Welcome to the middle of winter! I’m still awaiting some Portland snow, I thought I’d do an update on winter in Portland. While we don’t get tons of snow like Bend and some other areas of the Pacific Northwest. Winter can still feel like such a slog in Portland. It’s cold, it’s wet, it gets dark at 4:30pm. So as usual, I like to make a list to cheer myself up and plan for seasonal adventures. Things are still different because of COVID (stupid COVID!), but hope is in the air, that things will start to get back to normal at some point in 2021. In the meantime, I’m planning for winter fun, to keep sane, pass the time, and not just survive winter, but hopefully enjoy it as well. So here’s my list of things to do in Portland in winter! Jump Ahead:
Things to Do in Winter in Portland, Oregon!
- Winter hikes in town – Forest Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Washington Park, Council Crest, Pittock Mansion, and Japanese Gardens.
- Snowshoeing near Mt Hood
- Go sledding or tubing near Mt Hood – SkiBowl, Summit, Snow Bunny, Cooper Spur are all great options.
- Cut down your own Christmas tree with a $5 Forest Service permit
- Skiing or snowboarding at Mt Hood Meadows, Timberline or SkiBowl
- Take a winter sports lesson – Cross country skiing, snowboarding etc.
- Fat tire biking in the snow
- Outfit or update your gear – One way to embrace the cold is to make sure you are ready for it!
- Soaking pools at McMenamins Edgefield and Kennedy School
- hunkering down over your favorite hearty Portland breakfast
- Winter hikes near Portland, like waterfall hikes in the Gorge – Wahclella Falls and Latourell are some favorites.
- Take an Oregon coast day trip – North and Central coast are quick drives.
- Book a short wintery mountain cabin getaway.
- Blazers games at Moda Center
- wintery cocktails – hot toddy please!
- Chinese New Year celebrations at Lan Su Chinese Garden
- trying new coffee shops – lattes were meant for winter
- Ice skating at Lloyd Center (in non-COVID years)
- celebrating winter solstice with a fire
- Winter Light Festival (a February event that is one of my favs)
- cold and rain brewery crawls by foot or bike. (And in normal years Zwickelmania in February!)
- book browsing at Powells (one of the things I miss is standing for ages at the wall of best sellers and Powell Picks!)
- World’s best hot chocolate at Timberline Lodge (and snowshoeing!)
- cheap movies at McMenamins, Laurelhurst or Living Room Theater (movies with cajon tots or pizza and a beer!)
- Pip’s Donuts takeout – and seasonal winter flavors
- A winter walk or bike ride across the Tilikum Crossing and around the waterfront.
- Stay at a cabin lookout tower. One of my favorite winter trip memories!
- Winter warmer ales – or make a beer advent calendar of local brews!
- Buy some Vitamin D – almost half of adults in the US are deficient.
- Plan a trip to somewhere warm! In non-COVID winter Hawaii!
- Start planning for spring!
Winter Events in Portland
Winter is officially December 21 through March 20, 2022. However, we usually think of winter as the months December through February, don’t we! Most of the “Christmas season” is still technically fall, but it seems wintery, so call it what you will. Here are our favorite Portland winter events. As always, for a full list of events in Portland, check out Travel Portland’s list. Here are the big ones and my favorites.
Portland is not an event-heavy winter destination, but there are usually some things to keep busy.
Portland in December
- Cut your own Christmas Tree
- Christmas Lights
>>More about Portland in December – events, weather, and things to do.
Portland in January
- Old Timey Music Festival
>>More about Portland in January – events, weather, and things to do.
Portland in February
- Winter Light Festival
- Chinese New Year
>>More about Portland in February – events, weather, and things to do.
Winter Weather in Portland
Portland winter weather usually starts by November with the rain, wind, and chilly air. The average winter low temperatures are 37 – 41° with average daily highs in the 45 – 55° F range. There are many days you can get away with a fleece jacket layered with a puffy vest. But depending on how much time you spend outside, and the year, a warmer winter coat is nice to have. And a game changer for me this year… flannel-lined jeans. Oh. yeah.
Does it rain all winter in Portland?
No, winter in Portland has 50/50 chance of rain on any given day. But yes, the winter season is Portland’s second rainiest season, after fall. Surprisingly, the spring season has just about half the amount of rainfall of winter! But when you look at average days of rainfall, winter averages 14 days of rain per month for a total of about 5″ of rain per month.
Does it snow in Portland?
Yes! Late January and February are your best bets for snow. While we usually just get a dusting of snow at some point. The historical average is 1.3″ in January and 1″ in February, with .8″ in December. But some years we get more than others. In January 2017 we had a pretty epic snowfall with almost 1 foot of snow within 24 hours! The snow stuck around the city for a week and brought everything to a complete standstill. There was so much snow that I even went snowboarding down a huge hill in my neighborhood! And in February 2021 we got another dose of massive snow, with a legit snow storm! Fingers crossed for this winter!?
How do you survive Portland winters?
As a PNW native, winter has always just been a season that you endure to get through to the rest of the year. I like to think that having rainy wet winters helps us really appreciate a changing of the seasons and summer. But for newcomers to Portland, the constant cold and drizzle can be quite a shock. If you’re hailing from a sunshine state or just need some extra help in this wild COVID ride, here are some tips:
- A sunlamp can really help brighten your mornings and help with sleep and your circadian rhythm. They’re not just for SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
- Vitamin D supplements are also recommended for most adults in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Moving your body everyday – even low-impact walking and yoga can give you a mood boost.
- Take advantage of sunny days, it fades quick.
- Make sure you have proper winter gear (raincoat, low walkable rainboots, puffy to layer etc.).
- Talking to a counselor or therapist can help with seasonal sadness! There are also a lot of new online counseling apps which is a good option in COVID times.
Lastly, in visiting Scandinavia last year, I loved learning about the Norwegian term “friluftsliv“. Which translates to open-air living and enjoying the outdoors in all seasons. And with Scandinavia having more rain, more snow, colder temperatures and less daylight, I think there might be a thing or two we can learn from them. :) Happy winter!