Portland Christmas Events

8+ Christmas Portland Events Not To Miss This Winter

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Portland, Oregon is known for beer, food, makers and nature and one season really shows off this Oregon city’s best of – winter. November through to the end of December are great months to visit because the city is packed with Christmas Portland events. We (Gemma and Craig) visited Portland during winter and take it from us, the sunrises were still lovely and the crisp air was refreshing! You might also like our three day Portland itinerary which you can read here.

Cheery Portland Christmas Events

1. Portland Christmas Ships – Willamette or Columbia Rivers

The award-winning Christmas Ships Parade sees ships decorated in lights and Christmas twinkle taking to the water for 15 nights in December. Sparkling ships can be seen at Willamette and Columbia River, last year there were 59 boats on the water.

To celebrate people and events close to Portland, there are sponsored nights throughout the 15 days. For example, a parade dedicated to fallen firefighters highlights the community Christmas spirit of Portland. There are also a couple of ‘meet and greet the skipper’ nights if you want to shake hands with the Santas of the sea!

Best Place to See the Christmas Boats in Portland?

The ship path depends on the time of night so it is best to check the Christmas Ship Parade website here before you pick your location. There are individual sails and combined fleet nights.

Some of the locations include I-5 Bridge, Lake Oswego and North Portland Harbour. There are restaurants and bars on the route but you need to book seating promptly.

Check out this charming video created by the incredible Travel Portland team.

2. Pioneer Courthouse Holiday Ale Festival

Many of the things to do in Portland, Oregon in December evolve around Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square is called the city’s living room for a good reason.

It is an urban park located in downtown Portland, and here anything goes. Throughout the year there are different kinds of events, but December is known for the beer festival, obviously because this is Portland – craft beer capital of the USA.

The Holiday Ale Festival is the trademark of the December holiday, and it is an opportunity for beer lovers to meet like-minded ale fans and have a good time.

To keep the punters warm, there is a large tent with gas heaters. Naturally, it is advised to wrap up and mandatory to dress up! OK, it’s not essential but we do love a good old fancy dress party.

At this Christmas beer festival, there are over 50 festive ales to try and Santa might just there tasting along with you. I hope he leaves Rudolph at home.

  • Address: 701 SW 6th Ave, Portland.
  • Website and photo credit: Timothy Horn via Holiday Ale Festival.

Santa Winter Ale Festival Portland Oregon

3. Peacock Lane Portland

Do you know in the movies when the neighbors try to outdo each other in an unofficial Christmas house decoration competition? Well, that’s just what the Tudor houses of Peacock Lane look like come December 15th.

However, it is all done in the name of community spirit so much so the city pedestrianises Peacock Lane for the first couple of nights to give visitors a chance to see the lights safely.

This is not a commercial shopping street so please respect the families who live here. Contrary to rumors, this is still one of the many free Portland Christmas events.

  • Address: SE Peacock Lane between Belmont and Stark.

4. Portland Christmas Bazaar

This is the mother of all Portland Christmas markets! Coined America’s largest bazaar this is where you want to visit if you are looking to pick up a Christmas gift, for less. There are approximately 1000 booths, 500 of which can be found on Artisan’s Alley. This is where the makers have a space to sell their goods. Portland is really proud of its local businesses and encourages visitors to shop local this holiday.

There are two large halls at the Expo Center for the craft tables which sell everything from handmade soaps to handy bird boxes.

Of course, no Christmas shopping trip would be complete without a visit to the main man himself. Santa’s Village can be found at Hall D.

  • Address: 2060 N Marine Dr, Portland.
  • Note: The Bazaar is only on for two weekends so catch it while you can.

5. Christmas Festival of Lights

Portland is known for the popular Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto. Someone switched the lights and cheer on here! Expect enthusiastic choirs and performances from 5-9pm. Portland Christmas Lights is mainly aimed at families with high school choirs performing.

  • To access this event, you can buy tickets at the Grotto gift shop, but there are also tickets that are sold at the gate.
  • Address: 8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland.

The Grotto Portland Oregon

6. Portland Light Festival

If you are around the city in February you might also be impressed by the Portland Winter Light Festival. Over 40,000 visitors walk along the Willamette River (and other locations) to see stories of dragons, folklore, and cocoons come to life through light.

