The Portland Winter Light Festival shines bright in the dark

Each year, the event builds community and adds some sparkle to the dark winter months with illuminating art installations across the city.

A procession of people holding illuminated lanterns and dazzling LED lights, wearing shiny funky outfits, marches down the street while a MAX train speeds by in the background. The parade is part of the Portland Winter Light Festival.

Portland Winter Light Festival’s estimated economic impact for 2023 was $4,434,000.

Photo by Brooke Hoyer

The Portland Winter Light Festival (PDXWLF) is certainly a bright spot during the dark and dreary season. Each February, the free, renewable energy-powered event is put on by The Willamette Light Brigade, the non-profit arts organization in charge of lighting Portland’s bridges since 1987.

Soon, PDXWLF organizers will flip the switch on the ninth annual event (Feb. 2-10) — this year’s theme is “What Glows Under Pressure.” More than 200,000 people are expected to visit the 160+ pop-ups, interactive experiences, and innovative art/technology installations at businesses, private residences, and public spaces across the city.

Many locations are accessible via public transportation and within walking distance of each other; anchor sites at Pioneer Courthouse Square, the World Trade Center, and the Electric Blocks serve as good jumping off points for your scintillating scavenger hunt.

Looking at the PDXWLF map can be overwhelming, so allow us to share some … highlights.

A small child stares starry eyed at a light saber they hold in their hands, while other kids touch a glowing squishy looking art installation at the Portland Winter Light Festival.

There’s plenty of family fun to be had.

Photo by Brooke Hoyer

  • Garnish Fire Conclave | Friday, Feb. 2 | 7 p.m. | Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW Sixth Ave. | For more than two decades, this fire performance troupe has brought their heat to Burning Man; now they will bring it to the Rose City.
  • Illuminated Bike Ride | Sat., Feb. 3 | 7 p.m. | Rose’s Equipment Annex Parking Lot, 125 SE Clay St. | Put some lights on your bike, grab a coat, and get ready to pedal on this 2.6-mile ride through downtown.
  • Cocreating Dragons | Friday, Feb. 9 | 11 a.m.-10 p.m. | Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW Sixth Ave. | Gaze in awe as carvers use their chainsaws to shape a literal ton of ice into draconic creatures during the day, which then light up when night falls.
  • LED Hula Hoop Flash Mob & Glow Jam | Friday, Feb. 9 | 8 p.m. | Salmon Springs Fountain, 1010 SW Naito Pkwy. | Feel the flow as luminous choreography comes to life before your eyes.

That’s just a flash — explore the full programming.