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Holiday Events + Ways to Celebrate in Portland and Surrounding Areas 2020

  |  Neighborhood Insight, Portland, Southwest Washington

Twinkling lights, gift exchanges, cheerful carols and sweet treats — there is nothing quite like the holiday season. And while things may look a bit different than other years, there are several ways to celebrate this magical season in Portland and its surrounding communities. Much like with other holidays in 2020, Portlanders have found creative ways to celebrate safely and responsibly, with drive-thru light displays, virtual concerts and other socially distanced festivities.

Mark your calendars for these special holiday events in the Portland area, including both one-time events and holiday happenings extending all season long. They’re sure to make your holiday season all the merrier!

COVID NOTE: On Friday, November 13, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a two-week freeze and list of restrictions on businesses in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. We’ve included notes about the ways these restrictions affect these in-person events, but please check each event website for the latest updates as the holiday season progresses. As always, maintain social distancing and wear a facial covering any time you are in a public place.



Oregon Zoo ZooLights | Portland

November 23–January 10

Oregon Zoo ZooLights

Photo Courtesy of the Oregon Zoo

Each holiday season, the Oregon Zoo comes to life with more than 1.5 million dazzling lights and other festivities. And this year, the zoo is providing a whole new way to illuminate the season! In addition to walking through the stunning light display, visitors may opt for a new drive-through experience on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The 2020 ZooLights season extends from November 23 through January 10, with the exception of December 25, and pricing varies depending on the date.

COVID NOTE: All ZooLights ticket sales are currently on hold but the zoo is hopeful they can still provide a drive-through experience. They are waiting for further guidance from the governor’s office. Click here for the latest updates and other details related to COVID-19.


Christmas at The Grotto | Portland

December 16–January 1

Temporarily Closed

Although The Grotto is not hosting their usual lighting event (The Christmas Festival of Lights) this year, they are still celebrating all season long and inviting the community to join. During their usual daytime hours, there will be several ways to celebrate the holiday — and the best part? All activities on the lower level are free to everyone. Through New Year’s Day, visitors can visit the nativity, hear the story of the birth of Jesus, write wishes on the Trees of Hope, visit the Chapel of Mary, get holiday shopping done in the gift shop, and much more. Plus, you can purchase admission to the scenic Upper Gardens for some special seasonal decorations!

COVID NOTE: In response to the stay at home mandate issued by the state and county, The Grotto grounds and gardens will be closed through December 16. Once the mandate is lifted, they hope to return to the above-mentioned Christmas celebrations during daylight hours. Check The Grotto website for the latest updates.


Winter Wonderland | Portland

November 27–January 2

Considered the largest drive-through holiday light show west of the Mississippi, the Safeway Winter Wonderland will grab your attention with glimmers and glows around every corner. Spectators enjoy a spectacular drive-through light show with over 250 colorful light set pieces and fully animated scenes. Admission is charged per car. All proceeds from the event benefit the Sunshine Division, a nonprofit providing food and clothing relief to local families since 1923.

COVID NOTE: This year, they are not offering bike/dog walking nights and are operating with a cashless entry system. Please wear a mask when purchasing your ticket from the booth or if you are outside of your car to use the restroom. They are not handing out candy canes and goodie bags, but are instead putting together an exciting virtual goodie bag made available through a QR code. They are unable to accept food donations this year, but encourage visitors to make an additional donation to the organization with their ticket purchase.


A Pittock Mansion Christmas: Critters Make Merry | Portland

November 27–January 4

Temporarily Closed

A Pittock Mansion Christmas has been a Portland tradition for more than 50 years. This year, they are celebrating the wonderful world of animals with their Critters Make Merry exhibit. Volunteer decorators have transformed the mansion’s stunning rooms into enchanting animal havens for reindeer, polar bears, lions, mice and other critters.

COVID NOTE: Pittock Mansion will be temporarily closed beginning November 18 to help stem the spread of COVID-19 and align with the reopening freeze for Multnomah County. Please check their website for updates on reopening.

Tickets for this year’s event are limited due to capacity restrictions. All tickets must be purchased online in advance by selecting a date and start time. Due to the one-way path through the exhibit, some undecorated rooms and permanent exhibit features will not be viewable. Review their reopening visitor guidelines before your visit.


