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The 10 Best Holiday Activities in Portland

The 10 Best Holiday Activities in Portland 

Planning your holiday activities in Portland? You’re definitely on the right page! The Rip City Review staff are big on holiday outings, so we have a ton of fun stuff to share with you here. 

After going over our many group trips, we voted on our top holiday activities. Here are the winners!

1. Visit the Pittock Mansion 

ADDRESS3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-823-3623
OPERATING HOURSMonday, Wednesday – Sunday 10 AM – 4 PMTuesday 12 – 4 PM
PRICEMembers: FreeAdults: $14.50Seniors (65+): $12.50Youth (ages 6–18): $10.50Children (under 6): Free

On a normal day, the Pittock Mansion is a beautiful French Renaissance château. However, during the holiday season, it turns into a Christmas wonderland that attracts numerous visitors. 

This isn’t just for tourists, by the way – a lot of locals come here for the holidays too. We know because the mansion is one of the places we recommend when people ask us where to go for the season. 

It’s not only because their holiday decorations are quite lovely: it’s also because no matter how many times we visit the Pittock Mansion, it never loses its charm. Once you see the fascinating rooms, you’ll know what we mean! 

Do check in, however, if they’re open during the time you’re planning on visiting. Sometimes they close the mansion because of weather conditions, which might happen a few times because of the snow. 

Pro tip:
If you need something warm, why not try grabbing a cup of coffee at Sunny Day Coffee nearby? We love their Hot Mocha! The cafe is just a 5-minute drive away from the mansion. Here’s their location on Google Maps. 

2. Drop by the Grotto for the Christmas Festival of Lights 

Drop by the Grotto for the Christmas Festival of Lights
Image from The Grotto
ADDRESS8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-254-7371
OPERATING HOURSMonday – Sunday 9 AM – 6 PM 
PRICELower Level: FreeUpper Gardens:Adult: $9.95Senior (65+): $8.95Youth (6-11): $4.95

The Grotto is a Catholic shrine in the city. That said, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t belong to the same religion. You can still go here and enjoy what The Grotto has to offer. 

It’s quite famous for its stunning, well-maintained gardens and the tranquil atmosphere that isn’t usually found in a bustling city like Portland.  

It’s worth giving this place a visit all-year round, honestly. However, if you’re in Portland for the holidays we suggest you don’t miss their festival – it’s a great way to enjoy the local Christmas lights. 

Aside from watching the lights at The Grotto, you can also enjoy other activities here such as the puppet show and storytimes, the caroling, and the choirs in the chapel. 

Plus, here’s a fun fact: with almost 160 holiday concerts in the festival, it’s actually the largest Christmas choir festival in the world! If you’re a fan of angelic voices singing Christmas carols, this is the place to be.

Pro tip:
After walking around The Grotto, you’re probably going to be hungry. Based on our experience, that’s usually how it is! You can grab a bite to eat at the Cameo Cafe. They serve an all-day breakfast and brunch menu and they’re just a 5-minute walk away from The Grotto. Our top recommendations are their French Toast and Kimchi Omelette. 

3. Drive through Peacock Lane 


Dubbed the Christmas street of Portland, Peacock Lane is a lovely neighborhood that boasts of its Christmas lights every time the holidays are just around the corner. 

Surprisingly, this annual tradition didn’t just start recently. In fact, people started embellishing their front yards along this street as far back as 1932!

It’s fun seeing each household’s vision come to life every December. They are not in any way required to decorate their homes for the holidays, so we appreciate their love for the season!

Pro tip:
We suggest dropping by after the 25th instead because you can avoid most of the crowds that way. That’s if you don’t mind seeing the lights after Christmas! You can also just ditch your vehicle and walk around to avoid getting stuck in traffic. 

4. Catch The Nutcracker at the Oregon Ballet Theatre 

ADDRESSBancroft Building, 720 S Bancroft St, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-227-6890
OPERATING HOURSMonday – Friday 8:30 AM – 5 PMSaturday 10 AM – 2PM Sunday Closed

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without us mentioning the Oregon Ballet Theatre. They have a lot of Christmas shows every year for anyone who’d like to feel some holiday spirit. 

