Nov 20, 2023 - Things to Do

Portland holiday lights guide

A single story house with extensive holiday lights, including a cone of lights on the roof representing a Christmas tree, and the word Noel in white lights in the front window.

Sometimes the best lights are just down the block. Photo: Emily Harris/Axios

Yes, it's still November. But holiday lights are already on.

Some of the best displays are off-the-beaten-track neighborhood affairs, like these in Tigard, Vancouver and Milwaukie.

  • Pro tip: Create your own tradition of exploring different neighborhoods to pick out your favorite displays.

Or get out and enjoy the holiday crowds! Here are some of our favorite public holiday light displays around Portland.

Tree Lighting in Pioneer Courthouse Square

See a 75-foot Douglas fir light up the night when the flip switches on Portland's holiday tree. Stick around for the sing-along — here's the songbook.

  • Friday, 5:30pm. Free.

Of note: Portland's public menorah will be lit at Pioneer Square each night of Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 7.

Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway

We can't verify its claim of being the biggest holiday light show west of the Mississippi, but it's big enough! Proceeds support local hunger relief. Drive through — or on a couple of special nights, ride your bike or walk with your dog.

  • Daily, starting this Friday through Dec. 31, hours vary. Weekends can have long waits. $37, up to $48 for weekends or after Dec. 15. Or $85 to skip the line.
  • Bike night is Nov. 28 and dog nights are Nov. 27 and Nov. 29. $15 for adults, $5 for kids, kids under 5 years old are free.

Christmas Ships

Fill a thermos with hot chocolate and wave from the riverbank as boats lit in holiday themes glide on by. The firetruck is a favorite.

  • Parades on both the Columbia and the Willamette start Dec. 1 and end Dec. 17; between those dates, schedules and exact routes vary.
  • See the boats up close at meet-and-greets Dec. 16 at 8pm and Dec. 17 at 2pm at the Riverplace Marina downtown. Free.

Zoo Lights

The holiday classic at the Oregon Zoo. Animated lights along nearly every path. Hop on the zoo train for a different view. The biggest display this year celebrates seals. Snacks and drinks available to buy.

  • Most nights starting Friday through Jan. 7. Timed entry tickets run from $12 (for certain "value" nights) to $26 for adults and $12-$18 for children under 12. Or there's an "anytime" option for $30/$25 for children. Train is extra.

Peacock Lane

This neighborhood tradition started 101 years ago and it's always a delight. One block, each house does it's own thing. Free cocoa!

  • Dec. 15-31, with no-car nights Dec. 15, 16 and 17. Free.
  • The car line can get backed up — if you're planning to walk through, start looking for parking at least a few blocks away.

The Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights

Stroll a quarter mile through the illuminated Grotto grounds, catch a puppet show or carolers on the plaza or duck into the chapel for ongoing choir concerts.

  • Starts Friday, runs every evening through Dec. 30 except Dec. 25. Adults $14, kids under 12 $6, 2 and under free. A couple dollars cheaper on select "value" nights and a few dollars more at the door. No cash sales.

Beaverton Winter Lights

Lights illuminate the Beaverton City Park and The Round Dec. 1 through Jan. 4 — with a tree lighting festival with music, crafts and roaming acrobats Dec. 8, 6-8pm. Free.

Hillsboro's Lightopia

Started during Covid, this drive-through display is free but requires reservations. Dec. 5-Dec. 30 (closed Dec. 25); reservations open Nov. 30 at 8am.

Tualatin Light Parades

Want to be part of the action? Deck your car with LED lights (and any other holiday decor you wish) and join one of three six-mile parades through Tualatin neighborhoods.

  • Registration to participate closes Nov. 30.
  • Parades are Dec. 1, 2 and 3, 6pm - approximately 7:30. Free.

Holidays at the Hangar

Airplanes and rockets get gussied up for the holidays at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum near McMinnville, and Santa comes in on a helicopter.

  • Dec. 15-30 5pm-8m, closed Dec. 24 and 25; Santa arrivals Dec. 15-17 and 22-23 at 4:45pm. Adults $12, youth $8 plus processing fees.

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