Christmas in Portland: 2021 Holiday Events + Best Christmas Lights!

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.

One of my favorite giant Christmas trees at Coava Coffee in SE

Portland Christmas Events & Christmas Light Displays

This Christmas will still be different because of COVID precautions. So this list has been updated for 2021 – some Christmas events marked as canceled, some still as TBD, and the rest as “CONFIRMED 2021”. I’ll update this as I get more info!

Christmas Lights in Portland

Tree Lighting at Pioneer Courthouse Square – 2021 TBD

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.

Christmas Tree Lighting at Pioneer Courthouse Square
Christmas Tree Lighting at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Photo by: The Square

When: Friday, November 26 (6:30pm-7:30pm)
Where: ONLINE from Pioneer Courthouse Square, Downtown Portland
Cost: Free
More Info: The Square PDX

Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto – 2021 CONFIRMED!

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.

Christmas Lights at The Grotto
Christmas Lights at The Grotto Photo by: The Grotto

When: Friday after Thanksgiving through Sunday Jan 2 (closed Christmas Day)
Where: The Grotto, 8501 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR 97220
Cost: $12.50/adults, $6.50 kids (age 2 & under: Free) – 2019 prices TBD Pricing for 2021
More Info: The Grotto

Christmas Lights at Peacock Lane – 2021 TBD

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.

Peacock Lane Portland Christmas Lights
Peacock Lane Christmas Lights (maybe the Grinch did steal Christmas)

When: December 15-31, 2019 6pm-11pm, pedestrian only Dec 15-17 TBD 2021!
Where: Peacock Lane, one block east of 39th/Cesar Chavez between Stark and Belmont
Cost: free
More Info: Peacock Lane

Portland Winter Wonderland at PIR (Portland International Raceway) – 2021 CONFIRMED!

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 is still a great holiday lights festival going in Portland that 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.

Portland Winter Wonderland at PIR
Portland Winter Wonderland at PIR. Photo by: PWW

When: Friday, November 26, 2021 – January 1, 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 – 2021 TBD

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.

Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo Photo by: OregonZoo

When: Friday after Thanksgiving to New Years – 2020 Drive Through Only, 2021 TBD
Where: Oregon Zoo in Washington Park
Cost: $40/car for non-members, $30 for members (25% off)
More Info: Oregon Zoo

Christmas Ship Parade – 2021 CONFIRMED!

Finally something that wasn’t canceled in 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 Ships Parade on Portland rivers
Christmas Ships Parade on Portland rivers. Photo by: Christmas Ships

When: December 3-21, 2020 usually around 6 or 7p start
Where: Willamette River schedule and Columbia River schedule
Cost: free
More Info: Christmas Ships

Christmas at Pittock Mansion – 2021 CONFIRMED!

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 was “Critters Make Merry”, but since Pittock is had to be closed, it looks like they’re finally doing this Christmas theme for 2021!

Christmas at Pittock Mansion event in Portland
Pittock Mansion Christmas theme. Photo by: Pittock Mansion

When: Begins November 2021
Where: Pittock Mansion, 3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR 97210
Cost: $13/person
More Info: Pittock Mansion

Singing Christmas Tree – 2021 CONFIRMED!

Portland’s singing Christmas tree has been going strong for 57 years. 2020 was the first season, that the singing Christmas tree has had to cancel at Keller Auditorium. But they’re back for 2021!

Singing Christmas tree in Portland Oregon
Singing Christmas tree in Portland. Photo by: Singing Christmas Tree

When: Friday, Nov 26 – Dec 5, 2021
Where: Keller Auditorium
Cost: $20-60/person
More Info: singingchristmastree.org

The Nutcracker Ballet – TBD 2021

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, TBD 2021
Where: Keller Auditorium
More Info: obt.org

Oregon Symphony Holiday Concert – 2021 CONFIRMED!

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 resumed live performances in 2021. And there are several holiday concerts in December.

When: December
Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205
More Info: orsymphony.org

Daimler Holiday Half, 10k, and 5k Race – 2021 CONFIRMED!

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 for 2021 has a live and virtual option.

When: Sunday, December 12, 2021
Where: usually North Portland route
Cost: from $49 for the 5k
More Info: Foot Traffic

Jingle Bell Run – TBD 2021

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 – 2021 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.

When: after December 21 usually, TBD
Where: Ski Bowl, Mt Hood
Cost: from $27
More Info: Ski Bowl

Holiday Ale Fest – 2021 TBD

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! This one was canceled in 2020, and TBD for 2021. But last year, I made a DIY beer advent calendar, to taste all the local seasonal holiday ales!

Portland Holiday Ale Fest at night at Pioneer Courthouse Square
Portland Holiday Ale Fest at night at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Photo by: Ale Fest

When: Wednesday after Thanksgiving for 5 days – TBD 2021
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square
Cost: $40+ (includes glass, 12 beer tickets, additional tickets $1 each)
More Info: latest info usually on Facebook

Portland Santacon – 2021 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, 2020
Where: it always seems like a surprise, check their Facebook page
Cost: free
More Info: Portland Cacophony Society

Christmas Tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square during day time

Holiday Markets & Popup Shops

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 – 2021 CONFIRMED

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 10-12
Where: Oregon Convention Center
Cost: free

America’s Largest Christmas Bazaar – 2021 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 2021)
Where: Expo Center
Cost: $3+

The Portland Bazaar – 2021 CONFIRMED

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: Dec 11-12 and Dec 18-19, 2021
Where: TBD 2021 (past: Yale Union, 800 SE 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97214)
Cost: free

Renegade Craft Fair – 2021 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
Cost: free

Portland Flea – 2021 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: Nova Building, 240 SE Clay St, Portland, OR 97214
Cost: free

Portland Night Market – 2021 CONFIRMED

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 2-5, 2021
Where: Central Eastside, 100 SE Alder St, Portland, OR 97214
Cost: free

Portland Saturday Market – Festival of the Last Minute – 2021 CONFIRMED

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, and December 19-24, 2021
Where: Portland Saturday Market, 2 SW Naito Parkway
Portland, OR 97204

Cost: free

The Holiday Express – Oregon Rail Heritage Center – 2021 CONFIRMED

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. So sad!

When: TBD!
Where: Oregon Rail Heritage Center 2250 SE Water Ave.
Cost: $8 adults, $5 kids 2020 (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 20-Dec 26, 2021
Where: Mt Hood Depot, 110 Railroad St, Hood River, OR 97031
Cost: $50 adults, $40 kids
More Info: mthoodrr.com

Things to Do for Christmas in Portland & 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 had to be more creative at finding Christmas lights. So anything available in 2021 will just feel like a big deal! 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 2021? 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:

Portland average temperature in december
Source: Accuweather historical averages

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!

Read more: Portland in December, Best Time to Visit Portland

This post has been updated for 2021.