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10 Reasons Winter in Albuquerque Is Even More Magical Than Santa

Magic is the art of illusion, but in Albuquerque, we’re not conjuring up anything deceptive. We’ve just got a city with a winter magic that can’t be found anywhere but here.

1. The Old Town Christmas Tree Amazes Us

Winter often centers around the holiday tree, and the official one for Albuquerque gets lit the first Friday in December, during the Holiday Shop and Stroll. I was amazed the first time I realized the giant Christmas tree in Old Town was made up of many smaller trees. First time visitors continue to be amazed each year. 

2. The River of Lights Transports Us

Aileen O'Catherine

Every winter, the Botanic Gardens change into a repository of unicorns, giraffes, pickup trucks, animated sculptures and a variety of other larger than life forms. It’s a special, one of a kind Light Zoo found nowhere else.

3. Luminarias Glow a Magical Brown

We’ve got the best light displays, the ones that glow welcome all over the city, and not just on Christmas Eve. In Albuquerque, luminarias light houses and sidewalks for weeks, their rectangular shapes filling us with holiday warmth. Other cities put on luminaria displays, but they glow best in Albuquerque. 

4. The Twinkle Light Parade Lights the Night

Aileen O'Catherine

Parades have their high school marching bands, beauty queens and car clubs, but the Twinkle Light parade has dozens of floats decked out in hundreds of twinkling lights. Santa is always in the last float, reminding children of his visit soon to come.

5. The Sandias Shine in White

The Sandias are always beautiful, and ever changing. In winter when they put on their white coat, they’re dazzling. The mountain’s east side is usually draped in enough snow to bring enthusiasts out for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. There is nothing quite like the quiet of the woods on a winter’s day when the only sounds to be heard are the shush of moving snow and the rhythm of your own breath.

6. We Have Three Shop and Strolls: Count 'Em: Three

Aileen O'Catherine

We love local. So every holiday season, we get a lot of holiday shopping done at the three annual shop and strolls that take place just before Christmas. The Old Town Holiday Stroll, the Nob Hill Shop and Stroll and the North Fourth Stop and Shop bring local merchants face to face with buyers. The Nob Hill Shop and Stroll takes place after the Twinkle Lights Parade, and the Old Town Holiday Stroll after the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree. Where else can you do that?

7. Las Posadas de Barelas Reminds Us of a Manger

Albuquerque Journal

The annual re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging is a long New Mexico tradition. Barelas will hold its 68th Las Posadas this year, as Joseph leads Mary and her burro through winding streets, stopping at neighborhood houses that serve as “inns.” Their long procession includes shepherds, kings, musicians and matachine dancers, who follow the couple as they reach their final destination.  

8. Our Nutcrackers Are All Our Own

Nutcracker performances have always had ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s music, but in Albuquerque, they move to a beat all their own. Nutcracker in the Land of Enchantment transforms the Snow Queen’s realm into a pinon forest in winter. Nutcracker on the Rocks has dancers in wheelchairs, a Rat King with rock n' roll followers, and a motorcycle driven onstage. 

9. Bugg Lights Bring Back Memories

Aileen O'Catherine

This sweet holiday tradition has been going on for 40 years. Albuquerque has followed the lights from their original destination at the Bugg family home in the northeast heights to Budaghers, and now to Menaul School. They light up the campus each December, where John Penguin Souza strikes up his penguin band, Snoopy skates around the ice rink, and other cartoon characters dance, play the saxophone and ride ferris wheels to the delight of visitors.

10. A City Beautiful Day or Night

We’ve got a mild climate, and relatively little snow, even though we do have four seasons. We’ve got brilliant sunshine more than 300 days a year. We also have the best dark skies for starry nights and the telescopes to prove it (UNM Observatory, Magdalena, Rio Rancho and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History). On winter nights, the clear skies punch out the stars, planets and celestial objects for great viewing.