Their The Nutcracker in particular is something to look forward to. While their other shows in other seasons are also worth watching, The Nutcracker takes the cake – for us, at least! 

The dancers are mesmerizing – that’s a given fact. But we don’t want to glaze over how intricate the set design is, which caused us to gasp when the curtains opened!

We don’t want to spoil every detail though, so we’re just going to say it’s something you should watch at least once. 

Pro tip:
If you want to watch it with a live orchestra, make sure to look at the performance schedule to make sure which dates to look out for. 

5. Admire the Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo

ADDRESS4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-226-1561
OPERATING HOURSMonday – Sunday 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
PRICEAdult (12+): $24Child (2–11): $19Infant (under 2): Free

As you can probably tell by now, the city of Portland isn’t even close to running out of spots to watch Christmas lights. After all, the city gets extra bright during the holidays – believe it or not, even the Oregon Zoo gets brighter at this time! 

If you’re kind of iffy in terms of supporting zoos, you don’t have to worry about this one. In fact, it’s the kind of zoo that cares about the animal’s welfare, hosting its own education and conservation programs to inspire the masses to protect the animals.

Anyway, a lot of families look forward to visiting the Oregon Zoo because of the Zoolights. That’s a fantastic display of 1.5 million lights! 

Pro tip:
Aside from admiring the Zoolights and observing the animals, there are other activities you can do at the Oregon Zoo. They even have scavenger hunts and numerous animal habitats to discover!

6. Do your last-minute Christmas shopping at the Portland Night Market

ADDRESS100 SE Alder St, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-974-6717
OPERATING HOURSSunday – Thursday ClosedFriday & Saturday 4 – 11 PM 
PRICEFree entrance

What better way to do your last-minute Christmas shopping than going to a place with different kinds of vendors under one roof? 

If you want to support local creators during the holidays, we highly recommend heading over to the Portland Night Market. There are plenty of budding businesses here, most of which are unique. 

The products that you can purchase at the Portland Night Market range from food to clothes, art, drinks, and knick-knacks. So, you don’t have to worry about not being able to find something for a loved one. 

The atmosphere here is pretty great too. Moreover, it’s a supportive community that wants to showcase what the city has to offer. If you’re a visitor, you’ll surely get a taste of what Portland is like. 

Do note that the market is not just open during the holidays. They also pop up every now and then for the rest of the year!

Pro tip:
While the entrance is free, you may purchase a fast pass ticket to skip the line. We find this especially convenient during the holiday season!

7. Watch the lighting ceremony at the Pioneer Courthouse Square

ADDRESS751 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-223-1613
OPERATING HOURSMonday – Friday 8:30 AM – 5 PMSaturday and Sunday Closed

A lot of Portlanders start feeling the holiday spirit as soon as the Christmas tree arrives at the Pioneer Courthouse Square. 

It’s partly because it’s one of the first places that displays any Christmas-related decor here. And also because, you know, who could miss a whopping 75-ft Douglas fir adorned with 14,000 LED lights downtown?!

That’s why we recommend going here if you’re in town. It’s magical to witness it – just like how the holidays should be. 

You may also expect to hear live music during the lighting ceremony. What’s the holiday season without some Christmas jingles, right? 

Pro tip:
After the ceremony, we recommend heading over to the Italian restaurant called Grassa. They serve really good Pork Belly Mac and Cheese! You can refer to Google Maps for directions. It’s a convenient 9-minute walk away from the Pioneer Courthouse Square. 

8. Hear the Oregon Symphony live 

Please embed: ​​

ADDRESS909 SW Washington, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+503-228-1353 
OPERATING HOURSTicket Office hours:  Monday – Friday 10 AM – 6 PMSaturday & Sunday Closed
Phone hours:Monday – Friday 10 AM – 9 PM

You haven’t experienced Christmas songs right if you haven’t heard them being performed by the Oregon Symphony. While hearing a studio version of them is great, witnessing it live will give you chills!

