Christmas in Portland, Oregon: Christmas ships lead the way

I-5 Bridge between Portland and Vancouver

I-5 Bridge between Portland and Vancouver – Waiting for the Christmas Ships

You know it’s Christmas time in Portland, Oregon when the Christmas Ships sail on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. For close to 60 years, privately owned vessels have paraded on the rivers, stopping to circle and wow onlookers gathered on bridges, shorelines and riverside restaurants.

Most every night for two weeks through the week of Christmas, the fleet will be out on the rivers. All skippers are volunteers and so you’ll see changes in the 50 – 60 boats from night to night. Skippers have other parties to attend!

Each Christmas Ship handles their own expenses for fuel and decorations (some are quite elaborate). Donations are received from restaurants and hotels that are located on the waterfront. Donations are used for Christmas Ships, Inc. the coordinating body for this massive annual effort.

You can enjoy the Christmas Ships from Portland, certainly, but if you check the schedule you’ll also find other locations such as Vancouver and Camas, WA where you can enjoy the spectacle.

Portland Oregon Christmas Ships

Portland Oregon Christmas Ships on the Columbia River

The night I saw the ships, I was with a spirited group at Joe’s Crab Shack, located in Vancouver, WA close to the I-5 bridge. The ships paraded twice in back of the restaurant where onlookers gathered on the outside deck. We had carefully checked the schedule so we would know when to look for the ships. And, they were right on time!

A full schedule for the Columbia and Willamette fleets, as well as a link for donations can be found at They also have a Facebook Page.

Christmas Fun in Portland


Photography copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography