Holiday Cheer at Shore Acres State Park

Christmas looms near once again and one of the best parts of the season is the abundance of holiday light displays. We tend to have some sort of patio or decorative lighting up year-round because, well, we just like lights, but this time of year brings the festivities to an entirely new level.

When we first arrived in Coos Bay we heard over and over that we needed to make sure to head to Shore Acres State Park for their holiday lights. Our home base at Bay Point Landing happens to be a mere six miles from the park so heading there on a dry evening last week was a no brainer.

Shore Acres began as a private estate owned by the timber baron and shipbuilder Louis J Simpson. The botanical and Japanese inspired gardens are lovely at any time of year and include plants brought in from around the world. His luxurious home sat atop the rocky bluffs and was a true showplace with an indoor pool and ballroom. After the original home burned down, he rebuilt an even larger mansion but fell onto hard times and Oregon State Parks purchased the estate in 1942.

The state of the mansion caused it to be taken down but the restored gardens remain a highlight all year long. The moderate climate allows for seasonal plantings that bring new blooms throughout most of the year.

The holiday season, however, is all about the lights! This tradition began in 1987 when a few of the Friends of Shore Acres thought adding a few holiday lights would brighten the season. That year a mere 6000 lights and one Christmas tree brought in 9000 visitors.

Jump forward to 2019 and young and old alike will be dazzled by over 325,000 individual lights in a dizzying array of colors that are strung from nearly every tree, bush, and shrub. This year brings 30-holiday trees, dozens of sculptures, and the festively decorated garden house will see between 50,000-70,000 visitors.

Even with all of the fanfare, we drove the short distance to the park not quite knowing what to expect. As we arrived there appeared to be no big display and although the parking lot was filled with a few dozen cars we were unprepared for the spectacular light show we were about to witness.

The $5.00 parking fee is all that is required to enter so we strolled in the direction of other visitors and rounded the corner of the gift shop to find one of the prettiest holiday light displays we’ve ever seen. Not only were there lights strung everywhere but there are quite a few “scenes” played out in lights and include a leaping frog, whales spouting, an undersea garden, and sailing ship among them.

Sounds of Christmas carols could be heard throughout the gardens and boy scouts offered up free cider, coffee, and cookies in the garden house adding to the scene while friendly park volunteers manned the cash registers and chatted with guests in the gift shop. Overall a fabulous experience. In fact, we enjoyed the lights so much we plan on returning with visiting friends on New Year’s Eve.

Things to know:

The holiday lights run Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve from 400pm-930pm each day.

The lights do bring in big crowds so be prepared for a bit of traffic and perhaps a walk from the further reaches of the parking lot.

There are complimentary wheelchairs at the visitors center/ gift shop that are available.

The $5.00/vehicle parking fee (cash or check only- exact change preferred) gets you into the light display.

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