Old Town Albuquerque is a special place to visit any time of year, but during the holiday season, it is especially magical. Get transported back in time where the cold nights are warmed by the glow of a thousand paper lanterns called luminarias (or farolitos if you are from northern New Mexico), where kiva fireplaces bellow piñon pine-scented smoke, and where Christmas mass has been held continuously for over 300 years.
With so much to experience in Old Town during the holidays, we have put together this list to help you experience Old Town Albuquerque to the fullest. Check out the top activities to experience in Old Town, Albuquerque this holiday season.
1. Holiday Magic Along Historic Church Street, Romero Street, & the Historic Plaza
In historic Old Town Albuquerque, luminarias (paper lanterns) adorn the adobe buildings while twinkling lights shine in the trees above, while many independent boutiques and plaza courtyards invite you with festive decorations unique to NM.
2. Old Town Holiday Stroll – Friday, December 2nd
On the first Friday in December each year, Albuquerque gathers in Old Town to start off its holiday season with the Old Town Holiday Stroll. Streets, stores, patios, and the gazebo are all decked out with holiday decorations. Explore to find that perfect gift for loved ones, hot chocolate stands, small group musicians, biscochito giveaways, and festive carolers. The magic doesn’t just stay in the Gazebo on this special night – those who wander are definitely rewarded. Make sure to stop by Plaza Don Luis for the Tree Lighting at 6 p.m.
- Blue Portal: Hot cider & biscochitos. Open until 9PM on Holiday Stroll night along with artist demos
- Salsa Saint: Hot chocolate spiced with red chile.
3. Luminaria Walk on Christmas Eve
Luminarias (Spanish for “small bonfires”) have been around since at least the 16th century. People lit bonfires along the roads to guide people to Midnight Mass on the final night of Las Posadas. This tradition was eventually brought to Santa Fe when Spanish missionaries lit paper lanterns for nine consecutive nights beginning on December 16th.
Each Christmas Eve, the Old Town and Albuquerque Country Club neighborhoods are filled with luminarias and mesmerizing Christmas light displays. Luminarias are made of paper sacks, sand, and candles and it’s a beautiful neighborhood tradition to come together and set out the luminarias to welcome visitors. Start your tour in Old Town where the gazebo and streets are covered with luminarias. Linger and listen to the carolers in the gazebo. While in Old Town, stop by Treasure House Books to pick up a copy of Rudolfo Anaya’s “The Farolitos of Christmas”.
Then continue your journey on foot through the Country Club neighborhoods where hot air balloons can be seen “glowing” on the golf course. Wander the neighborhoods on the streets that are closed to cars and buses for a more peaceful experience.
3.1 Lights & Luminaria Holiday Bike Tour
A special way to experience the Luminarais on Christmas Eve is to join Routes Bicycle Tours. Join Routes as they take you through the heart of Albuquerque, from the historic avenues in Old Town to some of the most impressive light displays in the Southwest. Their unique and intimate bike tours are the perfect way to experience the holiday sights, sounds, scents, and magic of New Mexico without the traditional headaches of heavy traffic and slow-moving lines. Book your tour early as they can fill up quickly!
4. Seasonal Shopping Along Enchanting Streetscapes
5. Live Music in the Old Town Gazebo
The holiday celebrations continue throughout the month. Free performances by local talent will take place every weekend in December to entertain shoppers as they support local stores and restaurants in Historic Old Town. See the most up-to-date event schedule here!
- Saturday, December 3
- Noon – Dance Divas Performing Group
- Saturday, December 10
- 3 p.m. – Tuba Christmas
- Sunday, December 11
- 1 p.m. – Territorial Brass Band
- Friday, December 16
- 3 p.m. – New Mexico Bowl Pep Rally
- 7 p.m. – High Tea Carolers
- Saturday, December 17
- 4 p.m. – Roadrunner Brass
- Sunday, December 18
- 1 p.m. – Enchanted Mesa Show Choir
- Saturday, December 24
- 6 p.m. – Mountain View Mennonite Choir
6. River of Lights & Dinner in Old Town
For locals, the river of lights is a wonderful tradition. But we also know that parking and traffic can be a nightmare. Here is a secret to avoid the traffic. Park in Old Town Albuquerque and stay for dinner: Old Town Pizza Parlour, Kitsune Asian Inspired Food, Fat T’s BBQ, High Noon Saloon, Church Street Cafe, Antiquity Steakhouse, Ezra’s Taste of Home, Gobble This, Old Town Cafe, and more!
Then, hop on the ART bus (Its free and buses run every 7-10 min) from the Old Town stop, and ride it west one stop only 3 min to the Biopark Stop. And you are there!
7. Shop at the Locally Famous Christmas Shop
The Christmas Shop has been an Albuquerque Old Town tradition for more than 45 years! The Christmas Shop in Old Town offers year-round Christmas favorites: from local New Mexico artisans to cherished collectibles.
8. Visit Patio Market’s Holiday Themed Patio, “Patio Blue” for the Holidays
A charming historic patio called Patio Market renames itself to Patio Blue during the holidays. Come see a Christmas tree made of upcycled plastic bottles and a thousand blue lights that decorate the patio surrounded by boutique shops like: Ghostwolf Gallery, Wild Hare Studio, Nikki Zabicki, Blackbird Coffee House, and more!
9. Attend Mass at San Felipe de Neri Parish
San Felipe de Neri has been the spiritual heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico for more than 300 years. The present church building was constructed in 1793 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is so special to get to attend mass in this historic building, even more so during the holiday season.
- Immaculate conception: Dec 8
- Christmas Eve: TBD
- Christmas Day: TBD
10. Walk the Historic Neighborhoods Looking at Christmas Decorations
Wander the streets where traditional homes made of mud-brick adobe and crude terron are on full display. Search for architectural elements which are unique to this part of the world and scattered throughout. From pinon pine lintels, hand-carved woodwork, kiva fireplaces, small plot farms, acequias, and so much more.