Officially called the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, this shrine and chapel is more botanical garden than typical religious space. Purchased in 1923 by Father Ambrose Mayer and later blessed by Pope Pius XI, visitors and pilgrims have been frequenting this Roman Catholic destination for nearly 100 years.
The space has two levels: the plaza level and the upper level. The plaza level is free to visit, and offers access to the chapel, visitor center, and gift shop. The upper level is where you find the gardens. It's worth paying the upper level entry fee to stroll in nature, visit the Meditation Chapel, and admire the replica medieval labyrinth.
Things to know before you go
- Catholic visitors may want to walk the trail that follows the Stations of the Cross.
- Members of the military, seniors, and kids receive discounted entry to the Upper Gardens.
- The Grotto is wheelchair accessible, though there are uneven surfaces.
- You should plan to spend at least 1.5–2 hours exploring the Grotto.
How to get there
The most convenient way to reach the Grotto is to drive to Northeast Portland. You can take Interstate 84 from points east and west, or Interstate 205 from points north and south. Find the Grotto off of NE Skidmore Street, and enter at NE 85th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard. You can park for free at the on-site lot, though you may be directed to overflow parking during special events.
When to get there
The Grotto is open daily, though hours change seasonally. Tickets are sold to the upper level up to one hour before closing time. The Grotto hosts seasonal happenings including an ongoing concert series (in both the plaza and chapel), the Christmas Festival of Lights, and the annual Blessing of the Animals, in July. Check the calendar for events, and to confirm the mass schedule.
Enjoying Music at the Christmas Festival of Lights
From Thanksgiving through the end of December, the Grotto hosts the Christmas Festival of Lights. This annual musical event features hundreds of choir concerts celebrating the holiday season. Highlights include hearing music in the acoustically rich 500-seat Chapel of Mary, watching live outdoor carolers, and of course, marveling at the colorful lights adorning the property.
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