You Should Go To Winter Light Festival (But You Shouldn’t Drive)

Feb 1, 2019

Some of these installations are “kinetic fire sculptures”. Which is to say, there are giant sculptures that shoot fire. You can enjoy them as art, or you can enjoy them as metal structures with flamethrowers that make your face all toasty. Can the Mona Lisa do that?

Portland Winter Light Festival has grown rapidly since it was first held in 2016, with over 140,000 people attending in 2018. Seventy percent of attendees — about 100,000 people — arrived via car last year. That’s a recipe for major traffic issues.

The area around OMSI is known as the Eastside Zone. It has the most installations and spans the entire area from the Tilikum Crossing to the Hawthorne Bridge. There are great transit connections that make it easy to get two the other two hubs.

But you’ll want to avoid driving to the Eastside Zone. Water Ave. is the only road in and out, and the OMSI parking lots will be closed Thursday and Saturday evenings. Even further away, parking will be scarce. Last year, some attendees parked more than a 20-minute walk from the event.

Away from OMSI, traffic will be a little less intense near PSU and Salmon Springs Fountain — but parking will still be hard to come by.

Don’t Drive (And If You Do, Don’t Try To Park Near The Festival)

This is one event you do not want to drive to. If you’re local, biking and transit are going to be vastly superior options. If you’re coming from further afield, park near transit and take MAX or Portland Streetcar to the festival. Otherwise, you’re looking at a lot of circling for parking and a seriously long hike.

More on your best transit options to the festival in a moment.

Biking Is Best For Many

If you’re comfortable with riding at night, biking is likely your best option. You’ll avoid traffic and parking issues and you’ll be able to quickly move around the festival sites. OMSI is a a 5–10 minute ride from Salmon Springs and a 15–20 minute ride from PSU — which is about 10 minutes from Salmon Springs.

If you do plan on biking to the Eastside Zone from the north, be aware that the Eastbank Esplanade is closed for construction until April.

Transit Options Galore

Fortunately for the traffic-adverse, the festival is extremely well served by transit.

“Homage to Trogdor by Ivan Mclean.” 📷 Amy Sakurai

MAX provides an easy and quick connection to the main festival locations. It runs through the OMSI and PSU hubs and there are stops a few short blocks west of the Salmon Springs installations.

To get to OMSI, take the Orange Line to OMSI/SE Water Station at the east end of Tilikum Crossing.

From OMSI, Orange line will get you to PSU via the SW Mill or SW Jackson stops. And the Salmon Springs hub is a short walk from the Orange/Yellow lines via City Hall SW Jefferson or SW Madison stations. Salmon Springs is also a short walk from the Yamhill District station on the Blue and Red lines.

If you’re driving part of the way, leaving your car at a Park and Ride and taking MAX is a great option. There should be plenty of open parking spaces at that point in the evening. Find a Park and Ride.

Light rail to the Light Festival

MAX provides an easy and quick connection to the main festival locations. It runs through the OMSI and PSU hubs and there are stops a few short blocks west of the Salmon Springs installations.

To get to OMSI, take the Orange Line to OMSI/SE Water Station at the east end of Tilikum Crossing.

From OMSI, Orange line will get you to PSU via the SW Mill or SW Jackson stops. And the Salmon Springs hub is a short walk from the Orange/Yellow lines via City Hall SW Jefferson or SW Madison stations. Salmon Springs is also a short walk from the Yamhill District station on the Blue and Red lines.

If you’re driving part of the way, leaving your car at a Park and Ride and taking MAX is a great option. There should be plenty of open parking spaces at that point in the evening. Find a Park and Ride.

Portland Streetcar: A Free Alternative

Portland Streetcar provides another solid transit alternative. It runs directly through two of the hubs and is within walking distance of the third. Streetcar will also be free after 5 p.m. during the festival.

If you’re coming from a close-in Portland neighborhood, parking near Streetcar or taking the bus to Streetcar and using that as your ride to the festival will likely be easier than taking MAX.

If you’re looking to park near Streetcar, look around the Pearl or Nob Hill on the NS loop, or near the Lloyd District on the A and B loops. Here’s an interactive map of the Portland Streetcar’s routes.

Portland Streetcar runs through the OMSI hub of the festival, with A and B loops stopping at the OMSI/SE Water station just a few feet away from the Orange Line.

From OMSI, it’s easy to get to PSU via the A and B loops. You can also take streetcar the Art Museum stop and walk the 8 short blocks to the Salmon Springs hub.

#GoByFerry

Portland Spirit will be running the Crystal Dolphin as a free ferry shuttle between OMSI and Salmon Springs during the festival. The ride takes about 15 minutes, with the ferry leaving each location every 30 minutes. Catch the ferry just south of Tilikum Crossing near OMSI or at Salmon Springs Dock.

We just threw a lot at you, so here’s a handy cheat sheet:

Best overall ways to get to the festival: MAX, Portland Streetcar or bike

Best bet for driving to the festival: Drive to a Park & Ride and take MAX

Best way to get between PSU and OMSI: Bike, Streetcar or MAX Orange Line

Best way to get between OMSI and Salmon Springs: Bike or ferry

Best way to get between PSU and Salmon Springs: Bike, walk or MAX Green or Orange/Yellow lines.

Maritza Collazo

Maritza Collazo

Marketing Communications Coordinator

Public transit advocate, lover of BBQ sauce, and reggaeton megafan. I'm on my 80th West Wing rewatch.

collazom@trimet.org | All posts

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