Christmas Ship Parade | Multiple Locations

December 4–22 (With 4 Days Off)

Christmas Ship Parade Portland, OR

Photo Courtesy of Christmas Ships

For 15 nights in December, take in the wonder of the Christmas Ship Parade along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Take a look at the Columbia River Schedule and the Willamette River Schedule for the dates and times of parades as well as the best viewing locations — from shoreline parks to cozy riverfront restaurants. Watch decorated boats pass by with vibrant colors reflecting off the water’s surface and experience the joys of this annual Portland tradition!

COVID NOTE: Due to COVID-19, some of the events and other aspects of the ship parade may be impacted, including the cancellation of their Meet and Greet events on December 19 and 20. Check their website or Facebook page for any announcements throughout the season.


Portland Bazaar | Virtual

The Portland Bazaar is the city’s finest holiday gift showcase and sale — and for their 10th year, they’re taking this exciting event online with an E-Bazaar! They’ll be hosting your favorite local makers in a one-stop-shop for all your holiday gifting needs, along with a few perks and surprises. The Portland Bazaar will offer national shipping and local pickups. Check the website for the latest information!



Downtown Vancouver Virtual Holiday Tree Lighting | Virtual

November 27

The lighting of the tree at Esther Short Park is a beloved holiday tradition for Vancouver residents. Holiday music fills the air as Santa and his elves pay a visit. Plus, there are horse-drawn wagon rides, special performances, and much more. This year, the tree lighting is going virtual! Check the event page for more details about how to watch this exciting moment from the comfort of home.


Lake Oswego 56th Annual Virtual Tree Lighting | Virtual

November 27

Lake Oswego Tree Lighting

The Lake Oswego tree lighting is also going virtual! Check their website and social media pages for the release of a special virtual greeting card to commemorate the tree lighting on November 27. The greeting card will feature some of your traditional tree lighting favorites! Plus, the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce and City of Lake Oswego invite you to visit the exquisite holiday lights in person at Bigelow Plaza and Millennium Plaza Park throughout the season!


Crafty Wonderland Virtual Market | Virtual

November 28 + December 12

Crafty Wonderland is one of our favorite destinations for shopping during the holiday season. Thankfully, they are hosting a virtual market with several opportunities to shop online from local makers and small businesses! On November 28 and December 12, the virtual market will feature appearances from vendors on Instagram Live, which might include a studio tour, information about their products, a workshop or demonstrations about their process. Check out the collection of vendors, visit their website and make a purchase directly there. These sales go a long way in supporting the many incredible businesses in our midst!


Safeway Providence Festival of Trees | Virtual

December 3 + 5

Holiday Events in Portland, OR

While we can’t have a crowd of 20,000 people at the Oregon Convention Center this year, the Safeway Providence Festival of Trees is taking the holiday magic online. Watch the virtual gala auction and admire stunning Christmas trees and displays decorated by local businesses, designers, florists and volunteers. As a gala guest, you can enter to win spectacular raffles, bid in live and silent auctions, and donate to raise money for children with special healthcare needs. Plus, tune into the first-ever Home for the Holidays television special and visit with Santa! Proceeds from the Festival of Trees benefit Providence Children’s Health, which provides healthcare to more than 20,000 children with special healthcare needs every year.


Downtown Ridgefield Hometown Celebration | Ridgefield

December 5

The Ridgefield community is invited to celebrate the holidays in a variety of unique ways this year, including a classic drive-through or walk-through of downtown (which will be adorned in twinkling lights), an online holiday vendor marketplace, a drive-by Santa decorating contest, a Drive-Thru Tree Jubilee, an Arts Quarter Ornament Hunt, and more. Click here for more information about Hometown Celebration in Ridgefield!


Milwaukie Virtual Tree Lighting | Virtual

December 5

The annual Milwaukie tree lighting is also going virtual this year! The event will feature musical performances, a holiday message from the mayor, and a special appearance from Santa — all streamed on the city’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Grab some hot chocolate (or a glass of wine!) and enjoy this seasonal event from the comfort of home.


