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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Dec. 5, 2023

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5 Vancouver, Portland light shows sure to produce ooohs and aaahs

By , Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
See the Winter Wonderland drive-thru light show at the Portland International Raceway daily through Dec. 31. Top left and right: The Christmas Ships Parade will hit the Willamette and Columbia rivers again this year. Center: Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo has been a Northwest favorite for years.
See the Winter Wonderland drive-thru light show at the Portland International Raceway daily through Dec. 31. Top left and right: The Christmas Ships Parade will hit the Willamette and Columbia rivers again this year. Center: Zoolights at the Oregon Zoo has been a Northwest favorite for years. (Contributed photo) Photo Gallery

The Vancouver-Portland area might be known for its long, dark winters, but if there’s one thing we Pacific Northwesterners know how to do, it’s cheer ourselves up with an array of spectacular holiday light shows. Several venues are, in fact, already open, welcoming the rush of sparkle-hungry spectators. These light shows are Yuletide favorites and are sure to produce plenty of ooohs and aaahs.

Christmas Ships

In Clark County, the Christmas Ships viewing at the Port of Camas-Washougal is an essential winter tradition. For those willing to brave the elements long enough to watch the combined Columbia and Willamette fleets sail up and down in front of Marina Park, they’ll be rewarded with a flotilla of about 60 light-bedecked ships in all shapes and sizes. The ships, skippered by owners who volunteer to make spirits bright, will begin their aquatic procession at 6 p.m. Saturday.

This year, the port offices will be closed for indoor viewing and won’t offer caroling or hot cider as in previous years. Activate Church, however, will be outside at Parker’s Landing waterfront park from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday with live music and entertainment, Christmas carols, free photos with Santa Claus, hot chocolate and sugar cookies. Learn more at facebook.com/events/808681920467306 or visit facebook.com/ActivateChurch.

For those who can’t make it to Washougal on Saturday, there are plenty of other opportunities to see the Christmas Ships ply the Columbia or Willamette Rivers. The Christmas Ships Parade can be seen for 15 nights in the Vancouver-Portland area from Friday to Dec. 21. (See the complete schedule with maps at christmasships.org.) The Columbia fleet will sail past Vancouver’s Waterfront Park on Dec. 5, 7, 15 and 20; Wintler Community Park on Dec. 6 and 14; and McCuddy’s Steamboat Landing Marina on Dec. 9. All parades begin at approximately 7 p.m., although the fleet might not be visible from every vantage point until a little later. Be patient (and stay warm) and you’ll soon spy the festive floating light display.


The Oregon Zoo offers a nighttime walk through a dazzling display of 1.5 million lights from 4:30 to 8 p.m. daily through Jan. 5, except Christmas Day. Standard tickets are $24 for 12 and older and $19 for children ages 2 to 11; tickets can go up to $29 depending on date and time. Children younger than 2 are free. Timed-entry tickets must be purchased in advance online at oregonzoo.org. Drive-thru dates are Dec. 1, 6, 7, 8 and Jan. 3, 4 and 5; tickets are $65 per car.

Holiday Happenings

The tree-lighting ceremony in Ridgefield, seen in 2007, has been part of the community’s tradition for decades.A plethora of holiday celebrations, tree lightings in Clark County
Nothing announces the start of the Christmas season like a community tree lighting. Everyone gathers outdoors, cheerfully tolerating the rain and cold, just to see…

Winter Wonderland

The Winter Wonderland drive-thru light show at Portland International Raceway is open daily through Dec. 31 at 1940 N. Victory Blvd., Portland. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 4:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Special get-ready-for-Christmas hours are 4:30 to 11 p.m. Dec. 16 to 25. Spectators will enjoy 250 light set pieces and animated scenes. Tickets range from $48 for cars to $155 for buses. Buy tickets at aftontickets.com/winterwonderland2022. Proceeds benefit Sunshine Division’s hunger relief efforts.

Christmas Festival of Lights

The Grotto, 8840 N.E. Skidmore St., Portland, will offer its Christmas Festival of Lights daily through Dec. 30, except Christmas day. Hours are 5 to 9:30 p.m. through Dec. 16 and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 17-30. Online advance tickets are $14 for ages 12 and older and $6 for children ages 3 to 11. Children 2 or younger are free. Value nights are Dec. 5-8, when general admission tickets purchased online are $12 and children are $5. All tickets purchased at the gate are $4 more for adults or $2 more for children. Buy tickets at thegrotto.org.

Peacock Lane

Peacock Lane in Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood will be open 6-11 p.m. daily from Dec. 15 to 31. The neighborhood light show, a tradition since 1929, is free. Pedestrian-only nights are Dec. 15, 16 and 17, when the lane will be blocked to vehicle traffic. Cars will be allowed on the lane Dec. 18-31. If you choose to view it on foot, street parking is available on surrounding streets and Peacock Lane residents request that visitors be quiet, respectful and not block driveways. Get more details on parking and directions at peacocklane.org or check facebook.com/peacockln for updates.

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