Holiday Lights and other Don’t-Miss Winter Events on the Coast
Charleston, Nov. 23-Dec.31
Young or old, who isn’t enchanted by thousands of twinkling lights in the shape of animated orcas, leaping frogs, herons, seals and dozens of other creatures in an undersea garden?
More than 50,000 visitors flock to Oregon’s South Coast each year to see the Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park in Charleston, one of the biggest and longest-running events on the Coast. Charleston is a stone’s throw from Coos Bay, about 2.5 hours south of Eugene along the scenic Wild Rivers Coast.
The grand tradition started in 1987, when locals Shirley and David Bridgham wanted to do something for the community they loved so dearly.
They worked with Friends of Shore Acres to string up a few lights to dazzle visitors as they explored the site, a former private estate that was purchased by the state in 1942. Today, the public park is a garden for all seasons — tulips and daffodils in the spring, roses in the summer and dahlias in the early fall — with a network of paved trails for accessible walking and a wildlife viewing area.
The holiday light display has grown larger and more intricate each year. Today there are more than 325,000 lights, nearly all L.E.D., which take a crew of volunteers six weeks to install.
“The lights became our passion,” Bridgham says. “We have way too much fun.”
About 1,500 volunteers run the well-oiled operation, including handing out hot cider, coffee, punch and cookies to add to the cheer. Local businesses and community groups sponsor the event, which has kept admission free except for the $5 state park parking fee. The display is open every evening, rain or shine, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
“Every year David and I look at the guestbooks, and we see how much people appreciate it. We get all energized to do it again,” Bridgham adds. “It’s just been such a rewarding experience.”
There are plenty of other don’t-miss winter events on the Coast. Here are a few more to enjoy this season:
Port Orford, Dec. 23-28
See the historic Victorian Hughes House — an 1898 ranch home made of old-growth cedar — in full holiday decor. This home of a pioneer dairy farmer stands on the north side of Cape Blanco, with views of the ocean, the Sixes River and surrounding vistas.
Coastwide, Dec. 27-31
Nearly 20,000 gray whales migrate along the Oregon Coast between mid-December and mid-January as they travel south to warmer waters. Visit the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay to access binoculars and education about these fascinating mammals. Or on the South Coast, find excellent viewpoints and trained volunteers at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Cape Ferrelo viewpoint (north of Brookings), Battle Rock Park in Port Orford and Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon.
Seaside, Dec. 16
Hosted by the Seaside Museum and Historical Society, this Victorian beach cottage is transformed into a wonderland with live music, gingerbread houses, a Christmas raffle and homemade gingerbread with whipped cream and hot drinks.
Yachats, Jan. 1
Join the Yachats Trails Committee for a 6-mile round-trip walk from Yachats Commons to the Amanda trail and statue, where the group will offer blessings for peace in the new year. Walk or shuttle back to the Commons for refreshments.
Story by Jen Anderson
Photo by Dennis Frates