: Gregor Halenda

Oregon’s Holiday Events Keep Spirits Bright

Bring the family for dazzling spectacles of lights, entertainment and art.
November 24, 2020 (Updated November 10, 2022)

Wintertime festivities in Oregon lead to even more holiday fun. If caroling, nutcrackers and tree trimming are your style, you’re covered. Fans of light displays at iconic locations are in luck too, with everything from illuminated ships and animals to laser-lit vintage aircraft. Here are some of the not-to-miss winter events around the state.

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Southern Oregon

Umpqua Valley Festival of Lights, Nov. 20, 2022–Jan. 1, 2023 (Roseburg): As a drive-through event, the annual Festival of Lights returns with 90 holiday displays that include characters from Disney’s “Frozen,” the reported world’s largest nutcracker and animated cheetahs from neighboring Wildlife Safari. E-tickets make the experience seamless, with proceeds going to Roseburg Rotary Foundation.

Rogue Winterfest, Nov. 29–Dec. 4, 2022 (Grants Pass): Celebrating its 20th year, Josephine County’s largest winter festival unfolds at Evergreen’s Bear Hotel with a gala and auction showcasing elaborately decorated trees and art. The Weekend Holiday Events on Dec. 3-4 include a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus and a chance to wander through the Evergreen’s Southern Oregon Adventure, an exhibit of miniature regional highlights including a bridge over Crater Lake, a giant Redwood tree, a sea cave and more. 

Safeway Providence Festival of Trees, Dec. 3–4, 2022 (Medford): Guests will enjoy the beautiful Christmas tree displays, have the chance to visit with Santa and go through a Teddy Bear Hospital. Limited tickets for the event are available on the website. This year’s gala dinner and auction unfold on Nov. 30, and proceeds raise funds for behavioral health needs at Providence Medford Medical Center. 

Victorian Christmas, weekends Nov. 26–Dec. 18, 2022 (Jacksonville): Jacksonville celebrates Christmas and its past with the annual Victorian Christmas, which kicks off with a tree-lighting event and caroling on Saturday, Nov. 26. On weekend days in December, there will be photo opportunities with Father Christmas and a chance to listen to musicians strolling the streets, some in vintage costumes. The Christmas parade happens on Dec. 3

Pink lights over a molded wire figure of a hippo roars at cars driving by.
Experience the dazzling displays of ZooLights with a special drive-through experience. Courtesy of the Oregon Zoo

Portland

ZooLights, Nov. 23, 2022–Jan. 5, 2023 (Portland): The holiday tradition at the Oregon Zoo is back this year with two ways to illuminate the season: the traditional walk-through winter wonderland of 1.5 million lights, as well as a dozen midweek evenings set aside for a dazzling drive-through experience. There is limited capacity, and note that you can’t buy tickets on-site, so buy your tickets online early to reserve your spot for a magical evening.

Winter Wonderland, Nov. 25–Dec. 31, 2022 (Portland): Visitors to this holiday tradition at Portland International Raceway can admire 250 colorful light sets all from the comfort of their vehicle. The impressive display is recognized as the largest light show west of the Mississippi. Tickets are sold per vehicle, but each passenger must have a seatbelt. No studded tires are allowed on the track. 

Christmas Ships Parade, Dec. 2–21, 2022 (Portland): The Christmas Ships Parade returns for the 68th year with a brilliantly illuminated fleet of boats. With many uncrowded viewpoints on both the Willamette and Columbia rivers, spectators can watch the decorated boat parade from a vehicle or on foot. Check the schedule online for more details and updates.

Clackamas County Winter Fair & Holiday Market, Dec. 2-23, 2022 (Canby): This annual fair returns on Fridays and Saturdays in December with more than 200,000 lights and scenes. New this year is a holiday market on all nights fair, showcasing bands, choirs and more local entertainment.

Eastern Oregon

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, Dec. 31, 2022 (La Grande): Celebrate the coming of the new year in La Grande’s downtown and join the countdown to midnight. The family-friendly block party begins at 10 p.m. and features activities, games, a warming tent to sip hot chocolate and a beer garden.

Hermiston Festival of Lights, Nov.25–Jan.1, 2023 (Hermiston): Join the fun at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center for 5 acres of light displays – the largest in Eastern Oregon. With thousands of twinkling lights, displays, music and Christmas trees, visitors are sure to feel the holiday spirit. Check out the Facebook page for a schedule.

