Oregon is a green paradise on the West Coast. Few states in the U.S. strikes as fine a balance between native industry, lively international trade, and breathtaking natural scenery. Whether you and your family are dreaming of a white Christmas in the central highlands, or prefer splashing in the surf in one of the coastal resort towns, this state has a perfect vacation destination for anybody. Book a stay at one of many cozy Oregon vacation rentals today. Christmastime is especially festive in Oregon, and some local towns take pride in going all out during the winter. Here are seven of the most appealing destinations in Oregon.
Sumpter is a microscopic dot of a town in Oregon where just 204 souls live year-round. As befits a tiny whistlestop, this 50-family burg celebrates Christmas like Whoville. Every year, the town works together to put up a giant fir tree, usually freshly cut from the surrounding woodland, and decorate it with lights until it can be seen from space. Seasonal visitors to Sumpter are more than welcome to join the (usually very short and silly) Christmas parade, ride the Christmas Train, and badger the local Santa for surprisingly authentic-looking selfies.
2. Oregon City
Oregon City lies just south of Portland, between the urban amenities of what passes for a big city in Oregon and the howling wilderness along I-5, where hikers run a half-serious chance of getting a picture of Sasquatch. This town of around 35,000 residents puts on a special Winter Farmers’ Market, where you can stock up on locally sourced ham, turkey, and fixin’s, including homemade cranberry sauce that for some reason isn’t shaped like a can. Oregon City also hosts an annual tree lighting in the center of town and invites families with kids to meet their favorite fictional (but not copyright-protected) characters on the seasonal Christmas Fantasy Trail.
Christmas is the big season in Ashland and every November the whole city has to switch gears and get into the holiday spirit. Christmas-themed attractions include public events such as Santa’s Parade through the middle of town as well as the Festival of Light, which sees tourists and locals alike wandering through the brighter parts of the city at all hours, gazing in awe at the elaborate displays put on by local businesses. Private events and activities are also thick on the ground, as the whole populace gets into the swing of the season. Unofficial holiday fun includes performances of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Cabaret Theatre, skating at the local ice rink, and the off chance of being accosted by rogue bands of churchgoers singing carols wherever they go.
Christmas in Medford tends to be an indoorsy thing, though this city of 80,000 people has all the public merriment you would expect, from a local holiday bazaar/farmers’ market/swap meet to an open-air festival of trees that are conveniently scheduled for early dusk so the kids can still make it home for dinner. More private celebrations are the rule here, though, as local churches and business groups put on their own Santa’s workshops, live holiday plays, and residential home decoration competitions that can get absurdly competitive and make great viewing for a casual drive through the suburbs. For visitors who have at some point learned the true meaning of Christmas, Greystone Court puts on an annual holiday food drive and light show for ACCESS, a local hunger-reduction nonprofit. You’re invited to drop by anytime, have a look around at the lights and the festivities, and maybe drop off a few cans of food for the needy.
Jacksonville is not a large town, but the effort locals put into the holiday season can nurture the smallest spirit. Local attractions include a public tree lighting, where kids are welcome to run wild over the green belt downtown, a parade that attracts Santa Claus himself, and a Christmas bazaar where you can get reasonably priced gifts for those last-minute friends who unexpectedly sent you something nice this year. One of the really unique local draws is Jacksonville’s annual Jolly Holly Trolley, which is exactly what it sounds like and runs past the local vineyards, courtesy of Jacksonville’s many wineries.
Newport is a resort town of 10,000 on Oregon’s tourism-heavy Central Coast. In addition to regular attractions, such as the aquarium and state park, this handsome city delights seasonal renters with a festival of trees and a parade of gaily decorated boats, all belonging to locals and lit up with elaborate Christmas displays. Before you pack it in and head back to your vacation rental in Newport or nearby Holiday Beach, you must make a side trip to the theater to see the town’s annual Nutcracker ballet, which is put on by local schoolchildren and usually runs smoother than opening night of an off-Broadway musical.
Bend is a quaint little college town Oregon has secreted away between state and national forests, Cascade mountains, and bucolic farmsteads. This secluded burg lights up around Christmastime with lights strung over every unguarded surface in the city limits. Caroling spontaneously breaks out at the mall, or in front of your vacation rental right before dinner – you never know. Closer to the heart of town, holiday revelers enjoy carriage rides, holiday markets, and a unique event called the Annual Christmas Paddle. Despite what that sounds like, it’s actually a half-competitive boating event where residents deck out their boats, canoes, kayaks, and even paddleboards with water-resistant (one hopes) lights and hit the river to put on a show visitors remember for the rest of their lives.
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