While Portland may not be a huge holiday destination, there are plenty of fun Christmas activities, events, and things to do around the Portland area. From several Christmas light viewing options to Christmas trees to the holiday ale festival and more. So whether you’re visiting or live in the Portland area, here’s more info about Portland Christmas events, weather and the best Christmas things to do in Portland, Oregon.
This Christmas will be very different because of COVID precautions. So this list has been updated for 2020 – some Christmas events marked as canceled, some still as TBD, and the rest as “CONFIRMED 2020”. I’ll update this as I get more info! Update: Oregon is in a two week “freeze” and Multnomah county in a 4 week “freeze”, which means a lot of things will be shut down until at least December 16, 2020.
Portland Christmas Events
- Christmas Lights in Portland
- Christmas Tree Lighting – Pioneer Courthouse Square – TV
- Festival of Lights at The Grotto – Canceled 2020
- Christmas at Pittock Mansion – TBD
- Singing Christmas Tree – Canceled 2020
- Nutcracker Ballet – Canceled 2020
- Oregon Symphony – Canceled 2020
- Daimler Holiday Half, 10k, 5k Run – virtual 2020
- Jingle Bell Run – virtual 2020
- Cosmic Tubing at SkiBowl – CONFIRMED 2020 but TBD start
- Holiday Ale Fest – 2020 Canceled
- Santacon – TBD
- Holiday Markets & Popup Shops
- Holiday Express Christmas Train
- Mt Hood Christmas Train
- Christmas Tree Permits become available to cut your own tree from US Forest Service – late November
Christmas Lights in Portland
Tree Lighting at Pioneer Courthouse Square – 2020 TV KGW Only
On the day after Thanksgiving, a giant 75′ Douglas Fir Christmas tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square is all lit up. There’s usually a bit of music, Santa, and festive atmosphere beyond just flipping the switch.
When: Friday, November 27 (6:30pm-7:30pm)
Where: ONLINE from Pioneer Courthouse Square, Downtown Portland
More Info: The Square PDX
Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto – 2020 Canceled
The Grotto is one of our favorite places year round. And it’s especially colorful during the festival of lights. This Catholic shrine and garden is all decked out in lights, there are chorus performances and concerts and of course hot chocolate and meandering.
When: Friday after Thanksgiving through December 30 (closed Christmas Day) – 2020 Lights Canceled but the The Grotto is still open for holiday visits
Where: The Grotto, 8501 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR 97220
Cost: $12.50/adults, $6.50 kids (age 2 & under: Free) – 2019 prices
More Info: The Grotto
Christmas Lights at Peacock Lane – 2020 Canceled
Every year Peacock Lane in SE Portland has Christmas lights on from mid-December through New Years. It’s just one street Peacock Lane between SE Stark and Belmont St, one block east of 39th/Cesar Chavez Blvd. This street has been hosting Christmas lights since 1932! There are usually some days that allow vehicle traffic and some evenings that are pedestrian only. We recommend parking at least 2-3 blocks away, as once you get close and stuck in traffic it can take a while to get out of the traffic and find a spot. Laurelhurst Park area and walk! Bundle up! And bring a thermos of hot chocolate. Some years they have a stand, but your cup will get cold in a heartbeat.
When: December 15-31, 2019 6pm-11pm, pedestrian only Dec 15-17 Canceled 2020!
Where: Peacock Lane, one block east of 39th/Cesar Chavez between Stark and Belmont
More Info: Peacock Lane
Portland Winter Wonderland at PIR (Portland International Raceway) – CONFIRMED 2020!
If you don’t feel like braving the elements to see ZooLights or Light Festival at the Grotto, Winter Wonderland at PIR is a great option. Their holiday light festival is a drive through on the race track and self-described as “the largest holiday light show west of the Mississippi”. This is also a good accessible option for those that need it. And this may be the only holiday lights festival going in Portland in 2020 since it can be done while physically distancing! In past years, they’ve also had one night dedicated to bikes only as “Bike the lights” and another for dog walkers.
When: Friday, November 27, 2020 – January 2, 2021
Time: 5:30pm-9:30pm everyday, 5pm-11pm on Fridays/Saturdays
Where: Portland International Raceway
Cost: $20/car online, $22/car at the gate
More Info: Winter Wonderland
Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo – 2020 Confirmed Drive Thru Only
Zoo Lights is a favorite for families. But you don’t have to have kids to enjoy ZooLights. Families with young kids tend to go right when it opens, and it usually clears out a bit later in the evening before closing. They also have an adults only evening for BrewLights, you guessed it, beer and ZooLights.