Two adults pull a wagon of two small children through an illuminated tunnel.
A tunnel of twinkling lights is fun for the whole family. Photo courtesy of the Silverton Christmas Market

Willamette Valley

The Silverton Christmas Market, Nov. 25, 2022–Jan. 1, 2023 (Silverton): The Oregon Garden Resort transforms into a winter spectacle where visitors can wander along an immersive path packed with more than 1 million lights. Find the perfect gift at the authentic German Christmas Market, which includes German nutcrackers, smokers and ornaments. Santa will be there to hear the kids’ wish lists while music, a wood-burning fire pit and a lively Biergarten boost the mood. For thrills, try the snowless tubing hill.

Winter Fair, Dec. 2–Dec. 23, 2022 (Canby): The Clackamas County Winter Fair runs on weekends and features a walk-through experience at the county fairgrounds with Santa all nights aside from December 2. Start your journey in the Main Pavilion with entertainment and holiday vendors, then wander through a 100-foot-long lighted tunnel, visit Santa and marvel at a 200-foot wall of lights with meandering pathways. Tickets available online beginning November 15.

Holidays at the Hangar, Dec. 9–23, 2022 (McMinnville): Check out the aircraft collection lit with projected lighting at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville on select weekends in December. You might even run into Santa in the 110,000-square-foot aviation building, all decked out with trimmings and holiday cheer.

Light Shows at 5th Street Market Alley, Nov. 25–Dec. 23, 2022 (Eugene): Find daily holiday light shows at Eugene’s 5th Street Market Alley. Be bathed in the warm glow of the lights while you wander through the iconic market. Dont’ forget to stop by the the Holiday Market on Saturdays to source a locally made Oregon gift this season through December 24.

Mt. Hood Christmas Train
The Mt. Hood Christmas Train is still chugging away to Christmas Town and back. Courtesy of The Mt. Hood Christmas Train

Oregon Coast

Christmas at the Coast, Nov. 11–Dec. 31, 2022 (North Bend): Shore Acres State Park, near Coos Bay, twinkles each night with more than 325,000 energy-efficient holiday lights. Expect leaping orcas, jumping frogs and fluttering jellyfish all on display a few days before Thanksgiving through year-end. A new and improved entry plan for 2022 means no more waiting for parking. Reserve a time slot online for visiting, since no tickets will be sold on-site. 

On the Central Coast, fans of old-fashioned festivities and high-tech light shows can both celebrate. Join a lovely procession across the bridge with a festive candle (or flashlight) on the Annual Waldport Candlelight Bridge Walk before the lighting of the tree at the south end. Or just park your car in Depoe Bay, turn up your radio and enjoy the new Depoe Bay Lights, where lights pulse to a rollicking holiday soundtrack — users can even request song choices via smartphone.

Oregon Whale Watch Week, Dec. 28-Jan. 1, 2023 (Coastwide): In-person whale-watching with interpretive guides is back this year, after a hiatus since 2019. Trained volunteers will be stationed at 17 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.

Mt. Hood

The Mt. Hood Christmas Train, Nov. 17–Dec. 28, 2022 (Hood River): Popping out of a storybook for your real-world enjoyment, the Mt. Hood Christmas Train is still chugging this year, hauling jolly passengers on a journey about one hour long to Christmas Town and back. The crew serves free hot chocolate and cookies, and you’re welcome to wear your pajamas onboard. Visit their website for tickets.

Central Oregon

Christmas in the Pines, Nov. 26–Dec. 31, 2022 (Prineville): Visitors can experience the dazzling lights illuminating the Cook County Fairgrounds from the warmth of their car. This drive-thru event is perfect for the whole family.

Holiday Light Show, Nov. 20–Jan. 1, 2023 (Sunriver): The Sunriver Resort is transformed into a holiday wonderland with stunning light shows set to festive music. Grab a warm beverage and pick the right time for you –  the light shows are held three times nightly during the holiday season.

Statewide

First Day Hikes, Jan. 1, 2023 (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 22 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.

About The
Author

Emily Gillespie
Emily Gillespie is a travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, CNN Travel and Afar magazine. She’s lived in three of Oregon’s seven regions, currently calling Portland home. She and her husband look for every opportunity to hike to a view, bike through wine country and eat their way through a new city.

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