By Liz Otero
New Mexico is among the most beautiful places to be in the world during the holiday season. The state takes on a magical glow as nights fill with the flickering glimmer of neighborhoods decorated with sparkling lights and luminarias – or farolitos. In Albuquerque, residents and visitors can enjoy annual light and luminaria tours and displays, festive parades, Pueblo dances, holiday strolls, and the River of Lights, New Mexico’s largest illuminated walk-through attraction. Below is a guide to enjoying some of these most popular attractions the Albuquerque area has to offer:
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
From colorful dances, to bonfires and gingerbread houses, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center offers a multitude of holiday traditions this month.
“This is a very special time of the year at IPCC, with lots of fun and meaningful events and activities that we hope bring the holiday spirit into our guests’ lives,” said Wende Schwingendorf, public relations manager at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. “We also have some amazing exhibits on display right now.”
IPCC kicks off the holiday season with the annual Shop & Stroll in its courtyard from 4-8 pm December 2. Shop for gifts from Native artists selling hand-crafted ornaments, nativity sets, jewelry, art, and other unique gifts; warm yourself by the bonfire; enjoy the luminarias; and don’t forget to visit Pueblo Santa. The Sky City Buffalo Ram Dancers (Acoma) and the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers (Apache) will perform beginning at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free with a museum ticket, which cost $5 for adults or $3 with a New Mexico ID. Students/children admission costs $2, and children younger than 5 get in free.
Stories by the Fireside from 5-7 p.m. Saturdays, December 3, 10, and 17, are a welcomed age-old tradition. Enjoy Pueblo storytelling around the bonfire and cultural dances, along with complimentary refreshments. Admission for the event is a donation of a coat in good condition or two non-perishable food items. The items will be given to local organizations that support Native American families within the community who are in need.
A Cultural Dance Program from noon to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays will offer the following performances: December 3-4, Apache, White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers; December 10-11, Acoma, Howeya Family Traditional Dance Group; December 17-18, Zuni, Kallestewa Dance Group; December 31, Acoma, Sky City Buffalo Ram Dancers.
Finally, adults and children are invited to participate in the annual Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest. Entries should be inspired by a Pueblo village, house, community church or historic building. Prizes will be awarded in children’s and adult categories. Entries will be accepted through 3 p.m. December 18. Entry forms, official rules, and more details can be found at the IPCC website, https://indianpueblo.org/event/pueblo-gingerbread-house-contest/.
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is located at 2401 12th St. NW. Call (505) 843-7270 or visit indianpueblo.org.
River of Lights – A Holiday Light Show
Let it glow at the Botanic Garden, where no one does a dazzling holiday display like the Albuquerque BioPark’s River of Lights. After dark, you’ll be amazed as you stroll the park decked in millions of twinkling lights, illuminated animated sculptures, and hundreds of displays. The state’s most brilliant winter event will surely put you in the holiday spirit. It’s open nightly from 5-10 p.m. through December 30 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas). A River of Lights visit requires a reserved timed ticket, available online only. Admission Monday-Thursday costs $14 for adults or $7 for children ages 3-12. Admission from Friday through Sunday costs $17 for adults or $9 for children ages 3-12. Children 2 and under get in free. There will be free Park & Ride nightly service from the BioPark Zoo, 903 Tenth St. SW, with return services until 10 p.m. Call 311 for information. To book your tickets, visit holdmyticket.com or cabq.gov and search for River of Lights.
Trolley of Lights Tour
Step aboard the Holly Jolly Trolley and enjoy the Trolley of Light Tour from December 15-23. ABQ Trolley’s sightseeing tour takes you through Old Town Plaza, along Rio Grande Boulevard and through the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, where neighborhoods are ablaze with lights and luminarias for the holidays. Tours depart from Hotel Albuquerque, 800 Rio Grande Boulevard, and last approximately 75 minutes. The trolleys run at 6 and 8 p.m. Adults will pay $18-$28. Children under 5 can tour at no charge. Book your reservations at HoldMyTicket.com or visit abqtrolley.com.
Twinkle Light Parade
Get immersed in the magic of the holidays at the Twinkle Light Parade. Nob Hill will light up again this year as it hosts this free, family-friendly holiday event that illuminates a mile-long stretch on Route 66. The parade features hundreds of floats, marching bands, and lighted vehicles, including cars, buses, and more. The festivities are scheduled for December 3, starting at 5:15 p.m. It begins heading west at Washington Street and continues to Girard Boulevard. Central Avenue will close to traffic at 3 p.m. to allow for easy and walkable shopping and dining in Nob Hill. Visit cabq.gov/artsculture/things-to-do/annual-events/twinkle-light-parade or call 311 for more information.
Winter Wonderland 2022
Embrace the holiday spirit at Winter Wonderland at Expo NM, a favorite drive-through holiday experience. Attractions include a walk-through tour in Villa Hispana, live Winter Wonderland actors, a 300-foot light tunnel, giant holiday inflatables, local vendors selling hot cocoa, food, and a photo with Santa Claus. The lights, on at dusk, will remain through January 2. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $45-$75. Go to HoldMyTicket.com or winterwonderlandnm.com. A portion of the proceeds from every ticket sold will go to the Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House Charities New Mexico, and the Assistance League of Albuquerque.
Lights of Enchantment
Enjoy the mesmerizing holiday light displays at the Lights of Enchantment, a premiere drive-through light show. The event runs through December 31 at Sandia Speedway, starting at 6 p.m. daily. More than 30 new light displays, Santa’s playhouse, a choir contest, and a digital Music Garden are among the new additions this year. Advance tickets cost $49.95 per carload or $149 (VIP). Buy your ticket online at holdmyticket.com, and use coupon codes lights20, lights30, and lights40.
Lights, Luminarias, Farolitos
Nothing says New Mexico in December more than luminarias (also known as farolitos). The small brown paper lanterns are a centuries-old New Mexico tradition. Drive or stroll through historic Old Town to enjoy the Plaza lined with hundreds of luminarias. Just south of Old Town, head down San Pasquale Avenue SW to enjoy the lights in the Country Club area. Further south, visit the Barelas neighborhood and the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The Los Altos neighborhoods on Albuquerque’s West Side and the North Valley also transform into a winter wonderland.
ABQRide’s 56th annual Luminaria Tour will take place this year on Christmas Eve. The tour, which begins and ends at the Albuquerque Convention Center, takes about 45 minutes and travels through Old Town and the Country Club area. Tickets can be bought at http://www.luminariatour.com, where a full schedule can also be seen. Tickets will not be sold by phone or at the Hold My Ticket box office. For complete information, visit http://www.luminariatour.com.