In regular years, if you have a Zoo membership that gets you in free to Zoo Lights. Remember you still have to pay for parking. If you don’t have a zoo membership, the price can really add up quickly for families. So your options are to go on Value night (also a discount if you buy online and ride the MAX). Another option is to buy a zoo membership starting in December, and depending on your start date, this can get you in to two years of Zoo Lights since it runs for over a month. For example: if you membership starts December 15, you can go this year between Dec 15 and 31, and next season between Dec 1-14. Because 2 years of ZooLights tickets is practically the price of a Zoo membership! For 2020, a Zoo membership just gets you a discount on the ZooLights drive through option.
When: Friday after Thanksgiving to New Years – 2020 Drive Through Only
Where: Oregon Zoo in Washington Park
Cost: $40/car for non-members, $30 for members (25% off)
More Info: Oregon Zoo
Christmas Ship Parade – CONFIRMED 2020!
Finally something that’s not canceled for 2020, the Christmas Ship Parade! If there’s anywhere that physical distancing can be practiced it’s between boats. Each year, different routes and dates are announced, so you know where to watch and what direction the boats will be heading on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.
Christmas at Pittock Mansion – 2020 TBD
Each year, Pittock Mansion gets all decked out for the holidays. You can visit the themed mansion between Thanksgiving and New Years. 2019’s theme was a World of Books with rooms transformed into magical storybook settings. 2020’s theme is Critters Make Merry, but since Pittock is currently closed, it looks like the exhibit is TBD until mid-December.
When: not until at least Dec 16
Where: Pittock Mansion, 3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR 97210
Cost: $12/person (2019)
More Info: Pittock Mansion
Singing Christmas Tree – canceled 2020
Portland’s singing Christmas tree has been going strong for 57 years. 2020 is the first season, that the singing Christmas tree has had to cancel at Keller Auditorium.
When: canceled 2020 (usually Friday after Thanksgiving, through the following weekend)
Where: Keller Auditorium
More Info: singingchristmastree.org
The Nutcracker Ballet – canceled 2020
Portland’s Oregon Ballet Theatre is producing George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker performance for the 17th season. All set to Tchaikovsky musical score.
When: 12 performances December 7-26, 2019 canceled 2020
Where: Keller Auditorium
More Info: obt.org
Oregon Symphony Holiday Concert – canceled 2020
The Oregon Symphony Orchestra usually puts on a holiday concert. 2019’s concert was A Viennese New Year, highlighting Austria, “celebrating the golden age of Viennese music” with guests from Oregon Ballet Theatre. And the 2020 theme was going to be A New Year’s Concerto Spectacular. The Oregon Symphony plans to resume live performances in 2021.
When: December 30, 2019 canceled 2020
Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205
More Info: orsymphony.org
Daimler Holiday Half, 10k, and 5k Race (2020 Virtual Run)
What used to be hosted at Adidas in North Portland, is now based on Swan Island at the Daimler headquarters. Each year in early December, the Holiday half, 10k, and 5k options routes through North Portland on possibly the chilliest run in Portland. The race is still on virtually for 2020, which for many of us is a big no, thanks, but if you’re into the race swag or doing it annually as a group, it would still be a fun event.
When: Sunday, December 13, 2020
Where: usually North Portland route, virtual for 2020
Cost: from $44 for the 5k
More Info: Foot Traffic
Jingle Bell Run (2020 Virtual Run)
This annual event benefits the Arthritis Foundation of Oregon. It’s a 5k run in downtown Portland in mid December. They’re going virtual in 2020, just like Daimler Holiday Half.
When: December 11-13, 2020 (virtual for 2020)
Where: World Trade Center, downtown Portland
Cost: from $30 for the 5k
More Info: Jingle Bell Run
Cosmic Tubing at Ski Bowl – 2020 TBD
Cosmic tubing is just about as funny as it sounds. Lights, music, and sledding up at SkiBowl. It also takes the work out of sledding, as you take the lift up.
Holiday Ale Fest – 2020 Canceled
The first Wednesday to Sunday after Thanksgiving is the annual Portland Holiday Ale Fest. What makes this festival so cool is having a huge Christmas tree above the festival as part of the Square. And the seasonal beer, of course. Just watch the high ABV (alcohol content) of these seasonal beers and use a Lyft to get home! I don’t see any way this event will be happening in 2020. But maybe you can DIY a home version of seasonal holiday ale tasting!
When: Wednesday after Thanksgiving for 5 days
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square
Cost: $40+ (includes glass, 12 beer tickets, additional tickets $1 each)
More Info: latest info usually on Facebook
Portland Santacon – 2020 TBD
You kind of have to follow a description of Holiday Ale Fest with Santacon right? Hide your children or they may never think of Santa the same way again. Santacon is a bit ridiculous with a bunch of Santas running around town causing trouble or Christmas merriment, depending on how you look at it. Hosted by the Portland Cacophony Society.
