Chances are you may be taking a trip to visit friends this Christmas season, or perhaps you are an avid RVer who spends time on the road in their home on wheels no matter what time of year it is.
Why not include a few fairs and festivals in your itinerary? The Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto is one that you won’t want to miss. Portland, Oregon is home to this unique and exceptional festival that features five indoor concerts per night; that’s 160 indoor holiday performances in a 500-seat chapel renowned for acoustics over the month-long event.
Along with the musical extravaganza inside, there is outdoor caroling, a petting zoo, and the Grotto Gift Shop. Puppet shows entertain under the family entertainment tent, and not to be missed is the one quarter-mile walk through the Festival of Lights itself. Be prepared to be amazed and in awe. Decorated for the Christmas season, the gardens illuminate a meandering path where peace and beauty reside.
While in Portland, visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and then continue on to the Portland Museum of Art. Mount Tabor is a nice place to stretch your legs and is a city park situated on a volcano. For those who like a longer, brisk hike, choose the Tryon Creek State Natural Area as your destination for the day.
Tickets to the Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto are sold at the gate and can be purchased in advance. Kids 2 and under get in for free, and those aged 3 to 12 can enter for less than $10. Adults will pay around $15, making this a reasonably priced family outing. Donations of canned or dry food are also welcomed. These items are donated to the local food bank.
Sometimes November can be a dreary month, but you won’t find that so as you drive through Oregon. Described as scenic byways, the areas surrounding Portland, and throughout the state for that matter, will treat you to forested and mountainous views.
I-84 and I-205 offer straightforward traveling to the city. While the festival's address registers as 8840 NE Skidmore Street, Portland, Oregon 97220, the main entrance has usually been located a bit to the west along Sandy Blvd. TripCheck will keep you aware of road and weather alerts as you make your way through the state.
Parking for this busy and popular event is free. You may want to arrive early to take in the spectacular Christmas-themed sights and also to secure a spot near the venue. There is an overflow lot, and parking attendants can direct you where best to leave your motorhome. Larger rigs may want to inquire in advance if onsite day parking will be available at the time of your visit.
Bus, streetcar, and MAX light rail service are the modes of public transit for the Portland, Oregon area. Peruse their respective websites to see if any of these transit options work for you. An alternative to driving into the city to see the Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto is to park at the Parkrose/Sumner Park and Ride and take the free shuttle straight to the Grotto.
The Grotto is a spacious and beautiful garden spot, but there is no camping or RV overnight parking option during the festival. Look to places surrounding the city such as county-managed, state-owned, or privately run resorts and campgrounds. There are several excellent spots accessible to those with a large RV.
Are you looking for the best hiking in Portland? Or perhaps a place renowned for fishing? Look no further than Champoeg State Heritage Area. It is open for camping year-round. Not only that, but it also is home to Newell’s House and Pioneer Mothers Log Cabin, two historical buildings that teach visitors about the pioneer life that once took place here. You can also shop at the Historic Butteville Store, founded in 1863 and Oregon’s oldest operating store. L.L. Stub Stewart is another year-round spot, ideal for a November vacation.
Wear warm footwear for an evening indoors and outdoors at the Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto. Rubber-soled shoes are recommended because they provide a sturdy base for walking throughout the gardens, which can have inclines and turns. The Grotto welcomes all visitors and is accessible, but cold temperatures may prove challenging for some guests.
Jackets, mittens or gloves, hats, and warm socks are the recommended apparel for an evening at the festival. With entertainment both inside and out, adaptability to the temperatures will be necessary. Take off your coat and accessories for the chapel performances and then dress in full outdoor gear to take in a puppet show or grab a holiday-themed snack.
Even though you are traveling over the holidays, you may want to bring the Christmas spirit along with you. Decorate with small indoor lights to make your Class A a merry place to wind down each evening. A tabletop tree that can be stowed as you move from place to place is the best bet. Put the kids in charge of stowing it away and adjusting wayward decorations when you set it up at the next campground. Practical items are a must, too. Remember to pack utensils, pots and pans, and dishes that add a festive flair to the meal.
RVers who travel to cold destinations for Christmas getaways often do so to experience the activities that can be enjoyed outside in the sun and snow. Apply cold protective creams, lip balm, and sunscreen liberally throughout the day as you hike or ski. Hydration is still an important part of the holiday fun package, so tote a water bottle no matter where your travels take you.
Think warm and hearty meals when camping in the winter. Stock the Airstream refrigerator with prepared chili, lasagna, and soups made just for sating the appetite and warming up chilled holiday revelers. Check the propane and water levels in the RV before leaving home. Bring along plenty of cleaning supplies and have the kids do the dishes while mom and dad secure the awning and stow the outdoor gear after dinner.
There are several restaurants with tasty offerings near the Grotto if you choose to have dinner before heading back to your motorhome at night. Pizza is always a welcome choice for kids and adults alike. A cozy pub or grill restaurant are nice places to put your feet up at the end of a busy evening. Or, choose a fast-food meal and take it back to the campsite to enjoy.
The Grotto Gift Shop is where you will find the perfect holiday ornament for your motorhome Christmas tree, and maybe a gift or two to put under it. Food and drink are for sale, so be sure to sample amidst the jovial atmosphere of the festival. All major credit cards are accepted at the event.
The festival runs nightly through its scheduled dates. The Grotto closes and empties out with the aid of security personnel that ensures that paths are clear and free of people. If you have concerns while at the event, be sure to ask staff members for assistance. Back at camp, secure your rig each time you leave your site. Close the window shades and put valuables out of sight of would-be thieves. In addition, keep your site well-lit. Have insurance for peace of mind, too.
Pack the RV with warm clothes for the entire family so that hikes and other outdoor recreational pursuits can be enjoyed at a moment’s notice. Whether the day calls for snow, wind, or sun, get the family active and enjoying the fresh air. The Portland Night Market and the Portland Winter Light Festival are two evening outings the family can enjoy. For daytime adventure, look to Bonnie Lure State Recreation Area for birdwatching.
A well-stocked recreational vehicle medicine cabinet is a wintertime must. Band-aids, lip balm, soothing cream for chapped cheeks, and pain relievers are handy items for the first-aid kit. Keep a working carbon monoxide detector in your Class A, and check its efficiency every evening before retiring for the night.