Your Insider’s Guide to Portland’s Christmas Ships Is Here

lighted boats along the rivers in Portland for the Christmas Ships parade @portlandwinterlightfestival

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned ship watcher, here’s how to enjoy every minute of this Portland tradition

This year marks the 68th anniversary of a beloved Portland and Vancouver holiday tradition—the Christmas Ship Parade. Just like heading out to chop down your own Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, this area tradition kickstarts the holiday season earlier than you think. These ships start rolling December 2, showing off their spectacular lights against the backdrop of Portland’s rivers. So make your plans now to start your own family tradition. Head down to the waterfront to watch dozens of lighted boats show off their love of all things yuletide this year.


Videos From Tinybeans


Portland Christmas Ships: A City Tradition

an inflatable santa and his reindeer during portland christmas ships parade
christmasships.org

It all started in 1954 when one single boat departed from the Portland Yacht Club ready to share some Christmas cheer. Over the years other spirited ships have joined in the fun, turning the Christmas Ship Parade into a must-see holiday event. These days fleets of up to 60 brightly lit and decorated ships can be viewed floating down the Willamette and Columbia Rivers throughout December. 

The first Christmas Ship Parade of the season sets sail from the North Portland Harbor on Dec. 2. Parades continue at various locations and times along the Columbia and Wilamette Rivers until Dec. 21. For the full parade schedule, times, and assembly points jump to the end of this article or visit the official Christmas Ship Parade website. Fleets are usually out for about two hours, depending on weather and water conditions.

Related: Holiday Light Shows You Don’t Want to Miss

Where to Watch Along the Columbia & Willamette Rivers

a lighted reindeer atop a Portland Christmas ship for the lighted boat parade
christmasships.org

Watch From a Waterfront Restaurant

Sitting down to dinner at a restaurant with a view is always in season, but it’s extra fun when you have your own personal parade sailing by. Watching the Columbia River route? Pick a primo viewing location at one of these nearby waterfront restaurants and take it all in. Salty’s Restaurant and Sextant Bar and Galley are great options on the Portland side of the river, while The Cove, Beaches, Who Song and Larry’s, and McMenamins on the Columbia are great choices, if you’re hanging out on the Vancouver side. 

Watching the Willamette fleets? The Old Spaghetti Factory not only has something for everyone on their extensive menu, but it also has great views of the river. Upstream Coffee is also known for its delicious (and warm) beverages and views.

Take in the Show from the Shore

Put on your warmest coat (it is winter in the PNW after all) and watch all the action from the waterfront. Check out the parade schedule for recommendations on the best vantage points depending on the day, time, and route.

Related: Our Top Spots for Holiday Shopping in Portland

Unique Ways to Watch from the Water

The Christmas ships aren’t the only ones having fun out on the water. These river cruise options also offer prime opportunities to see everything up close and personal. The Portland Spirit hosts dinner cruises all year. The boat departs at 6:30 p.m., giving you plenty of time to enjoy a meal and take in the parade. Tickets start at around $96 per person. 

Want to really soak in the experience–literally? Yacht Tubs are essentially floating hot tubs that you can rent to go up and down the river. Rentals are available at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. most weekdays and weekends.

Super serious about watching from the water? Scovare Expeditions offers a special Christmas Ships Cruise, starting at $59. Enjoy panoramic views, hot chocolate, cider, and cookies as you enjoy this unique experience. Really want to get into the spirit? Rent out the entire ship for your friends and family.

Related: Magical Christmas Day Activities for Portland Families

Christmas Ships Parade Sailing Schedules

Columbia River Sailing Schedule

Dec. 2: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Opening Night/First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: North Portland Harbor

Dec. 3: Camas/Washougal (First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 6 p.m.
Destination: Camas/Washougal

Dec. 5: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Second Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Vancouver Waterfront / Hayden Bay

Dec. 6: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Third Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Washington Shores/Wintler Park

Dec. 7: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Fourth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Vancouver Waterfront/Hayden Bay

Dec. 9: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Fifth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: I-205 Bridge/164th

Dec. 10: St. Helens City Docks (First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 6 p.m.
Destination: St. Helens/Columbia City/Woodland

Dec. 11: JJ Collins Memorial Park (First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 4:30 p.m.
Destination: Scappoose/Multnomah Channel

Dec. 14: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Sixth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Washington Shores/Wintler Park

Dec. 15: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Seventh Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Vancouver Waterfront/Hayden Bay

Dec. 16: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Eighth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: North Portland Harbor

Dec. 17: Riverplace Marina (First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade starts: 4:30 p.m
Meet & Greet from 8-10 p.m.
Destination: Lake Oswego

Dec. 18: Riverplace Marina  (Second SailCombined Fleet)
Parade start: 5 p.m.
Meet & Greet from 2-4:30 p.m.
Destination: St. Johns Bridge/Cathedral Park

Dec. 20: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Ninth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Vancouver Waterfront/Hayden Bay

Dec. 21: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Tenth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: North Portland Harbor

Willamette River Sailing Schedule

Dec. 2: M. James Gleason Boat Ramp (Opening Night/First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: North Portland Harbor

Dec. 3: Camas/Washougal (First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 6 p.m.
Destination: Camas/Washougal

Dec. 5: Riverplace Marina (First Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Fremont Bridge

Dec. 6: Riverplace Marina (Second Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Milwaukie

Dec. 7: Riverplace Marina (Third Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Fremont Bridge

Dec. 9: Riverplace Marina (Fourth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Milwaukie/Oregon Yacht Club

Dec. 10: St. Helens City Docks (First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 6 p.m.
Destination: St. Helens/Columbia City/Woodland

Dec. 11: JJ Collins Memorial Park (First Sail/Combined Fleet)
Parade start: 4:30 p.m.
Destination: Scappoose/Multnomah Channel

Dec. 14: Riverplace Marina (Fifth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Milwaukie

Dec. 15: Riverplace Marina (Sixth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination:  Fremont Bridge

Dec. 16: Riverplace Marina (Seventh Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Milwaukie

Dec. 17: Riverplace Marina (Eighth Sail/Combined fleet)
Parade starts at 4:30 p.m.
Meet & Greet from 8-10 p.m.
Destination: Lake Oswego

Dec. 18: Riverplace Marina (Ninth Sail/Combined fleet)
Parade start: 5 p.m.
Meet & Greet from 2-4:30 p.m.
Destination: St. Johns Bridge / Cathedral Park

Dec. 20: Riverplace Marina (Tenth Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Milwaukie

Dec. 21: Riverplace Marina (Eleventh Sail)
Parade start: 7 p.m.
Destination: Fremont Bridge

Online: christmasships.org

Advertisement

Trending Now


Advertisement
Welcome to our Tinybeans family!
Be sure to check your email for new activities, recipes and parenting hacks – and to see if you’ve won!

 

 

 

 

 

 

FALL FOR TINYBEANS!

Enter to Win a $250 Gift Card!

Enter your email and zip code below for a chance to win a Mastercard Gift Card. We’ll pick one winner per month through December 31, 2022 – 9 lucky winners in all!

I agree to the official rules and to receive email communications from Tinybeans. By providing my email address, I agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.