Since 1988, the Oregon Grotto has thrilled thousands of visitors with its annual Christmas Festival. Also known as the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, the Grotto has been a fixture in NE Portland since 1924. Just off of the intersection of NE 82nd Avenue and NE Sandy Boulevard, the Festival of Lights is easy to reach by your four TriMet buslines.
Adult admission is $8.00 and buys you far more than access to the twinkling spectacle. There are five concerts each evening in the spacious Chapel of Mary, beginning at 5:15PM. In the plaza, the Grotto Carolers offer four a-cappella performances nightly. Biblical-era performers offer four shows from a stage to the right of the grotto cave.
Of interest to children (ages 3-12 get in for $4.00) is the performance by Oregon Fantasy Puppets. They offer four shows starting at 6:00PM. The petting zoo is open all evening, with a crew of fur-covered critters to tempt young hands.
I picked a cold night for a recent visit. Trumpeting angels flanked the pathway into the grounds after I paid my admission. Lighted stations to the right depicted scenes from the Nativity. A mushroom-shaped green and red tree drew me to the plaza, packed with happy visitors. An icy breeze from the east made coffee drinks and cocoa from the food tent here highly popular.
With my camera freezing in the cold air, I tucked it into my coat and headed for the Chapel of Mary. A performance by Heart of The Valley Children’s Choir thawed my ears and put a smile on my face. The Visitors Center drew me in next. There are scores of Nativity sets on display here, from around the world. It took half an hour to give them the attention they merited.
After wandering the grounds on the illuminated pathways, the lofty gift shop was a warm diversion. Packed with shoppers, it contains lovely souvenirs of the Grotto, and devotional items of the Catholic faith. Lovely butterfly magnets made me pause. A blue and green-winged specimen was inexpensive and came home with me.
TriMet is the best way to see it all. Parking is tough to come by on busy evenings. The Grotto is served directly by the #12 Barbur/Sandy Blvd., with an eastbound stop on Sandy, and another across the street for travelers from Gresham. A little farther away, the #72 Killingsworth/82nd rolls north and south on 82nd Avenue. Stops on Sandy are about four city blocks away.
A little further off, the #71 60th/122nd Ave. cruises NE Prescott. Stops east of 82nd are roughly six blocks away.
Vancouver users can use the C-TRAN #65 Parkrose Limited to return until 7:37PM weekday evenings, 6:40PM on Saturdays. This bus is a direct connection between the Fisher’s Landing transit center and the Parkrose TC. The three TriMet busses listed above serve Parkrose.
The Festival of lights is open from 5:00PM to 9:30PM nightly, from November 26 through December 30th. The event is closed Christmas Day for annual religious ceremonies. The sparkling displays and multiple entertainment options make it an excellent value, and worthy destination.
For more night-time Christmas photos, see my Peacock Lane article.