Top 20 Portland Oregon attractions

The Grotto Portland

Experience solitude at an urban sanctuary in northeast Portland.

The Grotto Portland is 15 minutes from downtown, in the northeast part of the city.

This 62-acre Catholic outdoor sanctuary is open to people of all faiths and beliefs, and was constructed in 1924 at the site of a former quarry to honor Mary, Our Sorrowful Mother.

The main plaza sits at the base of a dramatic 110-foot cliff, and has a visitor center, gift shop, church and grotto. The plaza is free to visit, but a small fee is required to ride an elevator to the top of the cliff to enjoy the upper level gardens. It takes an hour to walk around the 1-mile loop at the upper level gardens, past a chapel, shrines, sculptures and a woodland area.

The Grotto is especially popular for it's annual Christmas Festival of Lights when the gardens are illuminated by thousands of lights.

The Grotto Portland is at 8840 NE Skidmore Street (the lower gardens are free, but check hours & tickets for the upper gardens).

10 best things to see at the Grotto Portland

1. See the 14 Stations of the Cross at the entrance. These beautiful sculptures are nestled in the garden near the main parking lot of the Grotto Portland, and are sculpted in bronze. They have been here since the 1930s.

2. Browse the Gift Shop. The gift shop is a short distance from the parking lot, and has religious merchandise like rosaries, candles, prayer cards, statues, nativities, and patron saint medals.

3. Continue to the Visitor Center at the main plaza.  Guided tours of the gardens start at the visitor center, and are included in the price of admission to the upper level gardens.  You can also pick up a useful map of the gardens here.

4. See the stunning Grotto Cave. This serene cave is south of the plaza, and includes a replica of Michelangelo's Pieta sculpture above a stone altar, and rows of pews for outdoor services. Light a candle and place it on the votive stand.

5. Visit the Chapel of Mary to see incredible alfrescos. The Chapel of Mary is at the east end of the plaza, and you are welcome to attend regular church services here, or admire the alfrescos inside.

6. Take the elevator to the upper level gardens to the Meditation Chapel This sleek glass and concrete chapel has floor to ceiling windows with incredible views of Mt Saint Helens.

7. Start an anti-clockwise loop of the gardens past 5 religious shrines. The pathway forks just after passing the Saint Francis of Assissi Statue. Go right at the fork to pass 5 religious shrines, or left at the fork to see the 34 wood carvings of the Via Matris.  Either path meets up again a short distance away at a labyrinth. (The 5 shrines are the Lithuanian Wayside Shrine, Our Lady of Czestochowa Polish Shrine, Our Lady of Lavang Shrine, Dambana Filipino Faith Shrine, and Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe).

8. Explore a replica of a medieval labyrinth. This eye-catching labyrinth at the Grotto Portland is identical to the one at the Chartres Cathedral in France. 

9. Continue to the Peace Garden (1.5 acres) with a stream and ponds.  The bronze plaques nestled amongst the garden, depict the four Mysteries of the Rosary (Luminous, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries).

10. Follow the loop path to the sandstone Servite Monastery, closed to the public. 

11. See the tiny red Chapel of St Anne. This chapel is just past the Servite Monastery, and filled with famous reproductions paintings of the Madonna.  The loop path then travels north back to the elevator.

Know before you go 

  • Hours and admission:  here
  • Parking: free.
  • Address:  8840 NE Skidmore Street, Portland, Oregon 97220. 

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