You’re going to enjoy this lights festival, especially if you like art and want it to come alive.
While most festival of lights events happen during the winter holidays, the Portland Winter Lights Festival dares to be different. It hosts the festival in February. Typically, it’s only available for three nights. Last year, it went from February 6 through February 8. However, the 2021 event is going to happen on four different days. It’s going from February 5 through 6 and then from the 12th to the 13th. This is so that guests have more space to walk around and there’s more time to view the installation.
The goal here is to minimize crowding and focus on social distancing while still being able to celebrate art and light.
Where It’s Located/How to Get There
Every year, the Portland Winter Light Festival lights up the areas around the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry 1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR 97214, USA) along the east side of the Tilikum Crossing Bridge and spans along Eastbank Esplanade. From 2018 onward, though, it expanded to show installations of the lights throughout the city.
As the event gets closer, visitors can get a free map showing where all of the installations are going to be. That way, you can plan your bike or walking route more easily.
Since there are various locations, you should go to Portland, Oregon. Once there, you can ‘follow the lights’ and see what amazements are in store for you. There is ultimately a map of installation locations and lines with bike routes to make it easier once you arrive. You can visit the Portland Winter Light Festival website to find out more information.
There are no lights festival hours because the lights go on from dusk until dawn. Therefore, you can ride around town and see them all. With over 400 installations, it could take all night. You may always choose to come back the next night to finish seeing everything.
In the past, there was a centralized location with food vendors and entertainment. However, this year, it’s going to be more of a family affair. Take the kids, aunts, uncles, and whoever else you want and just walk through and see everything there is to see.
Cost to Visit the Festival
For the last five years, the Portland’s version of the festival of lights has been free. This is because the artists get to combine technology and light to create interactive and beautiful pieces. The goal is to bring everyone together and bring light to the darkness.
This lights festival uses renewable energy to power the lights, and it’s an extension of the Willamette Light Brigade. The nonprofit organization has been lighting the bridges of Portland from 1987 onward.
Last year, there were about 114 illuminated installations. You also had access to free live events and performances, educational programming, and fire sculptures throughout the city. Over 150,000 people attended the Portland Winter Light Festival, which finished off with a silent disco, illuminated bike ride, live ice carvings, lantern parades, and much more.
Weather and What to Wear
Typically, the Portland, Oregon area sees temperature lows of 38 degrees and highs of 50 degrees in February. It rains a lot here, so you should consider wearing warm clothing and waterproof outerwear.
Since this festival of lights happens at night, you’re sure to be a little cold. Consider dressing in layers with a base layer and then sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts on top of that. Wear warm pants, as well. Ultimately, you should have a warm winter coat so that you don’t feel the chill.
Most people also wear hats, scarves, and gloves. Don’t forget to wear thick socks and comfortable shoes because you’re going to be walking or biking for the duration of the event.
Consider buying a cheap clear poncho in case it rains, too. That way, you’re not colder from the moisture of the evening.
Where to Sleep
Since there are different areas where the lights festival is held, you may find it confusing to determine where to stay. However, there are plenty of hotels right near Tilikum Crossing Bridge.
Do not pay more!
It is recommended to book a hotel as early as possible, on festival dates the price of hotels in the area increases by more than 25%
Book it Now!
Consider the SureStay Hotel by Best Western if you’re interested in a budget-friendly option. There’s an on-site restaurant called Suki’s, but it also has free on-site parking and free Wi-Fi. The rooms feature private bathrooms and cable television. It’s not the fanciest of places, but it is clean and comes with the basics. Since you’re going to be spending most of the night outside at the Portland Winter Light Festival, it’s good to know you’ve got a warm place to go at the end.
Those who have a little more to spend may enjoy the Hyatt House Portland. You get free breakfast and Wi-Fi, as well as the fitness center and market, which are open 24 hours. Other amenities include laundry services, a pool, digital check-in options, and much more. Most of the rooms have a kitchen, so you can cook some meals to save money. However, since the festival of lights in Portland is free, you may be able to splurge on dinner out a few times.
Then, you’ve always got the Residence Inn by Marriott. It’s a more upscale option that features kitchens with stovetops in the rooms, cable television, and complimentary Wi-Fi. There’s also an indoor pool for fun splashes and a fitness center to stay fit while you’re on vacation.
What to Eat
Many of the hotels in the area have on-site restaurants. However, if you want to go out, consider the McCormick & Schmick Harborside Restaurant. It’s located on the RiverPlace marina and features beautiful views of the Willamette Bridge and River. Here, you can get fresh seafood, salads, aged steaks, and much more. The atmosphere is somewhat upscale, and it’s a great place to go for a delicious meal.
If you just want to kick back and relax, the Portland Sports Bar and Grill has you covered. It’s a sports-inspired bar, so you can watch the game and eat casual food. Plus, there are plenty of alcoholic drinks to try out.
Those who want to dine in a bistro and taste authentic French cuisine should stop by Il Terrazzo. It blends the seasonal, local ingredients with international ones to create amazingly delicious meals. You can also find an Italian flair to give you the best of all worlds.
YoMi Sushi is a great place to go if you want something different and unique. You’re going to find refreshing sushi rolls that lure in residents and visitors alike. Though the unassuming atmosphere may have you wondering about it, this authentic Japanese restaurant is in the heart of downtown Portland and has amazing food.
More Things to Do in the Area
Once you’ve experienced the Portland Winter Light Festival, don’t leave! There are plenty of other fun things to do in the Portland, Oregon, area.
Though the Saturday Market isn’t going to be open yet, you can visit the Tom McCall Park. It’s home to the memorial for the Battleship Oregon. This 1893 ship fought in various battles and came to rest here upon retirement. You’ve also got paved paths to walk along, a beautiful fountain, and so much more. Spend the afternoon roaming around or riding a bike. Just remember, it’s going to be February, so you want to dress appropriately!
Consider visiting the Keller Auditorium. It has many events, such as lectures, dances, theater, and music performances each year. Check out its website to find out what events are coming up during the lights festival.
If nothing else, you can’t miss the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). There are three different auditoriums with an exhibition hall, planetarium, and large-screen theater. You can get hands-on with many of the exhibits, all of which are focused on technology, industry, and natural sciences.
With so many things to do in Portland, it’s no wonder that thousands of people flock here throughout the year. Though it might be called the rainy city, the Portland Winter Light Festival is truly a marvel since all the installations are powered by renewable energy. It’s definitely not something you should miss!