The Insider’s Pick of Only-in-Portland-Style Holiday Events
The holidays are upon us in Portland. And, even though the late fall weather’s been pretty mild so far this year, we all know that we may be looking at some of our last golden opportunities for outdoor event participation until we get on the other side of St. Patrick’s Day. That and… it’s the holidays! So getting out and celebrating whatever you celebrate this time of year with your fellow Portlanders is very in-season.
Say you’ve already done the Christmas tree lighting in Pioneer Square like five years running. And, you’ve been-there and done-that when it comes to the zoo lights and that indoor winter wonderland event at the Oregon Convention Center. What if you’re looking for something a little different, a little more Portland, to do this year to mark the holidays?
Well, you’re in luck. Because we live in PDX, there never seems to be a shortage of wacky, weird, and wonderful ways to celebrate with your fellow humans. Here we profile five of them, just in time for the winter holidays.
1 - It’s a Tuba Christmas!
What could be better than holiday music in a public space? Maybe, holiday music in a public space played on a tuba? Or better yet, holiday music played in “Portland’s Living Room” on upwards of fifty tubas, euphoniums, and Sousaphones? For the last twenty-eight years, tuba players from all over the area have congregated in Pioneer Courthouse Square to deliver TUBACHRISTMAS. You do not want to miss this event.
2 - The Tree! It Sings!
If you’d rather have your holiday favorites caroled to you by more than 350 humans standing in the shape of a Christmas tree, then you’re in luck. Well, you are if you’re in Portland for the holidays. For fifty-six years, Portland’s Singing Christmas Tree has been delighting Keller Auditorium audiences with holiday songs, dance numbers, and the joy that only a singing Christmas tree can deliver.
3 - The Petting Zoo! The Cave! Religious Dioramas in the Dark!
If you’re looking for something a little more “reason for the season” but still uniquely Portland, head out to The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights on NE Sandy Boulevard. They have a chapel in a cave, a petting zoo, religious music, tons of lights, and if you pay to ride the elevator up top, you can check out all the religious dioramas you can handle on a dark and charming winter walk through their beautiful grounds.
4 - Christmas Ships!
Nothing evokes the spirit of the holidays in Portland quite like standing on a bridge or dock or in a riverfront restaurant (if you want to cheat), while you watch small watercraft decorated with Christmas lights bobbing by. The Christmas Ships have been plying the frigid December waters of the Willamette and the Columbia, on multiple routes through the greater Portland area (as far north as St. Helens) since 1954.
5 - Santacon!
Last on our list, but definitely not the least weird Portland holiday event, Santacon– now an international phenomenon with events in multiple cities around the world – got its start when the San Francisco Cacophony Society brought its “Santa Rampage” concept up to share with the Portland chapter in 1996. Now featuring several events taking place in different parts of town, Santacon is at once a thousands-strong drunken pub crawl in Santa suits, and yet – so much more.
Keeping It Portland for the Holidays
There you have it: add any one of these weird Portland traditions to your holiday calendar, or for bonus points, add them all! One of the best things about living in Portland is taking advantage of the wonderful, fun, and a bit wacky traditions of the city – Happy Holidays from all of us at Urban Nest!