The state of Oregon features a variety of Christmas light shows that will illuminate your holiday getaway. While the popular city of Portland by far boasts the most light displays in Oregon — especially with its zoo lights event; the Grotto, an outdoor Catholic sanctuary; and boat parades — several of the smaller towns also offer noteworthy entertainment. For instance, the Azalea Park Festival is one of the biggest light shows in southern Oregon. Once you settle into your Oregon vacation rental, venture out to these cities and towns to see spectacular Christmas lights.

annual christmas festival of lights at the grotto portland
Source: https://thegrotto.org

1. Portland

Portland doesn’t skimp when it comes to busting out the Christmas lights, boasting several top places to get your Christmas on from The Grotto to the zoo. The Grotto’s Christmas Festival Lights isn’t just about the lights, although the forest-like gardens are draped in lights, and the paths are lined with luminaries, creating a fairytale world. It’s also about music and family fun. Each night there are five live indoor concerts, while the outdoors boast lights and other live entertainment from puppet shows to crafts. While you walk the paths, you come across groups of Grotto carolers and the Festival Zoo complete with camels.

Speaking of animal, the Oregon Zoo in Portland has a ZooLights Festival featuring over 1 million lights that transforms a zoo into a Christmas wonderland. If you’re going for big, then the Winter Wonderland light show at the Portland International Raceway is the place to go with more than 2 million lights and 250 illuminated set pieces.

Opt for a subtler approach to Christmas lights by visiting Peacock Lane, Portland’s National Historic District featuring historic Tudor houses and mansions dressed up for the season. Then jump over the Victorian Belle, another historic landmark. Every year it undergoes the transformation of the Miracle of a Million Lights. Both the outside and the inside of the house becomes illuminated, offering families a chance to see heirlooms and antiques underneath a soft glow. Furthermore, Santa’s in residence for pictures and visits, and Mrs. Claus is ready to lead children in fun craft projects. Enjoy classic Christmas movies in the heated outdoor theater — with popcorn available — listen to musical performances, and roast marshmallows at the fire pits. Rudolph sticks close by to help out. Hot cocoa and apple cider are available to warm your belly. Stop at the gift shop for a unique ornament commemorating your visit before leaving. Finally, watch ships lit up for Christmas float down the Willamette River, an event that occurs nightly for 15 days during December.

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2. Newport

Portland’s not the only city to host a Christmas boat parade; Newport’s position on the coast and Yaquina Bay makes it the perfect location for Christmas-themed nautical fun. Boats of all shapes and sizes get into the fun, don holiday garb, and float down Historic Bayfront. After watching the parade, stroll down Bay Boulevard where you can enjoy the holiday decorations and do some last minute shopping. Wind Drift Gallery, Made in Oregon Store, and Jambo World Crafts all offer unique gift ideas. Then get dinner at some of the city’s top restaurants, conveniently located along the Bayfront, such as Local Ocean Seafoods, Clearwater Restaurants, Saffron Salmon, Ocean Bleu at Gino’s, and Pacific Shrimp.

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3. Colton

Colton lies just west of the Cascade Mountains on the foothills. Other than the peace and quiet an Oregon vacation rental here gives you, it also offers easy access to the Aspen Meadow Celebration of Lights. This annual festival is based upon a specific Christian theme every year. Other than 150,000 sparkling lights decorating trees and deer, it also has a miniature train village decked up for Christmas and an interactive children’s area. Wander through both the indoor and outdoor displays, listen to the carolers, watch videos, and enjoy hot chocolate and warm cookies. If you’re not too chilled, stop at Colton’s premier frozen yogurt shop, All Mine, afterward.

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4. Silverton

Silverton’s a small town, but the entire town really turns out for the holidays with the annual Christmas in the Garden. Located at Oregon Garden, a collection of botanical gardens and historic buildings that covers 80 acres, the festival includes more than 600,000 Christmas lights decorating trees, arbors, statues, and other structures. After walking through the Christmas wonderland, enjoy the live music and carolers that really get you in the spirit. There’s a daily Artisan Market where you can purchase handmade goods and Christmas food. Try gluhwein, a holiday beverage from Germany, while the kids do some ice skating and snowless tubing. Warm up over the fire pits before enjoying live plays including Rediscovery Forest: A Christmas Carol.

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5. Brookings

Brookings is another small town, this one located on the coast in southern Oregon. Its Azalea Park hosts the annual Nature’s Coastal Holiday Festival of Lights. Half a million lights illuminating the paths, trees, and displays brings Christmas to life. Not only does Santa visit the Festival of Lights several times during the holiday season, so does Queen Elsa from Frozen. Enjoy the live music and carolers as well as hot apple cider, hot cocoa, and warm cookies at the Snack Shack. While in town, watch the Nutcracker Ballet performance at the Azalea Middle School.

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