A favorite holiday outing in December is going to a Christmas light display. We have plenty of options in Portland for Christmas lights – ranging from free light displays like Peacock Lane or the Christmas Ship parade to ticketed events like drive through lights at ZooLights or Winter Wonderland. So here’s a roundup of all the best Christmas lights in Portland when you’re looking for events to celebrate Christmas in Portland.
Christmas Light Events in Portland
Here are our favorite Christmas light displays in Portland, Oregon. Starting with Christmas light “events” – like the drive through and walk through light displays that require tickets. Followed by our favorite free Christmas light displays and events around the Portland area.
1. Portland Winter Wonderland Lights at PIR
If you don’t feel like braving the elements to see ZooLights or Light Festival at the Grotto, Winter Wonderland at PIR (Portland International Raceway) 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! This year, they’re also bringing back a night for “Bike the lights” and another night for dog walking!
Bike the Lights is usually one night only at the end of November.
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 (Bike the Lights: $15/adult, $5 kids, 5 & under free)
More Info: Winter Wonderland
2. Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo
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 past years, if you had a Zoo membership that got you in free to Zoo Lights. But since COVID in 2020, and a switch to drive-thru only, Zoo Lights is no longer free for members, but you’ll get a small discount. And remember, you still have to pay for parking. This event adds up very quickly, even if you have a Zoo membership, as a family of 4 you’re going to spend at least $70 with tickets and parking! However, some families may qualify for discounted $12 tickets, (Oregon Trail, WIC etc.)
When: November 19, 2021 – Jan 9, 2022. This year, offering Walk-through nights, Drive-through nights, and 2 nights of 21+ only.
Where: Oregon Zoo in Washington Park
Drive-Through Cost: $65/car for non-members, $52 for members (20% off)
Walk-Through Cost: $24/adults, $19/kids (age 2-11). Members 20% off: $19.2/adults, $15.20/kids
More Info: Oregon Zoo
3. Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto
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 Nov 26 through Thursday Dec 30, 2021 (closed Christmas Day)
Where: The Grotto, 8501 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR 97220
Cost: $14/adults, $7 kids (age 2 & under: Free) online pre-purchase, at gate pricing $16, plus 8 value nights for $12.
More Info: The Grotto
4. Victorian Belle House
This North Portland historic home in Kenton is a popular wedding venue and event space. Every December, they also decorate for Christmas and offer tours, light displays and pictures with Santa, Christmas carolers and more.
When: December 1-26, 2021, 4:30-9pm
Where: Victorian Belle House, 1441 N McClellan St, Portland, OR 97217
More Info: Holidays at the Belle
5. Silverton Christmas Market at the Oregon Garden
This light display is a little bit further from Portland (about a one hour drive), but definitely a consideration if you’re looking for a walk-through light festival that is a bit more low key than Zoo Lights etc. With over 100 million lights, German Christmas market and Santa, Biergarten, and snow-less tubing hill, this light display is more of a destination event!
Free Christmas Lights in Portland
6. Christmas Ship Parade
This Portland Christmas tradition has been going strong since 1954. They even had the Christmas Ship Parade going during 2020 – when it seemed like everything else was canceled! 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.
7. Christmas Lights at Peacock Lane
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, 2021 6pm-11pm, no pedestrian only nights for 2021.
Where: Peacock Lane, one block east of 39th/Cesar Chavez between Stark and Belmont
More Info: Peacock Lane
8. Giant Christmas Tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square
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. But the holiday fun lasts all December. Stop by the Square in the evening to see the lights any day. Last year, they even had large colorful circles on the Square and music. Grab a holiday drink and do some downtown shopping!
When: Lighting Friday, November 26 (6pm-6:30pm), Christmas Tree all December
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square, Downtown Portland
More Info: The Square PDX
9. Christmas Lights in Portland Neighborhoods
Ah yes, the old fashioned way of finding great light displays. Walking, biking or driving through Portland neighborhoods and happening upon a super neat light display. The Nextdoor app is also a great place to find local lights, as some neighborhoods have christmas lights thread of cool houses. And hey, you’re not paying their electricity bill so let’s go enjoy some Christmas lights. Some neighborhoods that have had great light displays in the past: Irvington, Laurelhurst, Alameda, Eastmoreland etc.
When: all Holiday seasons
Where: your neighborhood of choice
Happy holidays and I hope you enjoy your favorite Christmas lights display this season!