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Christmas in Portland

While most of the people who travel to Portland for Christmas are probably visiting family (let’s face it: Portland is an amazing city, but not exactly a huge holiday destination), there are several Christmas events in Portland which can be fun to get involved in whether you live here or are just visiting. Here are a few of the highlights.

Christmas Tree Lighting

On the day after Thanksgiving, Portland’s official Christmas tree is lit in Pioneer Courthouse Square. In addition to the flicking of the switch, there’s usually music and a little merriment.
Date: Friday, November 25, 2011
Time: 5:30pm
Location: Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW Sixth Ave, Downtown
Cost: Free
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Christmas at Pittock Mansion

Portland’s Pittock Mansion gets dressed up for the holidays each year, generally with a theme in mind, and even though the historic home is no longer lived in the Christmas decor makes it feel warm and inviting. Find out what this year’s theme is, and check ticket prices.
Date: Monday, November 21 – Monday, January 2, 2012
Time: 11-4pm daily
Location: Pittock Mansion, 3229 NW Pittock Dr 97210
Cost: $9 adults, $6 youth age 6-18
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Winter Wonderland at PIR

Portland International Raceway turns into a festival of lights during the holidays as the “Largest Holiday Light Show West of the Mississippi” takes over the racetrack. Find out more about the hours and prices (as well as tips on when the crowds are smallest) at the official website.
Date: Thursday, November 24 – Monday, December 25, 2011
Time: 5-9pm on Sunday – Thursday, 5-11pm on Friday – Saturday
Location: Portland International Raceway, 1940 N Victory Blvd
Cost: $16 per car
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Oregon Zoo Lights

The Oregon Zoo transforms during the holidays with light shows and light sculptures, and it’s certainly not just for kids.
Date: Friday, November 25 – Sunday, January 1, 2012
Time: 5-8pm on Sunday – Thursday, 5-8:30pm on Friday – Saturday
Location: Oregon Zoo
Cost: $9 adults, $6 children age 3-11
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Christmas at the Grotto

The Grotto’s real name is “National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother” and it’s both a Catholic Shrine and botanical garden. During the Christmas season, it gets lit up in spectacular fashion and is often the site for choral and other concerts as well.
Date: Friday, November 25 – Friday December 30, 2011
Time: 5-9:30 nightly
Location: The Grotto, 8840 NE Skidmore St 97220
Cost: $8 adults, $4 children age 3-12
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The Singing Christmas Tree

What could be merrier than an enormous singing tree? It’s a popular Portland tradition that’s been going since 1962.
Date: Thursday, December 1 – Sunday, December 4, 2011
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Keller Auditorium, 222 Southwest Clay St 97201
Cost: from $12
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Christmas Ships

Each year since 1954 there’s been a Christmas Ships Parade on both of Portland’s rivers where boat owners decorate their vessels with lights – sometimes rather intricately designed light shows – and cruise the waters for spectators’ enjoyment. The schedule varies each year (and is different for the Columbia and Willamette Rivers), so check the official Christmas Ships website for more details about this year’s event, including the best places to catch the show.
Date: Thursday, December 8 – Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Time: usually starting around 7pm, depending on the day/river
Location: Willamette River & Columbia River
Cost: Free
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Crafty Wonderland

If you’re looking to hit up some Portland craft, be sure to put the Crafty Wonderland Extravaganza at the Oregon Convention Center on your calendar, or visit the Pop-up shop on SW 10th Ave anytime in December.
Date: Saturday, December 10 – Sunday, December 11, 2011
Time: 11am – 6pm
Location: Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd 97232
Cost: Free
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The Lights on Peacock Lane

Since the 1920s, every house in this quaint little southeast neighborhood has been decorating for Christmas. For best results, park and walk in.
Date: Thursday, December 15 – Saturday, December 31, 2011
Time: 6-11pm
Location: Peacock Lane (between SE Stark St & SE Belmont St, one block east of SE 39th)
Cost: Free
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Feel inclined to dress up like Santa and run around town finding mischief? Santacon is for you.
Date: Saturday, December 17, 2011
Time: noon
Location: Downtown
Cost: Free
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Photos by: drburtoni, Pittock Mansion, craig1black, Matthew Sanzone, jesse.millan, sam_churchill, Crafty Wonderland, megaul, Singing Christmas Tree, the Grotto. Originally published December of 2007.

What’s your favorite Christmas event in Portland?