I think one of the most picturesque places in the Pacific Northwest is the Columbia River Gorge. This massive gorge, carved out centuries ago by glaciers, is such a poignant and dramatic reminder of the beauty of our country.
The gorge can be a wonderful place to base yourself for a little bit of romance, relaxation, and enjoyment. The wind can whip through this area, but you won’t have to look far to find yourself by a warming fire. Let’s explore one of the area’s most popular winter-time events, Christmas in the Gorge in lovely Stevenson, Washington.
Christmas in Stevenson
Stevenson is located along the western section of the gorge, just under an hour from Portland. Although on the Washington side, it’s easy to reach from Oregon because Stevenson is right next to the Bridge of the Gods ($1 toll each way).
Stevenson’s main event is Christmas in the Gorge, typically held on the first weekend in December. The event includes the picturesque Starlight Truck Parade which is great for the kids, as well as an arts and crafts bazaar where you’ll find some fantastic Christmas gifts for yourself and anyone you might still be searching for! Most of the businesses in Stevenson roll out the red carpet for the event – you’ll find hot chocolate, candies, and more on pretty much every corner.
Another Christmastime tradition in Stevenson is the annual Madrigal Feast. This is a over-the-top holiday buffet with a Renaissance theme – think jesters, troubadours, connivers, sword fights, consorts, musicians, and choirs. If you think it sounds like a crazy time, it is. The event is typically held the week before Christmas and runs about 3 hours – last year’s prices were around $79 for adults and $69 for children under 12.
Other Winter Events in the Area
One of the most popular things to do is to have a look at the waterfalls in the area, which sometimes will freeze over in winter. It doesn’t get as cold as you might think (although the winter wind may have you think differently), but the falls are certainly a spectacle regardless of the weather.
You’ll also find some of the wineries open for tastings, and winter cocktail classes often make an appearance at some of the local restaurants and hotels (see below).
You can go skiing on Mt Hood, and if the weather is decent, how about a hike? Please note that snow can cause roads to be very treacherous even at low elevations, so please use caution when exploring off the beaten path – make sure you have a phone, food/water, and ensure someone knows where you are headed.
Where to Eat
There are plenty of options for food and drink here in the Stevenson area. Andrew’s Pizza is a great treat after a day out exploring, complete with friendly service and fresh bar drinks. Walking Man Brewery is a quirky local hangout where you can sample some gorge brews. And Skamania Lodge, known for their superb brunch, offers some special holiday menus throughout the season, though any of their classic entrees are warm and filling on a cold night.
Where to Stay
For a winter getaway in the gorge, there is only one choice: Skamania Lodge. The lodge is located just outside of Stevenson, and offers a fabulously luxurious night’s sleep at a great price. There’s an indoor pool and hot tub, on-site food and dining, free parking, and free Wifi. Choose to upgrade your room to one with a river view or in-room fireplace and no matter how frosty outside, you’ll feel great indoors.
Skamania typically offers packages for each of the Stevenson events but book early. The Columbia River Gorge is so different in every season, and some say winter is the most dramatic – and perhaps romantic!
Photo Credits: Author, WikiMedia Commons, WSDOT, Walking Man Brewery, Author