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An uM guide to holiday events for family: What are your favorites?

Urbanmamas_treelighting
I woke up Friday morning with something of a mama hangover. I'd let the boys stay up too late with our impulsive Thanksgiving meal, and the winter really slows me down in the morning department. I got up, though, bound and determined to get the previous night's dishes washed before my all-important paper organizing date with a family friend.

I checked in on Instagram and Twitter and saw a bunch of friends posting about how they were getting good seats or hot chocolate with their kids to warm up before the Macy's Holiday Parade, held the day after Thanksgiving in downtown Portland every year since the landmark Meier & Frank was converted to Macy's. I kicked myself for not having remembered, and made time in my weekend for the event, one of the new Portland holiday traditions for many families. The annual Pioneer Square tree lighting ceremony that evening is another I've loved in the past but failed to make time for this year.

So this post that I'd been meaning to write became ever more pressing. There are a few events that I try to partake in every year, including the Oregon Zoolights, one or several crafty holiday bazaars, and a stroll or bike ride down Peacock Lane. There are some that I've always meant to, but never did, like the Santaland at Macy's or one of several amazing-sounding winter solstice events. There are some that I've attended and didn't particularly inspire my holiday fervor -- like the Christmas boats that parade down the Willamette (once was enough -- or even, for that matter, seeing someone else's photos of it is enough).

I'd like to make a list of the best things to do in the holiday season so I can organize my holiday around it -- and so our readers, new and loyal, can have a great place to turn to find the hidden jewels and don't-miss big events of the holiday season. What are your favorites -- and what do you think is over-hyped? Is there anything you must do for it to seem like the season to you? Is there anything you'll never do again? I really hope, too, that someone will post great solstice events, as a reader on a previous post had requested that specially.

I'll sort through your comments and post a list later this week.

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You can walk or bike the track at PIR to see the lights on Monday the 28th (doggy walk night) or Monday the 5th (bike night). We love this so much more than the drive through!

Peacock Lane is only good when it's pedestrian only. When it's just breathing smog, the magic is gone. The Grotto is wonderful for very small children, especially the petting zoo/stable.

The ships are fun.
http://www.christmasships.org/

Also a ton of stuff at the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation.
http://www.scanheritage.org/c-57-upcoming-events.aspx

Tryon Creek is doing cool holiday things.
http://tryonfriends.org/programs/calendar-listings/cat.listevents/2011/11/27/-.html

We always do the Holdiday Express train at Oaks Park but then I also have a train loving child. Most of the rest of the stuff out there is just too much and not of big interest. He also likes lights so we have added ZooLights recently and sometimes Peacock Ln, but we also realize we sometimes just don't do it all. As for Macy's... the Santaland just went corporate this year... it will now be the same as it is in NYC. The window displays are potentially being brought back next year to Pioneer Square, though.

We always do Peacock Lane (nearby and free)--and this year maybe the Queen Anne Mansion (or whatever it's called). I also enjoy the Portland Raceway thing, but a couple of times otherwise takes care of that. Ditto Alpenrose's Christmas in Dairyland--though it's been awhile, so maybe.

I quite liked Santa Land when it was Meier and Frank and my daughter was little. Now, much like the store's incredibly ugly renovation, it's cold, characterless and sterile. And looks not like an upscale department store in an historic building, but a bit like Target with better merchandise.

I think the ships are fine as an accompaniament to a nice (and expensive) dinner on the water, but otherwise they're just a mite dull.

I think what I'm REALLY looking for is any place with delicious, freshly baked ginerbread men...I guess I need to research.

Oh--P.S. Zoolights! Every year we try and get in, every year it's just too crowded and we bag it...

A lot of our traditions involve the many rooms we decorate for the season.

Every year, we get hot chocolate and drive around to look at Christmas lights. There's a very decorated neighborhood off of NE 162nd between Halsey and I-84 where we always go. It would be fun to hear if anyone knows of other neighborhoods like this (besides Peacock Lane which we love too).

We love the Grotto. We aren't Catholic (or Christian) but the place is so beautiful and the musical performances in the sanctuary are great.

This year I'm putting on two free holiday concerts-- at local cafes 12/21/11 at Cloud Seven Cafe (NW 10th & Johnson) and 12/22/11 at TaborSpace (SE 55th & Belmont). The music is geared towards families and features a 9 piece acoustic band including fiddles, guitar, mandolin, percussion, bass, piano and vocals. I don't mean to be turning this post commercial...but these concerts are totally something special and my desire is to see families have a fun, relaxing evening out where they can enjoy music without the formality and pressure of some of the more staid holiday performance options. I've got a post up on my blog with more details (www.wendygoodwin.com).

We did zoo lights with the 6 year old after a 3 year break. He was the perfect age. We went at 4:00, got in line for the 5:00 train, did the train, walked around, got dinner, home by 6:45. Perfect. SIL is doing the Oaks Park Train with kid on Saturday, I will report back. So far other stuff just seems crowded or expensive or just a hassle. I love reading our books, watching our movies (Elf!), listening to music, making crafts, doing cards, etc.

Check out PDX Kids Calendar's holiday guide - tree lightings, community celebrations, theater, food, Santa activities, crafty bazaars.... http://www.pdxkidscalendar.com/?p=3863

Fantasy Light trail at Wenzel Farms is family friendly. I took my toddler there for holloween and I know they also do a christmas lights trail too.

http://www.fantasytrail.com/

The Providence Festival of Trees is a nice event and is not-too-expensive. Beautiful tree displays, a Teddy Bear Hospital (nice bears that the child gets to keep after they "heal" them), a Santa, and performances by local dancers, singers, actors, etc.

There are $1 discount coupons available for this coming Friday and Saturday night (Dec. 2&3) on their website:

http://oregon.providence.org/patients/programs/providence-festival-of-trees-portland/Pages/default.aspx

If you loved the Santa's at Macy's they will be back Dec 14 - 25 http://www.facebook.com/pages/Portland-Santaland/142953692421506 Santa Phill and Santa Tom did not want to wear the fake corporate beards and The Santaland isn't being run by the same company that has done it for the past 29 years. We are waiting till the 14th to see Santa Phill.

We also love to see the Starwars 501st ring the bells for the salvation army. That will be from 11-1 on 12/17 in front of Macy's.

Christmas in Daryville is back! (FREE)
Alpenrose Dairy 6149 SW Shattuck Road, Portland, OR 97221-1044
http://www.alpenrose.com/pages/dairyville.html
http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/11/storybook_lane_returns_to_sout.html

We are going to ring the bell for the salvation army this month as well. I filled out a form on their website and someone called me within 10 min! They work with you to find a time and LOVE to have Kids(they bring in more donations). They need volunteers, if they don't have them, they have to pay to staff the bell ringers which lowers what they can do with donations.

Oaks Park train got thumbs up from kiddo and auntie.

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