How to Spend Winter in Portland

How to Spend Winter in Portland, Oregon

It’s my first true winter living in a colder climate. I grew up in California, where it generally never dipped below 40 or 50 degrees fahrenheit in the coldest months. When I made a visit to New York city for New Year’s Eve once, that was probably the coldest I have ever felt, but that was just for a week. Melbourne was potentially the coldest place in winter from my time abroad, mainly due to the intense wind, but I’ve never before experienced freezing temperatures on a daily basis like I do in Portland.

I’ve taken on this whole winter idea wholeheartedly, buying warmer clothes, learning how to layer properly, and finally experiencing my fair share of snow. When I woke up last week to fresh snow covering the ground, I felt like a little kid at Christmas I was so excited. After my recent trip up to Mt. Hood to learn how to snowboard, I’m finally starting to see just how beautiful winter can be.

Mt. Hood - Oregon, USA

To share with you my excitement for this winter season, and hopefully have it rub off on you a bit, I’m sharing some of the best activities to do around and just outside of Portland in the winter. There is a pure type of beauty in winter that’s hard to beat, I hope these suggestion will show you just how beautiful the season can be in the Pacific Northwest.

Ugly Sweater PDX

This event has sadly already come and gone, but there is always next year! In true Portland fashion, iconic downtown sculptures get bombarded with handmade ugly sweaters around November and December for Ugly Sweater PDX. It was hilarious walking around and seeing the most loved sculptures around the city decked out in the ugliest holiday sweaters and little beanies.

Ugly Sweater PDX - Oregon
Photo via Flickr

It has become somewhat of a tradition to go around and take selfies with all the animals you can find, tagging your pictures with #uglysweaterpdx. Clearly, it’s a movement.

Snowboarding at Mt. Hood Meadows

I already wrote about my experience learning how to snowboard at Mt. Hood Meadows last week, and I still cannot recommend it enough. Before I ever worked with them for my blog, Mt. Hood Meadows had been recommended profusely by locals as the best slopes for snowboarding and skiing. This is especially the case if you’re a beginner because they have such a great variety of slopes.

Learning How to Snowboard at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort - Oregon

Now that I’ve tested the slopes myself, I can only agree with the statements I heard before my visit. Snowboarding or skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows seems to be another Portland tradition that’s loved by locals and visitors alike.

Lloyd Center Ice Rink

This indoor ice rink is actually open year-round, so you could go ice skating at the height of summer if you want, but what’s more wintery than ice skating!? Although I prefer the atmosphere of outdoor ice rinks, especially if it’s snowing, this is the next best thing since Portland doesn’t have an outdoor rink that I know of.

Ice Skating in Portland, Oregon

Lloyd Center is a huge mall in Northeast Portland, and the ice rink is the centerpiece of the mall so you’ll probably have quite a few shoppers watching you skate around the rink. I tried ice skating for the first time towards the end of last year at Lloyd Center, and I wasn’t as bad as I thought I would be. They do offer lessons at the rink though if you have trepidation about skating on the ice.

Brewery Tour

Beer drinking is a favorite winter pastime of many cultures, including the Pacific Northwest, and there are an abundance of breweries in Portland to choose from! Now, not all of them are amazing, but there are a good handful that are quality breweries and offer a brewery tour. My recommendations for where to find the best free brewery tours would be Bridgeport, Hopworks, and Widmer Brothers.

Portland, Oregon Craft Beer Scene

If you would rather be whisked away to a variety of different breweries there is always the choice of group tours, which cost more money but will give you a good overview of the craft beer scene. A few favorites would have to include BrewCycle, BeerQuest, Pedal Bike Tours Oregon Brewery Tour, and Brewvana. Yep, there’s a lot here!

Trail Blazers NBA Game

Another first for me this winter was seeing a live NBA game – the Portland Trail Blazers vs. the New Orleans Pelicans. We won! And although I’m a San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors fan through and through, seeing a relatively inexpensive NBA game is still the perfect winter activity to enjoy.

Trail Blazers NBA Game in Portland, Oregon

You can find seats as dirt cheap as under $20 at the Moda Center and there is plenty of craft beer from the likes of Pyramid and 10 Barrel to keep you happy throughout the game.

Snowshoeing at Timberline Lodge

The historic Timberline Lodge is an iconic site just outside of Portland, located in the stunning Mt. Hood territory. The Timberline beginnings go all the way back to the Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration. It’s also the lodge that was in The Shining with Jack Nicholson. So clearly, it has a lot of history.

Timberline Lodge Snowshoeing - Oregon
Photo via Flickr

Mt. Hood Meadows may have the best slopes in Oregon, but Timberline is a great place to go snowshoeing and enjoy the winter mountain wilderness. Their snowshoeing track is 3/4 miles long and rentals will run you $20/person per day. The lodge even offers a moonlight snowshoeing tour at a few select times throughout the year.

Timberline lodge has snowboarding and skiing as well but it’s nowhere as big as Mt. Hood Meadows.

Portland Winter Light Festival

Who doesn’t love epic light displays? Cool Christmas lights have always been one of my favorite aspects about the wintertime, and Portland is offering an actual winter light festival this year! The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (or OMSI) had decided to start the Portland Winter Light Festival for the first time ever this 2016.

Portland Winter Lights - Oregon
Photo via Flickr

Similar to Wellington’s Lux: Festival of Lights, the festival showcases large-scale light installations and interactive light projections around the waterfront from a variety talented artists. And the best part, it’s FREE! It’ll be happening from February 3-6 this year, so don’t miss out!

Cozy Up for an Inexpensive Movie Night

Perhaps my favorite aspect about Portland is the amount of inexpensive and unique movie theaters you constantly find around the city. One of my all time favorite is Living Room Theaters on SW Tenth Avenue, which offers $5 movies on Mondays and Tuesdays. They have a full bar, food menu, and comfy seats that you’re able to select ahead of time.

Portland Movie Theaters, Oregon
Photo via Flickr

Heading across the river, a couple of other favorites are the Avalon Theatre on SE Belmont Street, which shows relatively new and classic films for the price of $3 and is attached to a nickel arcade, and the Academy Theater on SE Stark that only charges you $4 entry.

Of course, there are a ton of other historic theaters around town as well that may not be as cheap but will definitely provide you with a unique movie experience. Hollywood Theatre, Roseway Theater, Cinemagic, Laurelhurst Theater, and McMenamins Bagdad Theatre are all retro gems as well.

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to movies in Portland, and it’s hard to think of a better activity on one of the many rainy winter days here than enjoying a movie at one of these classic spots.

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 How to Spend Winter in Portland, Oregon

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What are your favorite activities to do around Portland when it’s cold and rainy in the winter? With my first winter in the Pacific Northwest, I’m learning to embrace the season and take advantage of all the fun things there are to do around town. Do you have a favorite winter activity that’s unique to where you live?

Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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