Above: Expo New Mexico hosts the Winter Wonderland Drive Thru to benefit the Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House charities of New Mexico. Photograph courtesy of Winter Wonderland Drive Thru.
1 Get lit.
Sparkly lights illuminate the ABQ BioPark when River of Lights opens Saturday. The merry and bright experience includes more than 600 installations—magical creatures and holiday characters—all made with lights. As the biggest walk-thru light show in New Mexico, it can make even the biggest Scrooge smile. A tip for avoiding the crowds: Hit it during the week. Tickets are limited, and must be purchased online before you arrive.
The Winter Wonderland Drive Thru, at Expo New Mexico, is a light-lover’s paradise. “People will see a wide variety of displays,” says founder Kori Kobayashi. “Everything from a gigantic light-up dragon to special one-of-a-kind LED cutouts that feature popular themes like outer space, safaris, oceans, and the Southwest. We'll also have a large display of luminarias, hot-air balloons, and an interactive light-up tunnel.”
Holiday songs blast while you cruise, and an optional walking portion lets the kids share (masked) secrets with Santa. You can nab a ticket at the entrance, and a portion of the proceeds benefits the Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House charities of New Mexico.
2 Corner the market(s).
Shop artworks by 17 Indigenous makers on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill this Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., during the Holiday Market at the Wheelwright Museum. The nearly 20 artists represented include Randy Brokeshoulder (Hopi), who carves intricate dolls from cottonwood roots, Benjamin Harjo Jr. (Seminole, Absentee Shawnee), who expresses his creativity in bright color palettes, and Deanna Tenorio (Santo Domingo), who learned to make jewelry with her grandfather using shells and stones.
The New Mexico Artisan Holiday Market kicks off at the Spur Line Supply Co., near Albuquerque’s Old Town, this Friday through Christmas Eve. Local artisans will show their works on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Find ceramics, home goods, jewelry, fashion, and fine art by the likes of Jennifer Lamprey with Desert Fig Designs, David Suazo (Taos Pueblo), and Geraldine Tso (Diné).
After a 2020 hiatus, 150 artists from 15 states take over Expo New Mexico during the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Live musical performances enhance the shopping experience, which includes stained glass, ceramics, jewelry, and fine photographs. Park your kids at the Creation Station, where they can get crafty while you shop. You can buy tickets online; parking is extra.
3 Ignore the supply-chain conundrum.
Local businesses can counter slowdowns in the supply chain with aisles of goods perfect for gift-giving. Even better: They’re giving Small Business Saturday shopping a festive twist. Head to the Inn of the Mountain Gods, in Ruidoso, on Saturday, to see the lighting of a towering conifer at 6:30 p.m. in the Wendell’s Lobby. While you’re there, shop at a pop-up from Barnes & Noble and sip hot cocoa in the White Mountain Room.
Get a pic with Santa at the Tucumcari Railroad Museum and grab a stamp card before you head out to shop. Each business you visit will add a stamp. When your card is full, drop it at the museum for a chance to win a basket of holiday goodies.
In Silver City, local businesses will be merry and bright all day ahead of the 31st annual Lighted Christmas Parade at 7 p.m. Bundle up; it gets cold when the sun sets.
Visit Carlsbad shops and then pick a prime place to see the Electric Light Parade at 7 p.m. With a theme of “Christmas Vacation,” you can expect to see camping trailers decked in holiday cheer. DJ Ornelas will play holiday hits during the parade, which begins at Halagueno Arts Park in front of the Carlsbad Library.
4 Trot it off.
Still working off your Covid-19 pounds? And now a Thanksgiving feast, too? Lope over to Ruidoso’s Turkey Trot at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The 5K run/walk around the Links golf course supports the Lincoln County Food Bank. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. The entrance fee is one or more cans of food.
5 Twirl like a sugar-plum fairy.
A dancing toy battles an evil mouse king when the New Mexico Ballet performs The Nutcracker this weekend and next at Popejoy Hall, in Albuquerque, with special guests from the American Ballet Theater and the San Francisco Ballet. Get your tickets at unmtickets.com. Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of the performance are required for entry, and guests must wear masks inside the auditorium.