Winter in the Duke City will be particularly enchanting this year, as many public holiday traditions are anticipated to return after a year’s hiatus. While 2020’s pandemic-induced public health restrictions led to canceled festivals in Albuquerque and surrounding cities, the local magic is back this December with twinkle light tours, parades, luminarias, River of Lights, and historic decorated neighborhoods.
Here’s a guide to seeing some of Albuquerque’s brightest holiday happenings.
• River of Lights
The BioPark’s River of Lights will once again brighten the holidays as the park comes to life with millions of twinkling lights, animated sculptures, and hundreds of displays. Stroll the ultimate walk-through light show and get in the Christmas spirit with this magnificent array open nightly from 5-10 p.m. through December 30 (except Christmas eve and Christmas). Tickets will be sold in limited quantities and online only. Admission Monday-Thursday costs $14, or $7 for children ages 3-12. Admission Friday through Sunday costs $17, or $9 for children ages 3-12. See riveroflights.org.
• Winter Wonderland 2021
This popular drive-through holiday event returns to its new location at Expo NM. Winter Wonderland attractions include light displays, a 300-foot light tunnel, luminarias, Santa’s workshop, and live performances. There is also an optional walking tour where you can take pictures with Santa Claus, enjoy vendors, and sip hot cocoa. Winter Wonderland runs through January 2, from 6-11 p.m. nightly. Pre-sale ticket costs start at $30 per vehicle from HoldMyTicket.com. For more information, visit https://winterwonderlandnm.com/. A portion of every ticket sold will go to the Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House Charities – New Mexico.
• Lights of Enchantment
Enjoy a drive-through light show at Lights of Enchantment 2021. A 60-foot Christmas tree with a 10-foot star is one of the new sights among more than a million lights and 375 displays. The event runs through January at Sandia Speedway, 100 Speedway Park Blvd. Advance tickets cost $49.95 per carload. For more details, visit lightsofenchantment.com. Buy your ticket online at holdmyticket.com, use coupon code “lights20,” and save 20 percent.
• Trolley of Lights Tour
Leave your car behind and step aboard the Trolley of Lights Tour from December 15-23. The trolley starts at Hotel Albuquerque, 800 Rio Grande Blvd., and takes you to see lights and luminarias in Old Town Plaza, along Rio Grande Boulevard, and through the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. Trolleys depart at 6 and 8 p.m., with tours lasting about 75 minutes. Tickets cost $15-$30. Book reservations at HoldMyTicket.com or visit abqtrolley.com.
• Twinkle Light Parade
Nob Hill will once again host the Twinkle Light Parade, which lights up a mile-long stretch of Central Avenue, heading west between Washington Street and Girard Boulevard. The parade features an array of lighted vehicles, including illuminated cars, semis, and even garbage trucks. In addition, there will be floats, marching bands, and a special visit from Santa Claus. The festivities are free and scheduled for December 4, starting at about 5:15 p.m. Visit https://www.cabq.gov/artsculture/things-to-do/annual-events/twinkle-light-parade or call 311 for more information.
• Lights, Luminarias, Farolitos
The annual luminaria bus tour was awaiting confirmation as of deadline for this story. However, you can still hop in your car and make the trek to usher in the holiday spirit on Christmas Eve:
Drive or stroll through historic Old Town, where the plaza transforms into a holiday wonderland filled with hundreds of luminarias. Then, just walking distance south of Old Town, drive down San Pasquale Ave. SW to visit the Country Club area, where the entire neighborhood and the Albuquerque Country Club will also look magical among luminarias.
While cruising through the southwest part of town, visit the Barelas neighborhood, then head south to the National Hispanic Cultural Center. While in the area, continue to the Los Altos neighborhood on Albuquerque’s West Side, just south of Central Avenue along old Coors Boulevard. Albuquerque’s North Valley will also display lights and luminarias. To get there, travel north on Rio Grande Boulevard.
If you’re in the mood to get out of town, take a drive north to Santa Fe and enjoy a cherished decades-old holiday tradition – the Canyon Road Farolito Walk. The festivities begin at dusk (about 5 p.m.) on Christmas Eve, where farolitos galore will line Canyon Road as carolers sing, bonfires blaze, and people stroll amid the glow of the warm lights. See farolitowalk.com.
Despite the re-emergence of many annual holiday events, some remained closed or were pending confirmation at deadline for this publication.