There are a lot of different shows during the holidays that you can catch from the Oregon Symphony. As of writing, there are already 7 scheduled events for the month of December. 

Since there are so many to go through them one by one, we’re just going to include which ones we’re looking forward to the most. 

Oregon Symphony
Image from Oregon Symphony 

Out of the 7, these 3 most make us want to fast forward to Christmas: 

  • Gospel Christmas, as you can tell from the name, is a live music event where you can enjoy inspiring gospel music performed by talented musicians from the region. 
  • Being musical theater fans, we couldn’t help but be excited for Kristin Chenoweth with the Oregon Symphony. How can we not recommend seeing her when she’s in town? You’ll also hear her perform her album live.  
  • If you want your Christmas with a hint of jazz, pop, and classical music, we recommend going to the Pink Martini: Home(town) for the Holidays with the Oregon Symphony concert. Of course, you’ll also hear them perform classic Christmas songs. 
Pro tip:
End the night with something a little fancier than usual by trying out Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse. It’s just a 9-minute walk from the theater. This restaurant is quite well known and rightly so. Their food is delicious and the atmosphere is great. We recommend trying their Wagyu Ancho, which has been aged for 21 days. Here are the directions at Google Maps.  

9. Attend the Christmas Ship Parade


Here’s another annual event in Portland worth seeing – the Christmas Ship Parade. 

Of course, as you can already tell from the name, you can watch Christmas-light-covered ships float through the river. It’s one of the more unique ways to see Christmas lights in the city!

Image from Christmas Ship Parade
Image from Christmas Ship Parade

You don’t have to worry about not being able to catch this event because there are two locations to watch this from – Columbia and Willamette Rivers. As of writing, the scheduled dates for the both rivers are December 1, 2, 4-6, 8-10, and 13-17. 

You may see the complete schedule for the Columbia Rivers and the fleet can look out for here. Meanwhile, you can refer to the Willamette fleet schedule here. 

It also tells you the complete route of each fleet, from where it starts to where it ends. It’s different for each fleet, so be sure to refer to their website!

Pro tip:
The fleets will go around for 2 hours, so it’s impossible to miss the fleet that you’re on the lookout for as long as you stake out a spot by the river within that time-frame. 

10. Indulge in steaks at Ringside Steakhouse

ADDRESS2165 W Burnside St, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-223-1513
OPERATING HOURSMonday & Tuesday ClosedWednesday & Thursday 5 PM – 9 PM Friday 5 PM – 9:30 PM Saturday 4 PM – 9:30 PMSunday 4 PM – 9 PM

If you’re looking for a reason to indulge on steaks, the holidays are the perfect time! Here’s where we like to do it.

The Ringside Steakhouse is a cozy restaurant that looks like it was especially made for the holidays. You will see what we mean. 

It’s the perfect place for celebration because the setting is more intimate and private than some steakhouses in the city. 

But of course, we don’t recommend it just for its ambiance. The food that we’ve tried is worth a try (or two…or three!). 

Really, we couldn’t count the number of times we’ve been here for a special occasion – it’s almost becoming our go-to!

They also have an outdoor seating option if that’s something you’d prefer. But we have to be honest, we like the vibe of the indoor seating much better! 

Pro tip:
Be sure to check their website if they have any Christmas specials! Last year they had a special dinner for 6 on their holiday menu. This year, they could be cooking up something different, but we bet it’s just as good. 
For their appetizers, we recommend the Crispy Mediterranean Octopus. It has a citrusy and sweet base with a hint of chili – so good!
For their steaks, everything we tried was so juicy and flavorful that it’s hard to pick just one! But if we had to, it would be the olive-fed wagyu simply for the reason that it blew our minds. Just thinking about it right now is making our mouths water! It’s quite expensive, but we promise it’s worth it! 
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