Ho Ho 5K | Tigard

December 6

This festive, holiday-themed 5K in Tigard has it all — Hostess HO HOs, Santa visits, hot drinks, prizes and other perks, like an evergreen seedling for every finisher! They are also collecting goods to help share the holiday spirit, including canned food, jackets, blankets, dog and cat food, which will be given to the Union Gospel Mission and the Oregon Humane Society. The race will start and finish at Cook Park in Tigard, which is located just behind Tigard High School.


Portland Spirit Christmas Ship Dinner Cruises | Portland

December 16–22

Portland Spirit Christmas Ship Dinner Cruises

Photo Courtesy of Portland Spirit

See the Portland Christmas Ships from a whole new perspective aboard the Portland Spirit. This 2.5-hour dinner cruise includes a starter salad, fresh bread, a plated entree and a special dessert, which you can enjoy at a private table while live piano music plays. Tickets for the Christmas Ships Cruises are $84 per adult and $42 per child.

COVID NOTE: Per government orders, all indoor dining is shut down until December 15. Check the Portland Spirit website for the latest update.

This year, the cruise is operating at a limited capacity, so make sure you reserve your tickets before spots fill up! Click here for Portland Spirit’s COVID-19 policies and updates.


Hanukkah at Home

December 10–18

Although most in-person Hanukkah events are on pause for 2020, including Neveh Shalom’s family festival, there are several ways to celebrate the holiday at home. You may light the candles on the menorah, make potato latkes (pancakes) or sufganiyot (jelly donuts), play dreidel, sing traditional songs, and more. Plus, Congregation Neveh Shalom has several virtual events all month long to stay connected during Hanukkah and beyond.


Jingle Bell Run | Virtual

December 11–13

Get decked out in holiday gear and participate in a fun and festive holiday race — all while battling the number one cause of disability: arthritis. 100 percent of your registration fee and fundraising will go to support the Arthritis Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to boldly pursue a cure for arthritis, while championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections. The race has gone virtual this year, which means you can run the race wherever you choose. Every runner will still receive an exclusive Jingle Bell Run t-shirt, a unique medal and a sticker!


Montavilla Farmers’ Market Holiday Market | Portland

December 20

The vibrant Montavilla Farmers’ Market is dedicated to providing access to high-quality, local and healthy food to the diverse community they serve. Shop the variety of items from 50 farmers and food producers each Sunday for most of the year! The market runs each Sunday from May through October and on the second and fourth Sundays of the month from November through April. And on December 20, they’re hosting a special Holiday Market!

COVID NOTE: This year, all vendor booths will be spaced apart and the number of shoppers allowed in the market will be limited. Music, kids programming, special events and communal seating will be eliminated until further notice, and all hot food and drinks must be taken to-go. The market will regularly sanitize all high-touch areas with a bleach solution and will provide hand washing stations. Vendors and shoppers are asked to wear face masks or coverings, stay home if you are experiencing symptoms, and practice good hygiene. The first half hour of the market is reserved for those who are higher risk or have compromised immune systems. Click here for more details about the 2020 season.


Portland Baroque Orchestra Pocket Messiah | Virtual

December 20

We’ll sure miss the sweet sounds of Handel’s Messiah ringing throughout First Baptist Church, as Portland Baroque Orchestra is unable to perform live this year. However, they’re providing an online “pocket-sized” edition, featuring Northwest-based soloists joined by an organist and string quartet. This performance, like all of PBO’s 2020-21 season, is presented through Great Arts. Period., an admission-free digital concert hall. You can support PBO by making a donation in lieu of a ticket purchase.


Metropolitan Youth Symphony Virtual Holiday Spectacular Concert | Virtual

December 23

Metropolitan Youth Symphony is hosting their first-ever Holiday Spectacular Concert, celebrating holiday music from around the world, and featuring performances from Oregon International Ballet Academy students of select dances from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” To attend, simply stream the event on YouTube via a private link you’ll receive 48 hours before the event. You can register for free (or opt for a donation of $10, $20, $40 or more in lieu of a ticket) to get access to this festive online event.


Happy Holidays!

We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season. How are you celebrating this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author

Melissa Peterson, Director of Agent Services and Technology

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