Feb 2, 2024 - Things to Do

Portland Winter Light Festival guide

A crowd at night watches a woman spinning illuminated hoops.

Photo: Courtesy of Portland Winter Light Festival/Amy Sakurai.

Glowing Under Pressure is the theme of this year's Portland Winter Light Festival, which starts Friday.

Look out for bioluminescent deep sea creatures around the office plazas of downtown Portland these next two weekends.

Why it matters: All those illuminated wire strings and drop-shipped LEDs have grown into an annual celebration of technology, design and play.

  • It lets Portlanders tap their inner burners and take to the dark February streets to celebrate life.

State of play: Architecture, construction and engineering companies showing off their skills and pumping their brand are a big part of the light festival.

  • But there's a psychedelic maker vibe to a lot of the work too, again that Burning Man influence, like Vampire in the Night by Joseph Tiegs.

Between the lines: You'll need a spreadsheet to target particular works, like the elevator in Oregon City on which you can play video games.

  • But most of the browsing fun is around Pioneer Courthouse Square, the World Trade Center (where PGE is based) and the Electric Blocks near OMSI.

What they're saying: "The light festival showcases the best of what living in Portland is truly about — the community coming together, rain or shine, to make something beautiful happen that is unique to our city," says the festival's executive director Alisha Sullivan.

Our thought bubble: The delight of the festival is smiling at strangers in front of the Butt Activated Jellyfish or a robot.

Of note: Portland extroverts such as the Bright Heart Circus, PopCartPDX and bands playing on SoundsTruckNW will provide a musical backdrop.

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