It’s definitely December, even if we recently had some weather you might associate with Spring (or spring-ish). It was a warm ending to November, but December is getting colder and darker by the minute.
That means it’s time to bundle up the kids and find some fun wintery activities like looking at lights, cutting down trees, and sipping hot cocoa while you sing off key carols. It may sound corny, but that’s a lot of what being a parent is. You turned in your “cool” card a long time ago in exchange for 80’s movies, 90’s songs, and comfortable clothes that aren’t skin tight. You aren’t up on the lingo; a night in with friends and a glass of mulled wine is just fine, and you’ll gladly wear sweats over something trendy if you have to choose.
Most holiday-inspired activities were off-limits or closed last year, but this year a lot of local events are happening again and encouraging those attending to follow safety protocols like wearing masks and practicing social distancing as well as staying home if a member of the group is not feeling well.
Here are my top five suggestions for a holiday-themed outing on what might be the last weekend of decent weather for some time.
Oregon Zoo Lights
Last year the Zoo still put on their annual lights event, but due to Covid-19, restrictions made it drive-through only. This year they are keeping the drive-through lights an option on specific evenings and opening up the park for pedestrians the other nights. The Zoo staff do a remarkable job putting this event on for the public, and it’s a lot of fun to head to the Zoo after hours, with such a great light show to look at. Tickets are available online and strongly encouraged to be purchased in advance since they sell out quickly. The event runs through January 9th.
The Silverton Christmas Market at the Oregon Garden Resort (formerly Christmas in the Garden)
I’ve yet to meet a person that didn’t love the experience of the Oregon Garden and its holiday lights. It’s no longer called Christmas in the Garden; it’s now called The Silverton Christmas Market, although if you’ve been there before, you won’t feel like you’re on another planet or anything. This year, there isn’t ice skating, but there will be a million lights, appearances by Santa, live music, and a market. It’s a drive for most people but well worth it. Tickets can be purchased online, and the Market is open through January 9th.
The Grotto’s Christmas Festival Of Lights
If you’ve been to the Grotto once, you know what to expect, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular. Just walking the grounds and perusing the gift shop is a lot of fun, and the light displays seem to get better every year. A live choir performance just adds to the experience. Tickets are available online, and the Festival runs through December 30th.
Holidays at the Belle (formerly Miracle of a million lights)
The Victorian Belle is one of the most popular event venues in the state, and when you see their fantastic home and grounds, you can see why. The venue itself is incredible, with a multi-story mansion to explore. They really go all out for the holidays, decking their house and the surrounding grounds with lights and decorations people of all ages will enjoy. Their gift shop is charming, and the music and lights can be seen from blocks away. Parking is difficult, so best to carpool if you can. There are events and activities aside from the main tour, so make sure you check their web page if you need more info. Tickets are available online, and you can visit between now and December 23rd, with a special event only on the 11th.
Frog Pond Farm
You’ve probably been to a lot of tree farms, but Frog Pond is quite the unique experience. Sure they have trees, and they have very nice trees at that. But they also have a really neat gift shop, a pop-up coffee stand, a bonfire, a great collection of animals (including but not limited to camels, llamas, ponies, goats, and donkeys), as well a holiday trail of fun surprises, appearances from Santa, and much more! It really is a great experience for the whole family. You won’t be able to find better, but you could find a whole lot worse. Set your destination for Frog Pond Farm, and you won’t be disappointed.
Casey Mabbott is a husband and parent first, and also an experienced and dedicated writer and researcher. Born and raised in the Portland area, when Casey is not spending time with his family gallivanting around Portland and the surrounding areas, he genuinely enjoys helping people (especially families) find the “hidden gems” in the Pacific Northwest. In today’s world of lightning fast information at our fingertips, it’s truly a wonder to stumble across a place, an experience, or an activity you’ve never heard of.