Albuquerque Lights Up for the Holidays

Albuquerque Lights Up for the Holidays

Jessica Allen

Every year during the winter season, the Albuquerque community comes together to celebrate the holidays. They layer themselves in hats, jackets, gloves, and cozy socks, with a warm hot chocolate in hand, to brave the chilly weather and come see amazing holiday attractions: lights. Albuquerque offers numerous opportunities to observe traditions in our community and fill the city with bright lights. Spectators come from across the country to see the fantastic spectacles, which also offer a great occasion to go with friends and family and explore what the city of Albuquerque has to offer.

The River of Lights is an exciting event located at the Albuquerque BioPark, which boasts millions of holiday lights in over 500 different bright displays, as it has for the twenty years that the event has been open. It is available for viewing for more than a month, from November 25 to December 30from 6 to 9:30 p.m. When the River of Lights first began displaying the luminous decorations in 1997, it was as a fundraiser to gather money to maintain the beauty and quality of the BioPark. Now, the money that is raised from tickets, which cost 12 dollars, is used to start many new projects within the New Mexico BioPark system.

When the event opens its gates for the first day of the holiday season, lines of people wrap around the entrance, anxiously awaiting their tickets. Upon entering  the park, visitors  are greeted by thousands of bright sculptures displaying the dedication and creativity that go into the event. Food stands offering kettle corn, cotton candy, and warm hot chocolate line the pathway as holiday carols play in the background. As you enjoy your treats, you are able to see the intricate and detailed display of lights scattered across the park. Some sections of the park have their own themes, such as an alien abduction scene in a cornfield, a portrayal of the Jurassic era complete with gigantic dinosaurs, and an under-the-sea theme near the aquarium. There is even a toy train that winds around the stunning assortment of lights. The BioPark staff also decorate the greenhouse with beautiful blue and purple lights, highlighting the natural beauty of the plants inside. It is amazing holiday fun for the entire family to enjoy and explore the different sections of the charming display.

New Mexico also has a unique tradition of setting out luminarias each year. This holiday celebration has been around for about 300 years, when Spanish colonies in the Rio Grande valley brought lanterns, called luminarias, to celebrate the birth of Christ and greet him with a pathway of lights. Over the past 300 years, luminarias have also been created with piñon wood that was made into a box-like structure, called farolitos, which evolved into the familiar brown bag luminarias of today. The Luminaria Walk is an annual event  in the city of Albuquerque that celebrates this unique tradition. Handmade lights, created with paper lunch bags, sand, and candles, are scattered throughout Old Town and neighborhoods surrounding the area during Christmas Eve. On the morning of the big event, each household prepares for this fascinating light show. Everyone takes part in folding each individual bag, filling it with sand, and then placing a candle inside. At night, thousands of people crowd the streets as they view the glowing lights and luminarias. The City of Albuquerque also offers bus tours around Old Town and the surrounding neighborhoods during the Luminara Tour on Christmas Eve. People are able to hop on an ABQ Ride bus and enjoy the 45-minute experience in a warm environment. Usually, the tickets for the bus rides sell out within a few hours. This is the 53rd year that the city is hosting this event, giving an amazing opportunity for Burqueños to enjoy each other’s company as they view a beautiful display of lights.