By Dan Shryock
The holidays are filled with many time-honored traditions. Community celebrations at decked-out public spaces this winter bring back many of the customary trappings people have grown to love and expect from years past. These are the sights and sounds that evoke memories and rekindle a childlike, wide-eyed wonder. Holiday lighting displays are staged throughout the Pacific Northwest this winter to continue the tradition. Bundle up and see the lights at five events in Oregon and Idaho that help you get into the holiday spirit—let it glow, let it glow, let it glow!
The Oregon Zoo’s annual ZooLights—a Portland tradition—features the Oregon Coast and its ocean creatures this year. More than 1.5 million lights of all colors create the shapes of harbor seals, urchins, crabs and other ocean residents. These holiday lights are a sight to see! See the show on foot or take a midweek evening ride for a drive-through experience.
Dates: Nov. 23 through early January.
Silverton Christmas Market
Celebrate the season with German flair in charming Silverton, east of Salem. The annual show moved to the Oregon Garden Resort in 2020 after a long tenure at The Oregon Garden’s Rediscovery Forest. Now, more than one million lights illuminate walking paths and displays. Walk through glowing tunnels, immersive displays and see a brightly lit castle. A German beer garden, heart-shaped gingerbread cookies, carolers and nutcrackers await.
Dates: Nov. 25 through New Year’s Day. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Winter Garden aGlow
Explore the 26th annual Garden aGlow show at Idaho Botanical Garden in December. More than 10 acres of holiday lights cover the grounds on Boise’s east side. Enjoy a stroll, visit the selfie station for a photo memory, listen to holiday music and savor some hot chocolate on a winter evening. More than 100,000 people attend Winter Garden aGlow each year, making this the garden’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Dates: Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
at Shore Acres State Park: Coos Bay, Oregon
An Oregon State Park tradition returns this year when the lights at Shore Acres State Park are switched on once again. The 325-acre park south of Coos Bay is known for its pristine garden overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The grounds transform for the holidays with animated whales, otters, sea stars and more. Free Reservations (available online) are required to avoid traffic congestion on Cape Arago Highway. A $5 State Park day-use fee applies.
Nov. 24 through New Year’s Eve.
Gather in Lewiston’s Locomotive Park for a celebration among the trees. Enter through a tunnel of illumination and discover the Musical Tree, a dance floor that gleams with each step and a 6- by 10-foot fireplace that warms the body and the heart. More than 700,000 LED lights conjure dancing animals and much more. There’s hot chocolate, too.
Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.