Celebrate the season with holiday lights, ice skating and a Polar Bear Plunge on Oregon’s Adventure Coast.
Ready to start a new holiday tradition? Every year, Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park brings the sparkle and cheer of the holiday season to a gorgeous garden setting on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean. Come experience the magic for yourself and see why this beloved display on Oregon’s Adventure Coast keeps visitors coming back year after year.
A Shining Spectacle
This annual event, coordinated by Friends of Shore Acres, Inc., takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, from 4:30–9:00 p.m. in the botanical gardens of Shore Acres State Park. This 7-acre section of the park – which was developed at the turn of the 20th century as a seaside estate for local timber baron Louis Jerome Simpson and his wife, Cassandra — features paved walkways, a centerpiece fountain and a Japanese garden with two sunken ponds.
What started in 1987 with just 6,000 lights has grown to include more than 325,000 lights — most of which are LED — and takes around a month and a half to set up. As you stroll through the gardens, you’ll see colorfully illuminated trees and bushes as well as all sorts of light sculptures, some of which are animated. Each year is a little different, which makes for a great holiday surprise. Past light sculptures have featured everything from shimmering marine creatures to colorful butterflies.
This is also the only time of year when the park’s historic Garden House is open to the public. Drop by the festively decorated house for free cookies and hot apple cider, or make your way upstairs to see Santa luxuriating in the bathtub. Note that the event is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible except for the upstairs portion of the house, and loaner wheelchairs are available at the park on a first-come, first-served basis.
Preparing for Your Visit
Making the most of your Holiday Lights visit requires a little bit of planning. Weekends are the busiest, while Mondays through Thursdays tend to be quieter. While the lights are most dramatic after dark, consider arriving at dusk to take in ocean views before beginning your stroll through the gardens.
While visiting the light display is free, parking at the state park costs $5. To guarantee your spot, you’ll need to reserve a time-specific parking pass (one per vehicle) online or by calling 800-452-5687. If your preferred time isn’t available, check back seven days before your chosen date, when additional parking spaces are released. Note that if you have an Oregon State Parks parking pass, you’ll still need to make a reservation — you just won’t have to pay for it.
Want to skip the reservation process? Head to the Charleston Marina to hop aboard the free shuttle bus. Shuttles operate on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Thanksgiving night until New Year’s Eve, as well as on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. The shuttle, made possible in part by funding from The Ford Family Foundation, is wheelchair-accessible and can ferry up to 100 people to the park per hour.
Other Winter Festivities on Oregon’s Adventure Coast
Holiday Lights are just the beginning of yuletide cheer on Oregon’s Adventure Coast. North Bend’s seasonal Ice Skating Rink — the only ice-skating rink on the Oregon Coast — opens on December 2 and remains open until Valentine’s Day. Rent skates on-site or bring your own to swoop, glide and pirouette across this fully tented rink. Check the online calendar for special theme nights, including disco night and karaoke night.
The festivities continue throughout the month, with a holiday craft market featuring local artisans at the Coos History Museum Winter Faire December 15–16. If you come on the 16, don your most hideous Christmas sweater and head over to the Egyptian Theatre after you shop for gifts for the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Ugly Sweater Contest. Or plan to welcome 2024 with a New Year’s Day dip in the ocean at the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Sunset Bay State Park.
All photos courtesy of Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston