It is a magical, twinkling season in Albuquerque. Don't miss three of the city's most dazzling light displays before the holiday season is over. Here's what to expect from each.
Cliff's Magical Christmas
After a very successful opening season in 2013, Cliff's Amusement Park is once again celebrating the holidays in festive style with Cliff's Magical Christmas. The holiday transformation of the park opened on Friday, Nov. 28 and has already received national acclaim from USA Today. Bundle up and bring the family out for holiday lights, rides and a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Cliff's Magical Christmas Tree
Arguably, the focal point of Cliff's holiday display is the 120' Christmas tree. The tree is made up of 10,000 choreographed lights that dance and move to the beat of Christmas music. The best part? New this year, guests can actually RIDE the Cliff's Magical Christmas Tree! The ride that makes up the center of the tree (called the Cliff Hanger) is actually open while the tower is decked out in lights. The ride takes 12 riders high into the air and drops them at the speed of gravity to safely land at the base of the tree.
Santa's Workshop and Story Time with Mrs. Claus
While celebrating the holiday at Cliff's, don't miss your chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus. The pair will be on hand to greet park guests and even share stories. Have your kiddos pull up a seat around her rocking chair to hear tales of Christmas past.
This is the latest schedule from Cliff's. Please visit their website for the most current schedule.
ABQ BioPark's River of Lights
Now in its 18th year, the River of Lights celebration at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden is a holiday favorite here in Albuquerque. New sculptures are designed and added each year, delighting first-time visitors and seasoned guests. River of Lights opened on November 29th this year and will run through January 3, 2015.
In addition to viewing nearly 500 light displays at the park, there are special entertainment days that add to the River of Lights fun. Don't miss the family-friendly event, Supper with Santa, at the Shark Reef Cafe (December 15-23) or adult-favorite, Rockin' Nights, featuring appetizers and live entertainment nightly (December 26-January 3). There are also special holiday nature crafts and a G-Scale model train that runs on select dates. Find more information here.
Polar Bear Express
If you were lucky enough to snag tickets aboard the Polar Bear Express Train before they sold out, you are in for a treat! The train at the ABQ BioPark is bedazzled in lights as it takes you on a magical night-time journey complete with Santa, hot cocoa and sweet treats upon boarding, an enchanting story as the train rolls on and a souvenir gift. This is one not to miss. Didn't get your tickets this year? Be sure to be on the lookout for next year's event.
2014 Luminaria Tour
It's a big year for luminarias here in Albuquerque. Join ABQ Ride on the 50th Anniversary Luminaria Tour! The tour takes guests on a journey through beautiful neighborhoods filled with luminarias and Christmas lights - from Old Town to the Albuquerque Country Club area. If you didn't already get your tickets, they are sold out, but there are fun outfitters around town that still have a limited number of tickets available for their tours.
Routes Rentals & Tours
Seeing the beautiful luminarias on Christmas Eve is even more fun when you arrive with lights of your own. Our friends at Routes Rentals & Tours transform their signature cruiser bicycles into impressive light displays and take you and your friends on a journey through some of the area's most popular holiday neighborhoods. Best part? A keepsake mug for your hot cocoa is provided (it attaches to the handlebars of the bike and is yours to keep once the tour is done!). Find tickets and more information here.
ABQ Ride's tours sell out quickly, so most people viewing luminarias in Albuquerque are on foot. Here are a few of the most popular neighborhoods and what to watch for:
Old Town: Old Town makes a big deal out of Christmas Eve, and for good reason. Many visitors head down to Old Town to enjoy the thousands of lights. The neighborhood is closed to traffic apart from the bus tours, so get there early to find a parking spot at one of the Old Town Museums or in the lots east or south of Old Town. Be sure to stop by the San Felipe de Neri Church, which is open and features beautiful nativity scenes. Many of the shops stay open late, welcoming last-minute holiday shoppers. (Insider tip: bring cash so you can pick up a hot chocolate from a street vendor).
Country Club: Homes in this neighborhood really get into the holiday spirit. This neighborhood has been featured in many movies and TV shows filmed in Albuquerque, and showcases homes of varying architectural styles - everything from new style Tuscan homes to classic pueblo-style properties built in the 30s and 40s. The streets in this neighborhood are not closed off for pedestrians, so just be sure to watch for cars while you are enjoying the lights.
Ridgecrest/Parkland Hills: The other popular neighborhood - best enjoyed by vehicle due to it length - is the Ridgecrest/Parkland Hills area. You can start your journey at Ridgecrest and Carlisle and then head southwest until you reach Jackson or Truman. Then turn around and do the tour again, this time coming down the opposite side of Ridgecrest.
Find more holiday events happening in Albuquerque here.