The holidays come with a lot of prerequisites: spiked egg nog, a festive double feature of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Die Hard, and, of course, bundling up and heading out to ogle holiday lights. A sappy traditionalist, I drag my family to Peacock Lane every year to marvel at the shimmering electrical glory of that row of NE Portland homes. Granted, they may just look shimmery due to the near-toxic levels of car exhaust we end up huffing as the crowds shuffle, crammed sardine tight, down the Lane’s sidewalks—the revving of engines drowning out the holiday tunes.
A more relaxing holiday tradition? Oregon Garden’s Christmas in the Garden. One would think that Silverton’s 80-acre flower, tree, and bush wonderland pretty much dies off come winter, but it turns out that the season boasts its own 400,000 light holiday bacchanal, complete with roaming carolers, a German village-inspired holiday bazaar, and live reindeer (on select weekends). This year the Garden, which is only about an hour away from Portland, upped the ante, adding on a 3,500 square foot covered ice rink surrounded by Christmas trees and snow flakes. It's straight up magical.
Merriment abounds, fueled by mug after mug of mulled wine and peppermint hot cocoa, best sipped while strolling trails that wind through towering Doug Firs peppered with Oregon-centric light displays—raindrops and umbrellas to a twinkly blue replica of nearby Silver Falls. There’s giant electric daisies and narwhales; and a massive light tunnel that makes everyone posing for photos inside look like they’re traveling at lightspeed, Star Wars-style. Best of all, the setting retains its natural beauty, which makes it a draw for both kids clamoring to see Santa (he’s there too) and grown ups warming up by one of the forest glen’s many, many fire pits. It’s all very Santa’s Village meets Paul Bunyan.
Around 22,000 people visited the Garden last December, but thanks to its wooded locale and system of trams to and from free offsite parking lots both near the garden and in downtown Silverton, it’s a bit less stressful than your average slog to Zoo Lights or the Peacock.
Christmas in the Garden’s real secret weapon? The Oregon Garden Resort, a cheery farm house-meets-ski chalet lodge and series of cottages that perches only yards away from the holiday village. Taking advantage of the hotel’s holiday package garners you unfettered access to all the Christmas fun—each guest scores a keycard that opens the back gate to the entire Oregon Garden so they can wander in and out of the Christmas village at their leisure. When you’ve O.D.'d on holiday revelry, you can stumble back to your room, which comes with its own fireplace, or mosey over to the main lodge’s cozy lounge, which boasts its own massive, double-sided fireplace, board games, and some tasty garlic French fries. Or, you know, go soak in the hot tub. It’s your call. No parking snags, no waiting in lines with half-frozen kids, no bleary-eyed drive home, nothing. Now that, my friends, is a true holiday miracle.
The next morning, grab some serviceable eggs and sausage from the resort restaurant’s buffet breakfast and your third free cup of to-go Boyd’s coffee, and head back out into the Garden. A brisk walk through its austere yet beautiful pavilions and ponds reveal a landscape in transition—bare branches and berries, stately conifers etched in frost. (Parental bonus: There’s a big tire pyramid play structure, with gravel, shovels, and a decommissioned tractor, near the Resort’s back entrance for antsy kiddos.)
No visit should end without a visit to the Gordon House, the only building in Oregon designed by iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The small home sits on edge on the Oregon Garden’s property. You can reserve a tour nearly every day with one of the historic property’s volunteers, who will happily tell you everything about the half-century old building, from the mysterious origins of its eye-catching sawtooth fretwork to how all its furniture ended up modeled after the bench seat of a ’57 Chevy pickup. It’s all oddly fascinating for both design geeks and clueless visitors.
Maybe we can give Peacock Lane a break next year. Happy Holidays, indeed.
Christmas in the Garden at the Oregon Garden
879 W Main St., Silverton, 503-874-8100
Most Thursdays–Sundays Nov 27–Jan 3
as well as Monday-Wed Dec 21–23;
closed Dec 24–25 (check website for a detailed schedule)
$6 per person, $4 garden members, free for kids under 4
Ice skating $12; $5 skate rental
Oregon Garden Resort’s Christmas in the Garden overnight package
is available Thursdays–Sundays,
starting at $139 for Fridays and Saturdays
and $109 Thursdays and Sundays.
Check website for details.