Ultimate holiday adventures for student parents

Portland offers dozens of events and activities for students with children to enjoy throughout the holiday season. Whether you love to look at lights, watch the ballet, make winter crafts or ride a train through lit woods, you can share a memorable holiday event with your children.


Visit the Oregon Zoo during the holidays to witness a spectacular light show. The annual ZooLights winter festival boasts over a million LED lights that wrap throughout the zoo. Ride through the zoo on a train or experience the light show on an immersive loop that travels the entire zoo. The first two weeks of the festival are the least busy.

When: Nov. 28 through Jan. 4, 2015
Where: Oregon Zoo, 4001 S.W. Canyon Rd.
Time: Sunday–Thursday: 5–8 p.m.;
Friday–Saturday: 5–8:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults; $7 for children.

Drive-through light show

Considered the largest light show west of the Mississippi River, the 22nd Annual Winter Wonderland light show lets you experience glimmering designs from the comfort of your warm car. Traditional light exhibits such as Toyland, Candy Lane, Christmas Tree Lane, Reindeer Road and Sports Corner are lit up alongside new exhibits each year.

When: Nov. 27 through Dec. 28
Where: Portland International Raceway, 1940 N. Victory Rd.
Time: Sunday–Thursday: 5–9 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Cost: $18 per car.

Lights at The Grotto

Enjoy a light festival that glows with over 500,000 lights each year at the Christmas Festival of Lights held at The Grotto in Northeast Portland. The festival offers puppet shows, indoor holiday concerts, food and drink, a petting zoo, craft stations, a nativity exhibit, outdoor caroling and a light show that spans a quarter-mile.

When: Nov. 28 through Dec. 30
Where: The Grotto, 8840 N.E. Skidmore St.
Time: 5–9:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for children (3–12); Free for 2 and under.

Nutcracker ballet

Take your children to The Nutcracker ballet for an eye-opening show. Filled with holiday magic, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker features heroic toys, leaping snowflakes and the journey of little Marie. The ballet is held 17 times throughout the season at the Keller Auditorium. For ticket information, call Oregon Ballet Theatre at 503-222-5538. Tickets sell out quickly.

When: Dec. 13–27
Where: Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St.
Time: Varies
Cost: Varies

A Christmas play at the Portland Playhouse

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge! From Dec. 3–28 your family can experience the classic holiday ghost story, A Christmas Carol, at the Portland Playhouse. Directed by Christi Miles, the play is an adaptation of Dickens’ original text. Filled with riveting music and brilliant acting, your children will fall in love with dear old Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

When: Dec. 3–28
Where: Portland Playhouse, 602 N.E. Prescott St.
Time: Varies
Cost: Varies

The largest Christmas bazaar

America’s Largest Christmas Bazaar, featuring 400 booths with handcrafted items and over 500 commercial products. The bazaar is the perfect place to take children to see Santa’s Village, pick out presents and sip hot cocoa. Santa’s Village is a large walk-through display where children can sit on Santa’s lap, make crafts and get their faces painted.

When: Nov. 28–30; Dec. 5–7
Where: The Portland Expo Center, 2060 N. Marine Dr.
Time: Fridays–Saturdays: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sundays: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Cost: $7 for adults; $3 for children 12–17; under 12 are free

Christmas train along the Willamette River

Travel by train this holiday season on The Holiday Express for a one-hour ride through Portland. Children can wave out the windows, talk to Santa’s helpers and meet Santa on their journey along the Willamette River. This year, the historic SP&S 700 train has been outfitted with lights and decorations.

When: Dec. 5–7 and Dec. 12–14
Where: 7806 S.E. Oaks Park Way (near Oaks Amusement Park)
Time: Varies
Cost: Varies

Trouble tracking down all these excursions? View the Google Map below: