Rockin’ around the Northwest: Holiday activities to do in Portland and beyond

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From lights at the Oregon Zoo to holiday markets, there's lots to do this season in the Northwest

The Oregon Zoo opened its drive-thru ZooLights on Nov. 22, 2020. KOIN photo

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – ‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the Northwest, families were readying their homes and preparing to entertain guests.

For those looking for activities in Portland and around the area, KOIN 6 News has you covered. Here’s a list of several events throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington that should help inspire the holiday spirit.

Lights on Peacock Lane – Known as Portland’s “Christmas Street,” Peacock Lane is illuminated once again after the lights were off in 2020. Hot cocoa will not be offered at the event this year and organizers say they are not designating pedestrian-only nights to help limit volunteers’ exposure to COVID-19. 

Where: SE Belmont St. and SE. Peacock Ln. 
When: 6-11 p.m. Dec. 15-31 

Christmas Ships – You’ve seen holiday lights on houses and streets, but have you seen them on the water? The Christmas Ships are decked out in holiday lights and sparkle as they traverse the Willamette and Columbia rivers near Portland. The Christmas Ships started their nightly voyages on Dec. 3 and make their final journey on Dec. 21. 

Where: On the Columbia River at North Portland Harbor and on the Willamette River between Johns Landing and the Fremont Bridge 
When: See website for specific times. For the final Christmas ships night, Dec. 21, the lights begin at 7 p.m. Ships will only be sailing on the Columbia River Dec. 21 due to debris in the Willamette River.  

Santa Clones – It’s a quirky Portland tradition that’s back again this year: the Santa Clones. Designer Chris Willis makes a display with hundreds of his plastic Santa figures every year. He usually places them in a storefront somewhere in the city and leaves clues for people to find them.

Where: It’s a mystery.
When: Willis opened the display on Dec. 13, but has not said when he’ll take it down.

Snow Much Joy art installation – It might not be a white Christmas in Portland, but the Snow Much Joy art installation by Kameron Messmer gives a similar feel to a winter wonderland. Messmer constructed the interactive balloon art next to the Portland Playhouse. Visitors can stop to see it when they attend the Portland Playhouse’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” 

Where: 602 NE Prescott St, Portland, OR 97211
When: Dec. 8-24, times vary, see snowmuchjoy.com for details. 

Lowell Covered Bridge light display – Glistening above Dexter Reservoir during the holiday season is the Lowell Covered Bridge. Starting Dec. 7, the bridge is decorated with red and green lights and is a holiday spectacle above the water. 

Where: S Pioneer St. and Hwy 58, Lowell, OR 
When: Starts Dec. 7 

Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto – The Christmas spirit will surround you at the Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto. The area is lit up with more than 2 million lights and features carolers, musical performances, puppet shows and a hot chocolate stand. 

Where: The Grotto, 8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR 97220 
When: Nov. 26 – Dec. 30, 4:30-10 p.m. 

Silverton Christmas Market – For anyone looking to do more shopping and holiday activities after Christmas, the Silverton Christmas Market might be the place to go. The market runs through Jan. 9, giving visitors time to head there after the holiday chaos dies down. The market features more than 1 million lights at the Oregon Garden Resort, gifts from vendors and a snowless tubing hill. 

Where: Oregon Garden Resort, 895 W Main St, Silverton, OR 97381 
When: Nov. 26, 2021 – Jan. 9, 2022, 5-9 p.m., closed Dec. 24-25 

Christmas at Heceta Lighthouse – The Heceta Head Lighthouse is returning to its annual holiday festivities this year. The Keeper’s House is decorated with holiday lights and guests can walk from the house to the lighthouse gift shop for holiday shopping. 

Where: Heceta Head Lighthouse, 725 Summer St, Florence, OR 97439 
When: Dec. 1, 2021 – Jan. 3, 2022 

ZooLights – The Oregon Zoo doesn’t just have live animals during the holidays. It also has illuminated animals constructed out of holiday lights. Guests can walk through the light display or explore the sites by car this year. The drive-thru experience is open on select nights. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. 

Where: Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221 
When: Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 9, 2022, excluding Dec. 25 

Lightopia – Stay in your car and enjoy the wonder of the season at Lightopia in Hillsboro. The drive-thru event is an “illuminated journey” at the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex. The drive through lasts about 15 to 20 minutes. 

Where: Gordon Faber Recreation Complex, 4450 NW 229th Ave, Hillsboro, OR 97124 
When: Dec. 9-31, Sun-Thurs 5-9 p.m., Fri-Sat 9-10 p.m. 

Tigard Holiday Lights – Avon Street’s Christmas Card Lane, 87th Avenue, Millen Drive, Hamlet Street, Martha Street and Copper Creek Drive are decorated with holiday lights for people to enjoy in Tigard. Visitors can get a free cookie and hot chocolate with their ticket. 

Where: Primo Espresso, 15981 SW Hall Blvd, Tigard, OR 97224 
When: Dec. 3-30 

Winter Wonderland – The Sunshine Division’s Winter Wonderland spans the track at the Portland International Raceway. The event is known as the “Largest Holiday Light Show West of the Mississippi” featuring more than 250 colorful light set pieces. It also fundraises for Sunshine Division’s hunger relief programs, which have been serving the Portland area since 1923. 

Where: Portland International Raceway, 1940 N Victory Blvd, Portland, OR 97217 
When: Dec 20th – 26th: 4:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. 

“It’s a Wonderful Life” 75th anniversary screening – The Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver is hosting screenings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” through Christmas Eve. 2021 is the 75th anniversary of the film’s release. 

Where: Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St, Vancouver, WA 98660 
When: Dec. 22 and 23 at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 24 at 3 p.m. 

Esther Short Park Christmas Tree – Downtown Vancouver welcomes visitors to stop by and gaze at the Christmas tree at Esther Short Park. There was no public gathering for the tree lighting, but it was erected the evening after Thanksgiving Day.

Where: Esther Short Park, 605 Esther St, Vancouver, WA 98660
When: Nov. 26 – Dec. 31

Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas Tree – Every year Portland fittingly places its Christmas tree in its “living room” at Pioneer Courthouse Square downtown. The tree lighting took place on Nov. 26. There are several events scheduled in Pioneer Courthouse Square throughout the month of December.

Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97205
When: Begins Nov. 26

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