Tucked into a corner of Northeast Portland in a park-like space is a Catholic sanctuary known as “The Grotto.” The official name is the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, and it's a shrine and botanical garden. It covers 62 acres that were purchased by Father Ambrose Mayer in 1923; he intended to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary on the land. The project was even blessed by then-Pope Pius XI in a handwritten letter, and the first mass was held at The Grotto in 1924.
The sanctuary garden includes a church, a meditation hall, and long walking trails. One of the trails allows visitors to stop at each of the Stations of the Cross. One of the most popular annual events at The Grotto is the Festival of Lights during the Christmas season, when the entire park is lit up beautifully and there are concerts and other events.
Admission to the gardens and buildings on the lower level of The Grotto is free, but to reach the top of the cliff you must buy a ticket for the elevator. These are $5 for ages 13-54, $4 for seniors, and $3 for ages 6-12. The Grotto is open daily, but seasonal hours vary. It's typically open starting at 9am and closes between 4-8:30pm depending on the season.