When you think of places to spend a cozy Christmas vacation, New Mexico may not be at the top of your list. However, this beautiful state is home to some great winter holiday getaways. Whether you want to curl up in front of a fire in a snowy mountain cabin, or experience the magic of a traditional Spanish-style celebration, there are plenty of quaint towns and charming New Mexico vacation rentals to make your dream vacation come true. Here are a few of the top spots to spend Christmas in New Mexico.
This charming northern New Mexican town is known for its unique, artsy character, and that comes out in force during the winter holidays. Visit the annual Taos Folk pop-up store, which is typically open until December 24, to pick up handmade crafts and gifts from local artists, or simply stroll along the luminaria-lined streets and stop in at local galleries. On December 24, consider visiting nearby Taos Pueblo for the Christmas Eve Procession, an amazing bonfire-lit event with a long history. The next day, the pueblo holds a traditional Matachinas ceremonial dance, which is open to the public. Leave your camera and cell phone at your vacation rental, though, as photography is strictly forbidden during this event.
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If you prefer a more atypical adventure, head down to Carlsbad, New Mexico, which is home to Christmas On the Pecos. This unforgettable event features more than 100 stunning displays of elaborate holiday lights, which are reflected by the water of the Pecos River. Nightly boat tours are available. There is also an annual family-friendly holiday festival at the Living Desert Zoo. You can also visit Carlsbad’s most famous attraction, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where you can tour the caves. Don’t worry about the weather, since they stay at a comfortable 56 degrees Fahrenheit all year.
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Albuquerque is New Mexico’s largest city, but it still has a fun, small-town feel at Christmas. The most popular event is the River of Lights, which is held every year at the ABQ BioPark and features light displays, ice sculptures, live music, and more. There are large, popular art festivals in the nearby towns of Corrales and Placitas, where local artists show off their skills. Visiting Old Town during the Christmas season feels like stepping back in time, with glowing luminarias all around the historic plaza and ancient adobe buildings. If you plan to visit Old Town on December 24 or 25, however, plan ahead as parking can be difficult and reservations are usually needed at the restaurants.
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Ruidoso may be in the southern part of the state, but its high elevation and gorgeous pine-covered mountains make it seem like a winter wonderland. The town hosts an annual Festival of Lights celebration with dazzling light displays. Ruidoso Winter Park offers fantastic sledding and tubing so kids and adults of all ages can have a blast, and nearby Ski Apache in Mescalero offers more challenging skiing and snowboarding routes. Ski Apache also hosts an annual torchlight parade, where skilled skiers hit the slopes after dark while holding lighted torches to create a beautiful river of light. There is also traditional Apache drumming, great food and snacks, and more.
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This once-thriving mining town nearly died out, but in recent decades Madrid has become a haven for artists and other free spirits. Each year, the residents and shopkeepers decorate their eclectic old adobes and wooden cabins with festive lights for the annual Christmas Parade, which includes a contest for the best decorations. More than 40 shops offer items ranging from handmade jewelry to fine paintings to quirky, folksy gifts, and they stay open late on December weekends to allow a little extra shopping. Stop in at the Mine Shaft Tavern for some great food and regular live music on weekends.
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The small, historic town of Mesilla is located just outside of the bustling college town of Las Cruces, which lets you experience a variety of events. Mesilla Plaza, which is recognized as an important historical site, is filled with lights and luminarias during the holiday season. Carolers stroll about on Christmas Eve, and you can visit the shops and galleries for authentic local art, jewelry, and snacks. New Mexico State University in Las Cruces holds a variety of seasonal performances ranging from music to ballet to let you take in the culture, and the campus also puts on an elaborate luminaria display every year.
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7. Santa Fe
The historic city of Santa Fe may be one of the most popular Christmas destinations in New Mexico, so book your vacation rental in advance if you plan to stay there. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden hosts GLOW, a popular light festival which includes live music and a nightly laser show in addition to the typical holiday lights. If you arrive a couple of weeks before Christmas, keep an eye out for Las Posadas, a popular procession in which children reenact the Biblical journey of Mary and Joseph. Head over to Canyon Road for the popular and peaceful Farolito Walk on Christmas Eve, where you can take in thousands of gently glowing luminarias. There are also several pueblos nearby that invite guests to enjoy traditional dances on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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