup and book tickets in advance. Enjoy performances by a range of indie, hip hop, rock, classical, folk, EDM, R&B, blues, jazz artists and more. Every show has been curated by local bookers, and a portion of ticket sales from each show go to fund independent musician empowerment grants. Producing partners for Portland Music Month are MusicOregon and MusicPortland, both nonprofits dedicated to advancing and supporting musical opportunities for all.
New Year’s Day Peace Hike, Yachats: The Yachats Trail Committee will host the annual Peace Hike honoring the memory of a Native American woman named Amanda who was taken from her home and marched to what is now Yachats in 1864. The ceremonial event is led by tribal members and includes ceremonial drumming, fire lighting, setting of intentions and a walk along the Amanda Trail.
Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race, Joseph: This annual dog-mushing event in the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains features races ranging from 22 to 200 miles. You can visit with dogs and mushers the day before at vet checks, staged in Enterprise and Joseph.
The Dalles Dam Visitor Center Eagle Watch, The Dalles: Bring your binoculars to this annual free, accessible family event, designed for wildlife enthusiasts looking to see bald eagles at the peak of their winter activity. The event includes ranger talks and video presentations. Experts with spotting scopes are also on hand to answer questions. Stop into the visitor center that week and learn about what threats are facing eagles and other raptors, and what you can do to help.
First Taste Oregon, Salem: Taste a huge variety of wines, beers, ciders and spirits at this annual expo. There are also plenty of food booths, so you can also sample the region’s best eateries.
Winter Music Festival, Florence: This three-day event creates a platform for acoustic music artists, with a particular focus on folk-music performances. The festival hosts concerts, workshops and open jam sessions.
Lunar New Year, statewide: Lunar New Year, traditionally known as the Spring Festival in many East Asian and South Asian cultures, marks a period of renewal. Find events including traditional song, dance, crafts and family fun happening across Oregon in early February.
Portland Winter Light Festival, Portland: Perfectly Instagram-worthy, this whimsical event adds sparkle to the late winter season, with immersive light installations all over the city.
Winter Waters, Portland and Oregon Coast: Have you tried dulse, kombu, sea lettuce or wakame? These types of regenerative, nutritious and Oregon-grown seaweed superfoods are the star at this series of culinary events throughout the month of February. Check the website for the current lineup of events — all collaborations with local chefs and other advocates passionate about hyperlocal, foraged ingredients and improving the Coast’s local food systems. In addition to multi-course meals, find activities like seaweed art prints, a shellfish shucking demo, seaweed cooking workshop, ocean trivia and more.
Lake of the Woods Kite Festival, Klamath Falls: This annual event includes colorful family fun on the frozen lake. Book your room at the resort early, or stay nearby at a number of other cozy lodgings. Come for the kites and ice; stay for the special buffets, live music and winter wonderland in the region.
Mt. Angel Volksfest, Mt. Angel: Enjoy live music and entertainment, local craft brews and wines, food and craft vendors, face painting and more fun at this family-friendly, weekend-long celebration of German sausage hosted by the Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce. Proceeds go directly to the community.
McMinnville Short Film Festival, McMinnville: Watch short films from around the world while sipping on local wine at this annual event.
Oregon WinterFest, Bend: Winter is feted in full force at this high-desert event, with live music, ice carving, food and craft vendors, and lots of activities for kids.
FisherPoets Gathering, Astoria: This event attracts nearly 100 poets, songwriters and storytellers to town as they wax lyrical about life at sea.