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Start planning: Ships, shopping, trees, trains, music and more spread holiday cheer all over town

by: COURTESY OF OBT/BLAINE TRUITT COVERT - The Oregon Ballet Theatre again puts on The Nutrcacker in December (below).The lights of the holidays will shine brightly all around Portland for the next month, and we’re not talking about neon signs at the mall advertising 50 percent off.

From ships floating on the Willamette River to Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway to The Grotto in Northeast Portland to the Pittock Mansion in the hills, the holidays will be celebrated with sites and colored lights and festivities — and not all meaning of the season will be wrapped up in shopping for the best bargain or ideal gift for your loved one on Christmas.

With that, we take another tour around Portland for some of the things to do and see in the next month:

• Symbolically or not, the My Macy’s Holiday Parade takes place at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 29, downtown, and Santa arrives at the Macy’s department store, setting up his post for photos with children big and small at 11 a.m. You can see Santa there from Nov. 29 through Dec. 24 (info: www.macys.com/holidayevents). Meanwhile, the unofficial state holiday tree of Oregon will be lit at Pioneer Courthouse Square at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, and Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini will lead a holiday sing-a-long.

• Lights, lights and more lights will start to be part of our urban landscape.

The 21st season of Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway, 1940 N. Victory Blvd., opens Thanksgiving Day and goes through Christmas. Car tours, $16 per carload, starts at 5 p.m. most days (www.winterwonderlandportland.com).

About 1.5 million colorful lights are part of the Oregon Zoo’s Zoolights, which starts Friday, Nov. 29, and goes through Jan. 5 at 4001 S.W. Canyon Road. Although the zoo’s train has been halted because of new route construction, ZooLights promises a more immersive experience with many areas lit up for the first time, including a section of the Africa Rainforest that features a twisting 100-foot rainbow-colored tunnel of light. Viewing, $10 for adults and $7 for children, starts at 5 p.m. most days (oregonzoo.org); ZooLights will be closed Dec. 24 and 25.

The Grotto’s 26th annual Festival of Lights begins Friday, Nov. 29, and goes through Dec. 30, with this year’s theme “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” highlighting its choir concerts. It opens at 5 p.m. nightly (except Christmas), and it’s $9 for adults (www.thegrotto.org/Christmas). The 62-acre Catholic shrine and forested grounds, 8840 N.E. Skidmore St., prides itself on being open to people of all nationalities, ethnicities and spiritual backgrounds.

Ships and boats decorated in lights and Christmas decorations have been floating on the Willamette and Columbia rivers since the mid-1950s. That’s a long time. Tours take place throughout December (www.christmasships.org).

Homes on Peacock Lane in Southeast Portland draw thousands of visitors each year, with the tour starting at 6 p.m. nightly in mid-December in the area just off Southeast 39th Avenue (www.peacocklane.net).

• Sites to see? There are many.

Pittock Mansion’s “A Locally Crafted Christmas” exhibit remains open through Jan. 2. You can admire 23 rooms in the 16,000-square-foot mansion decorated with different types of crafts — from quilting to food preservation to fly-tying. The mansion, 3229 N.W. Pittock Drive, will be open at 11 a.m. each day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day (www.pittockmansion.org).

The lighted 5,500-square-foot Queen Anne Victorian Mansion, 1441 N. McClellan St., opens for tours at 6 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. weekends (queenannevictorianmansion.com).

Train rides on the “The Holiday Express,” by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, take place starting Friday, Nov. 29, and for next three weekends, leaving from Oaks Amusement Park, 7805 S.E. Oaks Park Way. Pulling “The Holiday Express” will be massive steam engines, including the SP&S 700 owned by the city of Portland. Admission is $18 for adults among many rates (www.orhf.org).

• It’s party time! With the company or otherwise, it’s time to let loose.

The 18th annual Holiday Ale Festival takes place the afternoons and evenings of Dec. 4 through 8 at Pioneer Courthouse Square, where nearly 50 big and bold ales designed to fend off the chill will be featured. More than 17,000 attend the event, so, apparently, cold or wet weather doesn’t get in the way of people enjoying their libations (there will be tents and heaters). A $30 entry package will be required (www.holidayale.com).

• It’s also time to shop — for holiday-themed stuff!

Get your holiday shopping going at “America’s Largest Christmas Bazaar,” starting the mornings of Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 and Dec. 6 through 8 at Portland Expo Center, 2060 N. Marine Drive. It’s $7 admission for adults (www.expochristmasbazaar.com). It’s been put on by the same local company for 31 years.

• Events are aplenty.

by: COURTESY OF PCS/PATRICK WEISHAMPEL - Darius Pierce returns as Crumpet the Elf in The Santaland Diaries at Gerding Theater.Darius Pierce returns as Crumpet the Elf in Portland Center Stage’s annual holiday hit “The Santaland Diaries,” which begins a monthlong run Friday, Nov. 29 (pcs.org) at the Gerding Theater, 128 N.W. 11th Ave.

The voices of “The Singing Christmas Tree,” joined by high school guests, fill the Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St., for performances Nov. 30 through Dec. 8. Tickets start at $17 (www.singingchristmastree.org).

It’ll be a “Merry and Bright” season for all at the Providence Festival of Trees, now in its 31st year and benefiting Providence Heart and Vascular Institute’s youth cardiac screening program. It’ll take place Dec. 5 through 7 at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., with 100 trees of all sizes, wreaths and holiday vignettes, as well as live music, Santa photos, a teddy bear hospital, a Christmas village and cookie decorating part of the festivities. Admission is $6 for adults (www.providence.org/festivaloftrees).

The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus always puts on a show with its collection of titanic voices. It’s “Holiday Connections” concert takes place at 8 p.m. Dec. 5 through 7 at Newmark Theatre; tickets $17 to $47 (www.portland5.com).

Portland Revels presents “Christmas in Old Europe,” with matinees and evening performances Dec. 6 through 15 at the Scottish Rite Center, 1512 S.W. Morrison St. Tickets start at $39 for adults (www.portlandrevels.org). It’s an armchair travel adventure to different locations and cultures and a favorite for audiences of all ages, with a 65-person chorus and brass quintet.

This year it’s a Winter Solstice Party in Old Europe. Vagabond Opera’s Eric Stern stars as the mayor.

by: COURTESY OF MICHAEL ALLEN HARRISON - Michael Allen Harrison again puts on the popular Christmas at the Old Church concerts in December, playing alongside Julianne Johnson. And, Blazer broadcasting legend Bill Schonely makes appearances.Portland native Michael Allen Harrison continues to draw crowds for his “Christmas at the Old Church,” a series of concerts taking place Dec. 13 through 26 at the Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave. Blazer broadcasting legend Bill Schonely makes a guest appearance Dec. 16 and 17. Julianne Johnson also stars. Tickets start at $29.95 (www.michaelallenharrison.com).

If you haven’t seen George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” by Oregon Ballet Theatre, make plans. It’ll be staged from Dec. 14 through 24 at Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St., with tickets $27 to $144 (www.obt.org).

Rock violinist Aaron Meyer puts on his 13th annual Holiday Concert Series, Dec. 20 and 21 at First Congregational Church, 1126 S.W. Park Ave. Tickets are $30 for adults (aaronmeyer.com).

Joined by the Oregon Symphony, superstar Natalie Cole puts on her return Christmas show, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, with tickets starting at $35 (www.orsymphony.org).

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