1 Float over Gallup.
Hot-air balloons mosey along dramatic canyons and over sandstone cliffs at the Red Rock Balloon Rally—the second-largest balloon rally in North America (and in New Mexico!)—which happens Friday through Sunday in Gallup. Along with mass ascensions lifting off from Red Rock Park and the Fox Run Golf Course, you can catch some holiday cheer on Saturday at the 1 p.m. downtown Christmas Parade, then see more balloons at the Rio West Mall’s Balloominaria at 6:30 p.m. Expect more than 200 balloons of all colors, shapes, and sizes.
2 Take flight.
This weekend’s Festival of the Cranes, at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, near San Antonio, celebrates the annual migration of the area’s sandhill cranes. It makes a triumphant return to in-person gatherings for the first time since 2020. Guided hikes, lectures, workshops, and a Wildlife Zone with activities for the entire family are on the docket. It happens Thursday through Saturday, and you can find a detailed schedule and buy tickets online.
3 Make merry.
Holiday markets have arrived! Here are six to hit this weekend.
In Los Alamos, WinterFest Weekend happens Friday through Sunday with performances of Sugar Plum on “The Hill”, an original ballet by Dance Arts Los Alamos; a winter arts-and-crafts fair at the Los Alamos Middle School gym from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; writing letters to Santa and decorating cookies from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Fuller Lodge; and the Holiday Lights Parade at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“There is something magical about being out at night, cuddled up with your family, having hot chocolate and seeing really beautiful lights,” says Jacquelyn Connolly, director of Los Alamos MainStreet. “It gets everyone excited for the season.” Look forward to trucks laden with lights; a toys-for-tots float that accepts donations on the spot; floats in line with this year’s theme, “Gnome Place Like Home”; and appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Compete for the ugly Christmas Sweater award at Jingle & Mingle at Western New Mexico University, in Silver City, on Friday evening. Gobble delicious tamales, snap a holiday photo, listen to a reading of ’Twas the Night Before Christmas by WNMU President Joe Shepherd, and hear live tunes from the Michele, Brandon, and Jesse Trio, as well as the Merry Makers acapella barbershop quartet, and sixth-grade carolers from Calvary Christian. It all happens at Regent’s Square from 5 to 8 p.m.
Bishop's Lodge turns festive for the holidays. Photograph courtesy of Bishops Lodge, Auberge Resorts Collection.
Shop from local artists the Bishop’s Lodge Holiday Market just north of Santa Fe from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday. See beadwork by Matt Campos, jewelry by Maria Samora, and ceramics from All the Clay Horses. Get your palm read by Modern Palmist and enjoy live music by guitarist Gustavo Pimentel from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Stick around for the tree lighting at 5 p.m.—a metal frame filled with farolitos. Look forward to carolers, warm drinks, and a festive vibe.
Albuquerqueans adore the Old Town Holiday Stroll, happening this year on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. Sip hot chocolate and bop along to holiday tunes from the Manzano Day School Choir, Baila! Baila!, the Sandia Singers, and the Albuquerque Girl Choir in the Plaza Gazebo. Don’t miss the little boutiques tucked into every corner. (Most will have free cookies!) The tree lighting ceremony starts at 6 p.m., with a towering 30-foot sequoia replica built by Red Shovel Landscape in the Plaza Don Luis while Mariachi Amigos de Nuevo México perform.
Christmas in the Foothills welcomes folks to shop and stroll on Main Street 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the sweet ghost town of Hillsboro, near Truth or Consequences. Kim Skinner, chairperson for the Sierra County Recreation and Tourism, says she loves the festive feelings the event brings. “I like to walk around and visit the local businesses and see all of the many artisans. I have purchased everything from Christmas cards to soaps to scarves in past years. It’s very festive.” Local musicians will perform at the community center and around street corners nearby, too.
Detour from Hillsboro to the little village of Monticello for the first weekend of its Monticello Holiday Market, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, as well as next weekend. You’ll find the world’s best balsamic vinegar, along with alpaca knitsm natural body products, handmade jewelry, and yummy food.
4 Bask in the glow.
Albuquerque’s Twinkle Light Parade takes over Central Avenue on Saturday evening. The road closes at 3 p.m. and the parade starts at 5 p.m. Stretching for one mile down historic Route 66, more than 200 floats and vehicles will lead the way for Santa’s Cruise. Local shops stay open late to welcome happy shoppers, and you can grab a hot chocolate from the Chocolate Dude to keep you warm and toasty. Leashed pets are welcome.
Farolitos and Christmas lights brighten the streets of Taos on Friday during the Lighting of Ledoux. It starts at 5:30 p.m. on the plaza with the Yuletide Tree Lighting and continues on Ledoux Street where you can enjoy music, stroll through farolitos, pop into shops, and catch a kids’ crafting activity at the Harwood Museum. The fun goes until 7:30 p.m.
“Christmas in Wonderland” is the theme for this year’s Festival of Lights Parade in Ruidoso. It starts at 5:30 p.m. on Sudderth Drive and then takes over Wingfield Park. Bring a present to donate to the local Toys for Tots.
5 Sing and dance.
The Baila! Baila! dance company’s annual Christmas in New Mexico brings together a multigenerational cast of dancers, stunning costumes, holiday songs from around the world, and mariachi musicians. Founded in 1990, Baila! Baila! focuses on teaching dance styles ranging from ballet folklórico to classical ballet, country, and hip-hop. See it at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Saturday and Sunday.
The New Mexico Philharmonic plays tunes of the season at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill on Saturday at 3 p.m. during the Winter Festival Hallelujah! Handel’s Messiah joins selections from The Nutcracker and other seasonal delights, including a Christmas carol sing-along.