October is here, and that means the spirit of the holiday season is almost ready to descend upon Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston! The dedicated volunteers from Friends of Shore Acres are hard at work transforming one of Oregon’s most beloved state parks into an enchanting, glittery holiday wonderland that will delight and inspire visitors from all over the world from Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Every year since 1987 (with the exception of 2020 & 2021), Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park has attracted visitors from all over and topped the lists of many “Best Of Oregon” destinations.
Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park is managed by The Friends of Shore Acres, a group of volunteers dedicated to the stewardship of the park. The annual tradition began in 1987, when a small group of volunteers created a festive display with 6,000 miniature lights and one Christmas tree. Today, the event boasts more than 325,000 holiday lights (almost all LED), 26 Christmas trees, an array of still and animated light sculptures, and landscape lights on the huge trees surrounding the garden. It takes 1500 volunteers, state park staff and local businesses to accomplish this massive feat - drawing approximately 50,000 visitors each season to Oregon’s Adventure Coast. The event made its return last year, after being paused from 2020-2021 due to the pandemic.
Here’s some information on how you and your family can enjoy this magical wonderland of lights between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
This festive annual display debuts on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 23rd) and will light up Shore Acres State Park from 4:30 pm - 9:00 pm each night (including December 24th & 25th) thru December 31st. When making your plans, remember that Fridays through Sundays are the busiest, so we recommend coming Monday through Thursday if possible. We also recommend booking an earlier time slot for the lights so you can enjoy the ocean views, the park, and the lights' sparkling transition from daylight to dark. If you are concerned about rain, keep in mind there is less traffic on rainy nights, and the lights are especially beautiful in the rain!
After years of popular growth and attracting large crowds, the Oregon State Parks implemented a timed parking pass system in 2022 to decrease long wait times, backed-up traffic conditions and safety concerns on the Cape Arago Highway. Most considered the new system to be a great success and it will remain in place for 2023. “The new entry system launched last year with the support of the Friends of Shore Acres,” says Lee Ricci, park manager for the Sunset Bay Management Unit. “Visitor feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and we’ve worked with the Friends to continue the system this year. Visitors said they appreciated the quick entry into the parking area without waiting in long lines on the road. Plus, the system improved safety for everyone traveling on the Cape Arago Highway, and smoothed out the process overall.”
Visitors will not have the option of purchasing a parking permit on-site to park and attend. Those wishing to visit the park during Holiday Lights must make a reservation through the online system. Remember, this is reserving a Timed Parking Pass, not entry per person attending. The event runs Nov. 23-Dec. 31 (including Christmas Day & Christmas Eve), and parking time slots are available for 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. daily. There are many permits for every hour. We strongly recommend reserving your parking pass to enter the Holiday Lights at Shore Acres State Park as soon as possible, as permits are going fast for holiday time periods.
Note that only half the available parking spots are open for booking now. The rest of the spots will be available on a Rolling Seven Day system with pass for Thanksgiving night available for booking on Thursday, November 16th and so on.
#1- You only need to book a PARKING PASS, not Individual Tickets. The event does not require or sell individual tickets to the event. You will only need ONE parking pass per vehicle to enter, and it includes entry for everyone inside the vehicle.
#2- The event parking fee is $5 (the same as the normal day-use parking permit price for the park), but instead of paying at the entrance booth, people must reserve it, in advance HERE, for a specific time period to enter.
#3- The $5 fee for parking when booking your timed parking pass may be waived if the person making the reservation has one of the following and selects the option during the reservation process:
#4- Can’t find any timed slots for the dates you want? Don’t worry. Additional time slots will be available later this fall during a seven-day rolling window. For example, visitors can book parking passes for November 23rd on November 16th. On November 17th, visitors can book parking passes for November 24th, and so on. Visitors can book any open parking spots until the day of the event. The rolling window inventory becomes available online at 6 a.m. on November 16th and continues through the end of the event December 31st. “We realize that it’s early for many families to make November and December plans and we want people to have an opportunity for spur-of-the-moment visits,” Ricci adds. “We’re holding half the parking sites for that rolling seven-day window to ensure visitors can reserve closer to the event.”
#5- Worried your plans might change? After a parking pass is purchased, visitors have the option of viewing and downloading/printing the pass. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) advises people to wait until the last minute before viewing or printing their tickets, in case their plans change. As long as the parking pass has not been viewed or printed, date and entry time can be changed for free. Once the ticket is viewed or downloaded/printed, the parking pass is final and can’t be changed or refunded. Parking passes can be changed or canceled online or by calling 800-452-5687 until the date of the event, as long as they haven’t been printed or previewed.
#6- Upon arrival, visitors must present a screenshot of the parking pass via their smartphone or the printed parking pass, as well as the selected pass, permit, or campground confirmation. Park staff ask that visitors have everything ready to show to keep traffic moving.
#7- With the exception of service animals, dogs and other pets are not allowed outside vehicles at Shore Acres State Park.
#8- If somebody in your party needs a wheelchair, the park has a few wheelchairs available to those who may need them. These are available on a first-come, basis.
#9 You can visit the lights for as long as you need. On average, visitors typically stay for about an hour. Please be considerate to visitors who have reserved parking later on the date you’re there.