Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas in the Valley: The Oregon Garden

As a rule, gardens aren't popular places to hang out after dark in December, especially in rainy western Oregon. The Oregon Garden near Silverton has found a solution to the muddy winter doldrums, however: Christmas in the Garden.

This garden is known for its creative plantings, its proximity to Frank Lloyd Wright's Gordon House, and its family- and pet-friendly grounds. While December evening visitors will find the Gordon House shut up tight, they will encounter ice skating, snowless tubing, and acres of colored lights. Vendors offer unique handcrafted gifts, the snack booth sells gluhwein (I did not make that up), and Santa Claus holds court inside a cozy garden shed. Families convene around blazing firepits and carolers spread Christmas joy.

An open tram runs continuously through the garden, whisking visitors to their destinations. While tram stops are easy to find, and while the weather may encourage sitting undercover for a few minutes, consider walking at least part of the way. The decorated areas are generously lit and easy to navigate; most paths are even stroller-friendly.

The garden can seem huge and mazelike, and it's even more so in low light. Click here for a map of the entire garden; be aware, however, that not all areas are lit for Christmas. Avoid the unlit parts, as it may be difficult to find your way, and besides, you won't see anything in the dark.

Coming in near the gift shop, watch for a brightly-lit square with glowing ball ornaments. Look uphill toward the resort building for an overview of the illuminated planting beds, all laid out in colorful plaid. Wander among the beds, or turn right and follow the lights to find the snowless tubing. The square is also a good spot to catch the tram.

Watch for a red and white lighted tunnel; stop at the information booth at its entrance and pick up a map. Once through the tunnel, you will find yourself in the marketplace, with booths, firepits, and the live music tent. Of course, all is brightly lit with Christmas lights. Enjoy a hot drink next to an outdoor heater, or pick up a pretzel to nibble. Follow a lighted pathway to the ice skating tent; skates are available to rent, as well as bobbies for beginners. The rink is crowded with families having fun and falling down, making it a perfect spot to get warm and people-watch even if you don't skate (please note that dogs are not allowed in the skating tent). Coming back through the candy-cane tunnel, walk over to the resort building for an overview of the garden lights. You can catch the tram here, or you can stroll downhill through a second lighted tunnel.

The website is full of useful information, including ticket prices, fees, hours, and frequently asked questions. Be sure to check out the schedule calendar, as many of the activities are only offered on certain evenings. Plan ahead so you won't be disappointed.

This is Oregon, so bundle up, bring boots for the kids, and put a raincoat on your pooch. You may have stars overhead, or good old Oregon drizzle, but Christmas is in the Garden. Head to the off-the-beaten-path town of Silverton and start a new family tradition.

Watch for a small, crimson-lit trail that strays off the beaten path. Here you will find the home of Krampus, a creature that visits naughty children in the days before Christmas to kidnap them and leave a lump of coal in their place. Thankfully Krampus made no appearance at this festive celebration.


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