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There is a singular light display that’s been brightening the holiday season in Oregon for nearly 40 years. It has over 325,000 shimmering lights, a pirate ship and a 40-foot spouting gray whale. It also winds through an amazing botanical garden – in the distance, you can hear its natural soundtrack: the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean: Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park!
From Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Eve, it shines a festive spotlight on Oregon’s Adventure Coast – Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston.
“There’s nothing else like it in Oregon,” said Janice Langlinais, executive director of the Coos Bay-North Bend-Charleston Visitor and Convention Bureau. “The setting is truly unique – and beautiful – and the lights really put you in the holiday spirit. It’s a signature celebration here on our part of the Oregon Coast – but it’s just one of the many attractions that can make for a memorable holiday getaway this time of year.”
Indeed, Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park is kind of like the star atop a Christmas tree. The display lights up the state park daily from 4:30-9 p.m. It’s free to tour, but timed parking passes, which must be reserved online, cost $5. Or, new this year, take a FREE shuttle from the Charleston Marina.
A stroll through the lights should be on the list of anyone looking to create new holiday traditions on this serene stretch of Oregon Coast just a few scenic hours away from Portland.
Light it up
Shore Acres may shine the brightest, but it’s not the only source of holiday illumination on Oregon’s Adventure Coast. On the waterfront along Highway 101 in Coos Bay, the Oregon Coast Historic Railway Museum lights up its vintage engines and cabooses with more than 100,000 lights every night till 11 p.m. through New Year’s Day.
The nonprofit Charleston Fishing Families fires up is crab pot tree every year, and there’s a tree lighting in Coos Bay at the Coos Bay Visitor Center at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24. A fun tradition accompanying that lighting is a parade walk over to the Historic for a viewing of the holiday favorite, “Elf.”
Can’t make the Nov. 24 lighting? The Empire District in Coos Bay will have its tree lighting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, complete with Santa riding on top of the Empire fire engine. The nearby city of North Bend also has a tree lighting set for 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, which caps off a day of festivities, including breakfast and stories with Santa and Mrs. Claus, free ice skating and shopping at area businesses. After the tree lighting, a lighted truck parade rolls through downtown North Bend.
Beyond the bright lights, plenty of other holiday happenings can be a part of an escape to Oregon’s Adventure Coast this year. The annual Festival of Trees, which raises funds for the Coos Bay-North Bend Rotary Club, is on display from Nov. 28-Dec. 6. Visitors who shop locally can find reindeer throughout downtown Coos Bay businesses, take their picture and enter to win a grand prize. The mischievous Elf on the Shelf will be hiding at businesses in North Bend from Nov. 25-Dec. 2. From Dec. 1-3, the Christmas “Little Ole Opry on the Bay” returns to the Liberty Theatre in North Bend.
Beyond the red and green
A getaway to Oregon’s Adventure Coast this time of year doesn’t have to be all mistletoe and holly. Many attractions that draw visitors throughout the year are also prime for checking out during the holiday season.
For starters, Oregon’s Adventure Coast is renowned for its miles of pristine sandy beaches, ideal for long, dramatic strolls along the Pacific.
More inclined to go by bike? A route carves through Coos Bay, veering off Highway 101 for a scenic side shoot along the coastline via the Cape Arago Loop and 7 Devils Road. Dedicated mountain bikers will find a singletrack paradise in the misty forests of the Oregon Coast about 15 minutes south of Coos Bay: the renowned Whiskey Run.
Nearby lakes and rivers will give up trout in the colder months, the nearby Umpqua River has a storied winter steelhead run. Deep-sea charters will take you out for lingcod, rockfish, and other bottom-feeding fish. Surf fishing, crabbing and clamming, both popular in these parts, are a year-round pastime, too.
If you’re looking for a way to close out your 2023 and ring in your 2024 on Oregon’s Adventure Coast, there’s a chilly Polar Bear Plunge planned for 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 1, at Sunset Bay State Park. There’s nothing like it to clear the senses and start the new year fresh.
To find out more about everything there is to do in Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston, Oregon, visit OregonsAdventureCoast.com.