What to Do in Oregon in December

Check out lights at the coast, make a wreath at Silver Falls State Park, hunt for ornaments in the Willamette and Umpqua National Forests, and more.

By Portland Monthly Staff

Between Thanksgiving leftovers and Hallmark holiday movie season (there's even one starring Oregon's own Bruce Campbell—we haven't watched it yet, but it does not appear to be an Evil Dead crossover), you might not need to step outside your door the whole month of December (though you'd miss some cool Portland holiday light displays and plenty of goings-on about town). If you are itching to get out of town, though, plenty of other Oregon adventures await. 

Shore Acres Holiday Lights

Nov 24–Dec 31, Charleston  
Lumber baron and shipbuilder Louis Simpson’s mansion may have burned down a century ago, but his stunning estate garden remains and highlights Shore Acres State Park between Coos Bay and Cape Arago. For the holidays, its blooms come in the form of LED light strings put up by area businesses and community groups. 

Oregon in World War II

4 p.m. Thu, Dec 8, 1387 S Spruce St, Cannon Beach  
The day after the Pearl Harbor anniversary, the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum will zip through its business agenda at a membership meeting and then give way to a free talk from Kick Ass Oregon History podcast host (and Portland Monthly contributor) Doug Kenck-Crispin on how coastal towns like Cannon Beach experienced World War II. Hear about blackouts, civilian patrols, and that eerie feeling of something looming just over the horizon. 

Silver Falls Winter Festival

10 a.m.–4 p.m. Fri–Sat, Dec 10–11, activities free, state parks day-use permit $5
Join staff and volunteers at Silver Falls State Park to celebrate the holiday season this winter with craft activities like wreath and birdhouse making, gingerbread cookie decorating, and interpretive walks. 

Clackamas County Winter Fair

5–10 p.m. Fri–Sat through Dec 23, plus Thu, Dec 22, 694 NE Fourth Ave, Canby, $10 admission age 13 and up, $5 kids 4–12
Make the short jaunt to Canby for the third annual Clackamas County Winter Fair, featuring a the 200-foot building light display, walk-through light tunnel, band and choir performances, and Santa himself. This year there's a holiday market, too, to stock up on gifts from local vendors and craftsfolk.

Celebrate the Season at Mt Hood Meadows

Kick off the winter ski/snowboarding season at Mt. Hood Meadows

Times vary, December 1–31, Mt Hood Meadows
Maybe you visited Mt Hood Meadows in the warmer months and loved the trails. (We did.) But we you want the white stuff, and now it's back, along with the ski area's Celebrate the Season event. Check the calendar for for carolers, Pfriem beer tastings, a coat drive, and a not-quite-sold-out-yet Breakfast with Santa. 

Mt Hood Railroad Christmas Train

Thu–Sat through Dec 17, Tue–Sat Dec 20–28 December 26, 110 Railroad St, Hood River, $59–79
Feel like meeting jolly ol' Sandy Claus out in the snow? Take a trip out to Hood River for the annual Christmas Train. Every year the Mt Hood Railroad transforms its excursion trains into delightful Christmas carriages, where opportunities abound to meet Santa and his little helpers. 

An American Pika. 

Visit the High Desert Museum's Latest Exhibit

Begins Saturday, Dec 17, 59800 S. Hwy 97, Bend

Under the Snow takes visitors into Central Oregon’s “subnivium” environment, where, in winter, life continues to thrive underneath a blanket of frost and snow. Using interactive graphics, visitors will meet the species that depend on the subnivium environment, including a resilient mammal named Pika, an observant owl called Great Gray, and a fruiting fungus known as Fuzzy Foot. These critters explain what life is like in the snow, including their favorite spots to cache food, best moments to hunt, and their favorite types of snowfall. The exhibit also explores how reduced snowfall and rain-on-snow events are threatening the habitat on which thousands of plants and animals depend.

Oregon King Tides

Dec 22–24, anywhere along the Oregon Coast, free
It’s king tide season on Oregon’s coast, and the Oregon King Tides Project, a citizen-science effort organized by CoastWatch and the Oregon Coastal Management Program, is kicking off its 13th year. During the year’s highest tide sequence, the Oregon King Tides Project asks for help documenting high tide events (known as king tides) in an effort to understand the effects rising sea levels have on coastal communities. Participation in the project is open to anyone willing and able to venture out to the coast and operate a camera.

Willamette Valley Forest Ornament Hunt

Hike around the Willamette and Umpqua National Forests for a chance to find one of 200 ornaments hidden in the area. 

Through Dec 31, free
Some people go on a hike and take back rocks or sand or mushrooms. If you go hiking on certain trails around the Willamette and Umpqua National Forests this time of year, you might take back an Oregon diorama ornament. No, these ornaments don't grow naturally in the forest. They've been placed there (200 to be exact) by the Willamette Valley Visitors Association, which has been putting on the annual Ornament Hunt for five years. Find one (just one per household; leave some for others, dude) and it's yours to keep, and you become eligible to enter a sweepstakes for a Willamette Valley getaway. For full contest rules and details, click here. Happy hunting!

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