IN THE HEART OF CARLSBAD, where holiday lights and wintertime merriment are cherished traditions, a unique experience awaits with a delightful nautical twist. Christmas on the Pecos, recognized as one of the top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association, draws over 10,000 visitors annually for enchanting 45-minute boat tours through a twinkling wonderland that adorns islands, boat docks, and riverside homes along the Pecos River.
The festivities begin daily at 6 p.m., departing from the historic Lake Carlsbad Beach Park, where the riverfront transforms into a glittering winter wonderland. Visitors can explore a Christmas village, peruse an arts-and-crafts market, savor delicious food, enjoy live music, and even meet Santa Claus. The grand finale of this holiday spectacle is a breathtaking fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. “There will be themed weekends, featuring movies, shopping, and gaming,” says Jill Barkley, Carlsbad Chamber Tourism director and coordinator of Christmas on the Pecos.
This year, exciting new additions promise to enhance the experience. Guests can now hop aboard The Pecos Express, a 16-passenger train that embarks on a delightful journey along the Pecos River. Golden tickets serve as boarding passes, adding a touch of whimsy to the adventure. Another new feature is the captivating light maze and Elf Town, where little ones can play in charming elf houses.
Within the Christmas Village, visitors can savor a diverse menu at PJ & B’s Rio Cafe. For quick snacks and beverages, The River Hut is the go-to spot, while families can create lasting memories with DIY s’mores kits.
The holiday season in Carlsbad officially commences on November 25 with the Night of Lights at Halagueno Arts Park, featuring a costumed fun run, vendor stalls, and choir performances. Carlsbad MainStreet hosts the Electric Light Parade, welcoming anyone with a festively adorned vehicle to participate.
To add more holiday cheer, the 12th annual Winter & Wine Festival on December 8 and 9 beckons visitors and locals alike to sample wines from across the state.
While visiting, be sure to stop at Blue House Bakery & Café for a morning caffeine and pastry fix. Hit Guadalupe Mountain Brewery for live entertainment, craft brews, and brick- oven pizza. Dive into the area’s rich culture and history at the Carlsbad Museum, New Mexico’s first municipal museum, or explore the wonders of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. After a day of adventure, unwind in the cozy elegance of the Trinity Hotel.
Celebrate Carlsbad Caverns National Park’s centennial.
Through the end of 2023, learn about Carlsbad and Carlsbad Caverns National Park with a mobile scavenger hunt on the Scavify app.
Stroll the Lake Carlsbad Beach Park and learn more about the national park’s history, cave formations, and more in the 20 interpretive exhibits along the way.
Take the Carlsbad Caverns King’s Palace Tour, a 1.5-hour ranger-guided journey through four cave chambers.