The air is crisp; luminarias and traditional holiday lights are up all over the city. Yes, it is time for Christmas in Albuquerque. Come bring your family to celebrate the holidays with all of the fun Albuquerque Christmas events.
Enjoy holiday strolls, theater performances, visits with Santa, and breathtaking light displays. They will get you in the holiday spirit and fill your hearts with joy. Updated for 2020!
Albuquerque Christmas Events
There is no shortage of beautiful light displays in the Albuquerque area. Start with The River of Lights Holiday Light Festival that runs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. The River of Lights at ABQ BioPark Botanic Gardens is New Mexico’s largest walk-through light show.
Families enjoy seeing thousands of Christmas lights, light displays, and animated sculptures as they walk through the gardens. Make sure that you allow plenty of time to arrive at this event is popular and parking can become crowded. Because of this, a free park and ride is available on select nights to make your visit more enjoyable.
The Twinkle Light Parade is a favorite Christmas event in Albuquerque. On the first Saturday in December, come enjoy the 100 different floats all lit up and twinkling for the holidays. Although this event is popular, you can get a good viewing spot by getting there early. Also, avoid traffic by taking the free park and ride. Cancelled for 2020.
The Bugg Lights started as a light display in a private home in an Albuquerque Heights neighborhood. However, due to traffic in the area, this display was relocated to the Harvey House Museum.
Running from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, this mesmerizing light display is spread throughout the grounds of the facility. You can view some of the lights from your car and others from a walking path. Santa might even be there for a visit. This is a FREE event, but donations are appreciated. Check website for updates. It is unclear whether this event will take place in 2020 as of 11/10/20.
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Luminarias, also know as faralitos, are a very important part of holiday traditions in New Mexico. Traditionally, they are a simple paper bag filled with sand and a single tea light. Luminarias have been placed on rooftops, pathways, walls, and doorways and lit up on Christmas Eve for centuries.
The best way to see the luminarias in Albuquerque is to schedule a one hour tour for Christmas Eve Night on Albuquerque’s City bus, ABQ Ride. Stay warm as the bus drives you through beautiful neighborhoods filled with Luminarias and Christmas lights. Tickets go on sale starting on Black Friday and sell out quickly so get yours today or plan for next year!
If you want to see the beautiful luminarias but didn’t get a ticket on the bus, head over to Gate of Heaven Cemetery just after sunset on Christmas Eve. You will see luminarias lining the roads and walkways of the cemetery as well as families decorating each grave with lights.
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Strolling, Shopping, and Santa
Change the burden of shopping for Christmas gifts into a whole new and fun experience by participating in a Shop and Stroll. Designed for shoppers to help local businesses thrive by buying local, the fun of live entertainment, the lighting of Christmas trees, visits with Santa, and unique food brings festivity to shoppers.
Bundle up the kids and bring them to the Nob Hill Shop and Stroll on Central Ave. between San Mateo and Girard on the first Thursday in December at 5:00 pm. to support local shopping, food, family entertainment, and photos with Santa.
Luminaries bring festivity to The Old Town Holiday Stroll which takes place on the first Friday in December. Purchasing a collectible lapel pin gives shoppers discounts on purchases while proceeds go directly to local charities.
On this night, visitors also receive free admission, holiday activities, and crafts, and discounted shopping at Explora (the children’s museum), The Natural History Museum, and The Albuquerque Museum. These three museums, located in Albuquerque’s historic Old Town, are just a short walk from the Plaza Don Luis.
For a free indoor strolling Christmas event in Albuquerque, bring your family to The Festival of Trees, the first weekend in December at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Come to view beautifully decorated trees, enjoy live entertainment, children’s crafts, and a visit from Santa.
Theatre Shows and Special Christmas Events in Albuquerque
Come and get in the Christmas spirit while you check out amazing performances and special events intended to delight kids and adults of all ages. You are sure to find a spectacular holiday play for the family to enjoy at Albuquerque Little Theater.
For traditional New Mexican entertainment, come to Popejoy Hall. Here families enjoy a lively traditional performance with Mariachi dancers and musicians at Mariachi Christmas. Cancelled for 2020.
When it comes to Nutcracker performances, Albuquerque seems to have it all. From the traditional Moscow Ballet to a version that takes place in New Mexico in the 1800’s, these holiday performances are sure to delight. With all of these choices, you are sure to find the perfect presentation of the Nutcracker for your family.
Nutcracker on the Rocks, performing at the Keshet Center for the Arts, opens with the traditional Tchaikovsky Overture and closes with his dramatic Pas De Deux. The middle is filled with Rock and Roll, modern dance styles, and plenty of energy. With plenty of action going on this performance is sure to capture your attention and entertain the entire family. Cancelled for 2020.
With only one performance of Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker in mid-December, make sure to purchase your tickets soon. This professional presentation of the traditional Nutcracker is sure to delight with detailed costumes, larger than life puppets, and even 3-D effects. The 2020 performance will be digital due to Covid-19.
If you are looking for something original to New Mexico then book one of the performances for Nutcracker in the Land of Enchantment. This rendition is presented by the Festival Ballet and offers a presentation of life in the late 1800’s in territorial New Mexico. Come and enjoy New Mexico heritage and traditions in this classical presentation. Cancelled for 2020.
When you have had your fill of holiday lights and activities, come experience some of the many outdoor activities that Albuquerque has to offer such as the Sandia Peak Tramway. First, take in the breathtaking views as you soar to new heights at a total distance of 2.7 miles. Then view the City of Albuquerque and beyond.
Play in the snow and even enjoy a snack or meal if the High Finance Restaurant is open. Make sure to bundle up yourself and the kids when you make this adventure. Temperatures at the peak can be 30 degrees cooler than at the base.
Next, grab your sleds or tubes and head to Capulin Snow Play Area to burn some energy. This play area has a developed sledding hill complete with vault toilets and a fire pit. The forest service maintains the hill so check regularly to make sure they are open.
Finally, head up to the Sandia Peak Ski Area for some great beginner and intermediate skiing. There is a full rental shop located at the base of the ski area as well as skiing and snowboarding lessons for children and adults. Be sure to warm up those fingers with a cup of hot cocoa in the lodge.
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