When: Saturday, December 14, 2019
Where: it always seems like a surprise, check their Facebook page
More Info: Portland Cacophony Society
Holiday Markets & Popup Shops – TBD 2020
Ever year there are numerous holiday markets, popup shops, and craft fairs in Portland. Crafty Wonderland was one of the originals and now they even have a shop downtown. Holiday markets are a really fun to just pop in and browse and always make it on my Portland advent calendar each December.
Crafty Wonderland – 2020 Virtual Market
Crafty Wonderland takes over the Convention Center for a weekend in early December. It’s the original of the “maker” style crafter holiday markets and still one of the largest, except for the next listing that calls itself the largest.
When: December 12
Where: Virtual Market for 2020
America’s Largest Christmas Bazaar – 2020 TBD
This Christmas bazaar is huge, a little too big for my shopping style, but they’ve been going strong since 1982. You’ll find pretty much everything at this holiday market.
When: December 4-6, 2020 (TBD 2020)
Where: Expo Center
The Portland Bazaar – 2020 Virtual
This craft market was at The North Warehouse on Interstate for a few years, now it’s at Yale Union in SE. It usually features some of the same vendors and makers as Crafty Wonderland and other markets. Think letterpress, bamboo planters, leather goods, cocktail mixers, the usual Portland gift suspects.
When: online for 2020
Where: online for 2020 (past: Yale Union, 800 SE 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97214)
Renegade Craft Fair – 2020 TBD
One of the later craft fairs in town, Renegade Craft Fair is a good one for last minute shopping. And is part of a “tour” event from the original Renegade Craft that started in Chicago.
When: December 19-20, 2019
Where: Pure Space in the Pearl
Portland Flea – 2020 TBD
While not a holiday only event, Portland Flea usually runs once in December as well. Portland Flea is a monthly market popup that takes over outside Rejuvenation at the cross streets of SE 6th and SE Salmon St. with vendors, snacks, and crafts.
When: monthly, Holiday Flea + Food was Nov 24, 2019
Where: Rejuvenation, 1100 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214
Portland Night Market – 2020 TBD
This is another not holiday-only event, but especially fun during the holiday season. On the Central Eastside, in an old warehouse street, with food carts and shopping as part indoor/outdoor night market.
When: quarterly, December 3-6, 2019
Where: Central Eastside, 100 SE Alder St, Portland, OR 97214
And of course, I have to end with the Portland Saturday Market’s Festival of the Last Minute! The last few days before Christmas. It’s your usual Portland Saturday market with a holiday twist.
When: weekly usually, December 19-24, 2019
Where: Portland Saturday Market, 2 SW Naito Parkway
Portland, OR 97204
The Holiday Express – Oregon Rail Heritage Center – 2020 Canceled
The Holiday Express is a steam train from the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in SE Portland (by OMSI). It follows the Willamette River by the Springwater corridor near Sellwood, departing from Oaks Park. It’s a 40 minute ride and features Santa, hot chocolate, cider and cookies. For 2020 the plan was to not offer a train ride, but instead see Santa and elves at the decorated “Santa’s Enginehouse”. And then that got canceled too.
Where: Oregon Rail Heritage Center 2250 SE Water Ave.
Cost: $8 adults, $5 kids (additional discounts for families/groups)
More Info: orhf.org
Mt Hood Christmas Train
The Mt Hood Christmas train departs from Hood River and makes a one hour roundtrip to the “Christmas Depot” (undisclosed location, lol). Christmas characters entertain on the train, and hot chocolate and a cookie are served, and includes Christmas singing.
When: Nov 21-Dec 27, 2020
Where: Mt Hood Depot, 110 Railroad St, Hood River, OR 97031
Cost: $50 adults, $40 kids
More Info: mthoodrr.com
Things to Do in Portland for Christmas & What Bars and Restaurants are Open
There are plenty of non-event things to do in Portland for Christmas as well. Most of them outside or dining related. In regular years, there is usually a Blazers game near Christmas, and free things to do like browsing holiday markets, walking and window shopping downtown, seeing Christmas lights downtown or on Peacock Lane. For 2020, we’ll have to be more creative at finding Christmas lights or going on a winter hike. Snowshoeing or visiting Timberline lodge is also another festive thing if you’re looking to have a snowy Christmas.
If you’re looking to know what bars and restaurants are open for the holidays, my go to is Eater PDX. They usually have a few different guides for holiday dining every year.
Portland Christmas Weather
Note: If you want to know about the weather you can visit a weather website. But one of the most frequent texts I get from friends about to visit Portland is about the weather. So that’s why I include this weather section. It’s how to interpret Portland weather forecasts by a local. :)
There’s usually about a 10% chance of having snow on Christmas, according to the National Weather Service. So will we have a white Christmas in 2020? Only time will tell!
Average December Weather by Day
Here is a look at the historical averages for high and low temps in Portland in December:
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, I wish you some holiday fun in what is certainly a very different year. Maybe we’ll get some Christmas snow this year. Cheers!