Holiday Sights, Sounds & Sensations | The Benson Hotel

Holiday Sights, Sounds & Sensations

From lights to music, sprawling gingerbread displays to festive craft fairs, Portland is full of bright ways to celebrate the holiday season. Revel in the city’s holiday spirit at The Benson Portland, Curio Collection by Hilton, and enjoy an abundance of celebrations from the traditional to the unexpected.

Gingerbread Masterpiece on Display

The Benson Portland, Curio Collection by Hilton, invites the public back once again for a live unveiling of the 2023 Gingerbread Masterpiece, a 52-year beloved holiday tradition. The architectural feat promises only one hint to this year’s theme: “a famous example of romanticism, this beautiful sight inspired one dreamer and creator to capture the imaginations of millions around the world.” These majestic creations are made entirely of confectionary delights, with over 150 pounds of house made gingerbread, 50 pounds of marzipan, 20 pounds of chocolate, ten pounds of Rice Krispies treats, and buckets of royal icing. For a gallery of Chef Diffendorfer’s past creations, visit The annual unveiling will take place in The Benson’s grand lobby on Wednesday evening, November 29th. The event kicks off at 6:00pm and includes live holiday music, children’s crafts, cookies, beverages, and a special appearance by Santa. The event is free and open to the public. The gingerbread masterpiece will remain on display through December 30.

Spreading Joy 

While visiting The Benson Portland, join us in helping to make the holidays brighter for countless children in our community. This holiday season guests are invited to bring a donation of a new, unwrapped toy to support the annual Fox 12 Les Schwab Tire Centers Toy Drive. Toy donations can be dropped off at The Benson’s hotel lobby through December 10.

Holiday Magic in Portland

Portland’s Tree Lighting will be live in person at Pioneer Courthouse Square the day after Thanksgiving. Join in the celebration as Santa Claus flips the switch to illuminate more than 14,000 colorful LED lights on our city’s 75ft Douglas-fir. Featuring a joyful sing-along with Portland’s own Thomas Lauderdale from Pink Martini, local musicians and chorale singers, this event is the highlight of the holiday season downtown.

High above the city, the historic Pittock Mansion creates an equally enchanting scene. Each year for the holidays, the mansion’s 16 rooms are filled with a breathtaking display of lights, trees and decorations revolving around a chosen theme.

Hop aboard the Holiday Express and join Santa and his elves for a magical ride behind Portland’s famous steam locomotives.

If there’s one can’t-miss seasonal event, it’s the Oregon Ballet Theatre presentation of The Nutcracker — the only George Balanchine-choreographed production of the holiday classic west of the Mississippi.

Kids and adults agree: it wouldn’t be the holidays in Portland without a visit to ZooLights. In addition to the classic walk through a dazzling display of 1.5 million lights, you can bring your family and friends to explore the lights by car with a drive-through experience on select nights.

Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway features the “Largest Holiday Light Show West of the Mississippi”. Spectators can enjoy the region’s most spectacular drive-through light show, viewing over 250 colorful light set pieces and many fully animated scenes from the comfort of their own vehicle.

A quaint southeast neighborhood has been decorating for Christmas for decades. Mostly Tudors, the houses on Peacock Lane are adorned with not only beautiful sparkling lights but also nativity scenes, rotating Christmas trees and stunningly life-like replicas of Santa and Frosty.

The Christmas Ship Parade can be viewed from the banks of either the Willamette River or the Columbia River. This parade of decorated privately-owned boats has been going strong since 1954.

The Sounds of the Holidays

The Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto, is the largest Christmas choral festival in the world, featuring nearly 160 indoor holiday concerts performed by many of the region’s finest school, church and civic choirs. The festival reflects the special season of hope that Christmas offers many thousands of families around the Pacific Northwest.

Anyone who appreciates a good carol will love Portland’s Singing Christmas Tree, an annual showcase of both traditional and contemporary holiday music, performed by more than 350 singers, dancers, local actors and a live orchestra.

Choir lovers should also catch Make the Yuletide Gay by the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. In the midst of a chaotic world, PGMC celebrates the quirky and joyous importance of those we choose to call family. Expect holiday classics, new favorites, and more than a few surprises —in a concert that will illuminate your heart and leave you wrapped in the season’s spirit.

Get ready to clap and shout along with the region’s premier gospel singers at Gospel Christmas, another annual Oregon Symphony production.

Enjoy an abundance of celebrations from The Benson Portland, your holiday headquarters. Revel in the holiday spirit with overnight savings, free overnight valet parking, breakfast for 2, and a signature holiday cocktail for 2. While you’re here, savor the season at The Benson’s Palm Court Restaurant and Bar, with culinary by El Gaucho, the ideal spot for a quick bite, evening cocktail or warm nightcap. Enjoy a fine selection of reserve cellar wines, craft beer, and signature holiday cocktails. Reservations are available online.

Established in 1913, the historic Benson Hotel is the city’s only premier hotel that unites the charm and civility of the Old World with the elegance of contemporary design and mindful service. In homage to the hotel’s namesake, Simon Benson, guests are invited to experience legendary service, European design, opulently sized guest rooms and suites, five-star dining and an acclaimed lobby bar. The Benson seeks to cultivate the best in all of us.

2022 Travelers Choice Award

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