When the winter brings cold and wet weather, it may prevent you from getting out of the house like you’d want to. However, these 10 festive Oregon towns are sure to give you and your family all the inspiration you need to venture out to engage in holiday activities and see the lights! Here are 10 of the best towns to visit in Oregon that go all out for the holidays.
Hood River is jam-packed with holiday festivities each, beginning the season with their Static Holiday Parade (meaning the floats stay in one place and people move around them) followed by a tree lighting ceremony on the 2nd Street Stairs. Hood River is also the depot for the famed Mt. Hood Christmas Train, a one-hour magical ride that’s fun for the whole family. The train is decked out with lights and garlands and on board you’ll enjoy music, hot cocoa, story time, and cookies as you take a ride into Christmas Town to pick up Santa Claus. You’re even encouraged to wear your pajamas!
Portland is the biggest city in the state and there’s fantastic holiday entertainment no matter what part of town you find yourself in. The most famous is Peacock Lane in SE Portland where every single house on the block is decorated to the max, a tradition since 1932! The lights run every night from December 15th - December 31st from 6:00pm to 11:00pm. You can visit anytime during this window, but they close down the street to cars on the 15th, 16th, and 17th and the street fills with people. Plus, they give out free hot cocoa! Also worth visiting is the Victorian Belle Mansion in North Portland, the Winter Wonderland lights at the Portland International Raceway, or the Oregon Zoo Lights where you get to ride a train around the zoo at night!
There’s more than just the Shakespeare Festival that will draw you to the beautiful Southern Oregon town of Ashland. Kicking off the city’s season of cheer is the Festival of Lights Celebration put on the day after Thanksgiving for 31 years on Main Street. Thousands gather to catch a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer as they light up the town. Throughout December you’ll find live music, the “First Frost” that opens the town’s Centennial Ice Rink for the season, and stage productions of A Christmas Carol. The Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon also celebrates Hanukkah by lighting up a 10 foot menorah at the plaza downtown, complete with traditional Klezmer music!
Admittedly, Joseph is pretty fair off the beaten path for most Oregonians, but if you find yourself in the land of the Wallowas in the northeast corner of the state, you have to experience “Jingle Thru Joseph” that runs through November and December and includes a parade, bazaar, holiday music, open houses, photos with Santa, and warming fires. The city also holds a light and decoration contest for residents and businesses, and the Wallowas County Fairgrounds puts on a festive, drive-thru light display.
Although the town of Silverton is lovely and worth a visit on its own, it also happens to be home to the beautiful Oregon Garden that puts on the Silverton Christmas Market every year where there are over one million lights on display throughout the garden! Here you can listen to live music and shop from local vendors as well as purchase authentic German crafts that are imported just for this event like nutcrackers, smokers, and ornaments. This is a holiday event that’s truly fun for the whole family whether you’re getting your picture taken with Santa, kicking back in the biergarten, relaxing by the fire pit, or careening down the snowless tubing hill. You can even make a weekend out of it by reserving a room at the Oregon Garden Resort.
Head to the coast for a unique and festive holiday experience! One of the coolest things to check out this time of year is the Oregon Coast Aquarium's Sea of Lights event where you can walk the grounds decorated with over 100,000 lights! The event, which is open to the public every Friday and Saturday evening in December, also offers face painting and photos with the Snow Queen or Santa and his elves. The city also puts on Christmas On The Bayfront in the historic seaside area where you can grab a cup of coffee or cocoa, and walk along Yaquina Bay past the decorated shops and watch the Newport Lighted Boat Parade.
You may be heading to Bend anyway during the winter to take advantage of the outstanding skiing and snowboarding, but you may not know Bend also has a ton of holiday festivities too. One of the most unique is the Tumalo Creek Holiday Lights Paddle Parade, where you can deck out your kayak, paddleboard, or canoe in lights and holiday cheer and take part in a floating parade! The Old Mill District is also decorated to the nines this time of year and has a ton to do whether you want to visit SantaLand, the annual Menorah Lighting, or visit the Bend Christmas Tree at Drake Park.
In the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego, you’ll find tons of holiday activities. It’s also a great place to watch the Christmas Ship Parade go by which is in its 69th year! Jump on the Willamette Shore Trolley and ride a vintage trolley along the river as you watch the sparkling ships go by. There’s also the annual tree lighting at Millennium Park Plaza and the Home for the Holidays Bazaar, a huge event put on each year by the Lake Oswego United Methodist Church. Or, head over to Bridgeport Village which is covered from top to bottom with lights and has live holiday music on the weekends, Mrs. Clause storytime, and they have one of the best Santas in the area!
This tiny town (with a population of only 210) really turns it up for the holidays. For those living in Eastern Oregon (or looking for a good alternative to the Mt. Hood Christmas Train which is fantastic but can sell out), try the Sumpter Valley Christmas Train to ride on an old-fashioned diesel locomotive with options for both 1 hour rides and 2 1⁄2 hour rides. Pair this with a trip to the Sumpter Christmas Bazaar, Twilight Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting, and you’ve got yourself a fun-filled holiday outing!
Each holiday season, the Benton County Fairgrounds in Corvallis puts on one of the best drive-thru light displays in the state. The Pastega Christmas Light Display runs every night from 5:00pm to 10:00pm through December 31st and features sparkling displays of the 12 Days of Christmas, characters from Star Wars, Marvel Comics, Disney, Dr. Suess, Peanuts, and of course Santa and his elves. The best part is that entry is free, though they do ask for donations of canned food. The worst part? Word on the street is this is the last year the lights will be on display, ending a 42 year tradition so get out there while you can!