Many of the 100 installations are interactive such as pong tables and musical hubs. This is a free winter event in Portland and takes place over a three-day weekend.

  • Note: The streetcar is free to ride to discourage car use.
  • Food/drinks: Available at one of the main hubs.
  • Photo credit [+ feature]: PWLF.

Portland Lights Festival

7. Oregon Zoo Lights

Portland Zoo Lights are a city holiday tradition, attracting local visitors and International guests. Why? It is estimated that it takes around 1.6 million bulbs to make the zoo lights. Don’t just expect hanging lights, the animals come to life from the end of November until January.

Revellers can purchase ‘light up’ cotton candy (great for the ‘Gram!) and hot cocoa onsite to keep warm. ZooLights can get busy with crowds so be prepared to arrive early to see the magic.

Many cities like Edinburgh in Scotland have started copying this tradition of celebrating animals through lights. Kudos to this festive event.

  • Address: 4001 Southwest Canyon Road, Portland.
  • Times: 5pm-9pm (ticket sales from 4pm).
  • Image credit: Oregon Zoo.

Oregon Zoo Lights Portland in December

8. Pittock Mansion at Christmas

Pittock Mansion is a favorite all year round but the ‘mansion on the hill’ is especially decadent come Christmas. Over 50 volunteers decorate the 1914 home and visitors lose count of how many Christmas trees are decked out!

Musicians often volunteer their time to create some festive ambience too. Been before? You’ve not seen it all because every year there is a different theme.

  • Address: 3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland.
  • Note: There is a free shuttle from the number 20 bus stop.

Getting Around Portland in Winter

It is strongly advised to leave the car at home while taking part in Portland’s holiday events but that’s not a stress in the city when there are so many public transport options.

The city of the four Ts – trail, tram, trolley and trains! TriMet rides are $2.50 for up to 2.5 hours.

Portland Winter Weather

You can expect rain, clouds and sunny spells in Portland in December. Lows of 26 Fahrenheit versus highs of 50. There is more rain than snow so pack a decent waterproof raincoat and shoes. When it does snow (we experienced the tail-end of a freak storm) it does not lie for long, turning to city sludge quickly.

Accommodation in Portland

Looking for something unusual with an intriguing story? We stayed at The Society Hotel in Chinatown. This boutique hotel was a treasure trove of stories when the top floor was opened up during restoration. Uniquely the owners used many of the vintage items found such as the newspaper cuttings which are displayed in the hotel rooms.

There is also a cheaper modern dorm option for those on a budget. Each bed has its own curtain for privacy. The dorm features a kitchen too. You can read our full review here.

If you prefer a more central hotel, check out the Radisson Red Downtown for a modern hotel at a reasonable price under $180.

There are not many hostels in Portland but one of the top rated is the HI-Portland. Visitors like its central location in Portland’s historic area and popular Nob Hill (Northwest) District which is packed with bars, galleries, breweries and nightlife. Dorm beds are around $30 in December.

Airbnb is also available in Portland at winter. Apartments average at $100 per night but can be found as low as $60. New to Airbnb? Sign up using our referral code for discount and we’ll get money off too. Thank you!

The Society Hotel Sunrise | Portland

Packing List for Portland in Winter

Affordable Travel Tips

  • Portland downtown is accessible by foot.
  • Everyone bikes in Portland and there are many rental stores.
  • TriMet buses and light rail cost $2.50 for 2.5 hours.
  • Food truck food is mostly economic and filling.
  • Many of the Christmas activities put on free transfers.
  • Tap water is drinkable, bring an eco bottle.
  • Many coffee shops discount drinks if you take your own cup.

Final Words

As you can see there are many things to do in Portland, Oregon in December and other winter months. From shopping at local makers, getting merry at festivals and watching ships sail with seasonal spirit. Many of the holiday festivities are unique to Oregon’s Portland and we wouldn’t expect anything less from this all year round endearing city.

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Portland Oregon Winter | Things to do in Portland Oregon | Portland Things to do | Portland Zoo Lights | Portland Travel | Portland food and where to eat | Cheap budget free Portland | Portland Oregon Christmas | Portland Bazaar | Portland Winter activities
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Gemma and Craig full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

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