Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas in the City: Peacock Lane

Every Oregonian should go to Peacock Lane at least once; in fact, for many, it's a yearly tradition. For most of the year, this is a quiet little residential street, four short blocks nestled into the SE Belmont neighborhood. But every December for decades, Peacock Lane has become Portland's Christmas Street.

Look very closely at a Portland map and you will find Peacock Lane one block east of SE 39th, tucked between SE Stark and SE Belmont. The only other landmark near here (unless you consider Walgreen's a landmark) is venerable Laurelhurst Park, a great place to take the kids or dogs if you arrive in the area before dark. While it is often possible to drive through the light display, it is highly recommended that you park in a nearby neighborhood (not in the Walgreen's parking lot) and walk to Peacock Lane if you are physically able to do so. Not only does this reduce the serious congestion problem in the Lane, it is just more fun. You can spend all the time you want without angry motorists honking at you, and there is just something about the happy holiday crowd of grandparents, toddlers, and everyone in between, all enjoying the lights together and taking endless blurry pictures.

This year (2019), the display is open December 15-31. The lights switch on at 6:00, and the plug is pulled at 11:00 (Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve the lights will stay on until midnight). Portland Police sometimes close the street if traffic becomes too ugly; Peacock Lane's Facebook page tries to keep the public updated on the situation. To avoid the traffic altogether, plan to go on the auto-free nights, December 15-17. Complimentary hot drinks are served, although supplies have been known to run out; stop by the stand early, and consider making a donation of cash or canned food.

This is Portland, so the lights go on regardless of weather. Of course, that's all part of the experience; bundle up, take an umbrella, put a raincoat on your pooch, and head for Portland's Christmas Street.

This had to be included. The photographer could not help himself.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas at the Coast: Newport's Sea of Lights

For a few nights each year, the Oregon Coast Aquarium becomes a Christmas spectacle. Every weekend during December, over half a million lights illuminate the grounds of the popular aquarium. The first weekend of December is the "kickoff" for this yearly event. Bundle up and be prepared to wait in line; Friday and Saturday evening (the 1st and 2nd in 2017) admission is just $2 and two cans of people or pet food. This first weekend, hours are 6:00-9:00. During the remainder of December, the Sea of Lights will continue on Saturday and Sunday evenings from 5-8:00, with a $10 admission fee (closed Dec. 24). More information on the Sea of Lights can be found here.

The Aquarium itself is a worthwhile destination. Underwater tunnels pass through a huge tank of sharks, rays, and other large fish. Otters and sea lions frolic in their pools. Tiny sea dwellers quietly go about their business in the indoor jewel tanks. Christmastime or not, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a fun and educational family adventure.

South Jetty near South Beach State Park

If weather permits, stop at nearby South Beach State Park before the Sea of Lights opens. This park offers beach access, restrooms, and hiking trails. The one-mile paved trail to the South Jetty climbs and descends in a few places as it passes through the dunes, but otherwise it is smooth and accessible. Year-round reservable camping is available in the adjacent campground, which features cozy yurts and plentiful RV sites.

The most easily-accessed beach in Newport is at the Nye Beach turnaround, where visitors will also find coastal shopping while they wait out Oregon downpours. More shopping is available on the historic Bayfront. While you are there, stop beside the harbor for photos of Newport's commercial fishing fleet. Click here for a map of the Newport area.

For the total Newport holiday experience, visit on the first Saturday of December (the 2nd in 2017) and take in Newport's annual Lighted Boat Parade. The boats on display range from tiny Zodiac inflatables to large fishing vessels, all cruising along the Bayfront between the Yaquina Bay Bridge and the harbor from 5-7:00. Dress warmly for this popular outdoor event; like most coastal activities, it will take place regardless of the weather. Bring cameras and raincoats and have a merry coastal Christmas!