Ring in the New Year with a Southwestern twist in New Mexico. Here, locals put their own spin on the classic ball drop, which is the area’s must-see seasonal attraction. Check out the funky Chile Drop in Las Cruces, or watch the raising of the Zia symbol in Santa Fe. When you book a stay at one of many cozy New Mexico vacation rentals, you can spend your days skiing in the city of Taos, or get off the grid in the forests of Ruidoso. When it comes to deciding where to go in New Mexico for your New Year’s vacation, these charming cities are a great place to start.
1. Santa Fe
Bid farewell to the old year amidst the beautiful pueblos of Santa Fe. Each year, the city hosts New Year’s Eve on the Plaza in the historic downtown area. Sip a hot chocolate and warm your hands at the many bonfires around the plaza as you listen to live bands. At the countdown to midnight, the city raises the Zia sun symbol as fireworks fill the sky. For families, the kids’ party at GLOW at the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens is a great option. Wander through glowing Christmas lights, check out the laser light show, and participate in the 7 p.m. countdown.
2. Jemez Springs
Lose yourself in a winter wonderland for the new year in Jemez Springs. On December 31, head to the Valles Caldera Cross Country Ski Area for the annual Fire and Ice New Year’s Eve event. Bring your skis or snowshoes to explore the trails under the stars before heading to the bonfire for a cocktail. At midnight, the quiet mountains come to life with fireworks. During the day, enjoy the spectacular skiing on the preserve’s 35 miles of groomed trails; Valle Grande is great for beginners, while History Grove takes you through challenging, stunning terrain. Afterward, soothe your muscles in the naturally-heated pools at the Jemez Hot Springs.
For skiers, it’s hard to beat New Year’s Eve in Taos. Head up to Taos Ski Valley early in the evening to watch colored lights illuminate the snowy peaks during the mountain’s annual laser show. Stick around for the torchlight parade and the end-of-year fireworks. Afterward, head indoors to sip a craft cocktail in a casual atmosphere before the countdown to midnight in the Martini Tree Bar. A short walk away, the Stray Dog Cantina rings in the New Year with New Mexican fare and margaritas.
As you decide where to go in New Mexico for New Year’s, Albuquerque provides a wide variety of options. One of the city’s most popular New Year’s Eve parties is the Old Skool New Year’s Eve Bash, which happens every year at the Crowne Plaza. Experience Albuquerque’s unique cultural heritage at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s New Year’s Eve event, which includes a dinner of fusion Native American cuisine, dancing, and a live band. For a family-friendly event, check out New Year’s Eve on the Plaza at the Civic Plaza for ice skating, count down to noon at Explora’s Noon Year’s Eve celebration, or marvel at a menorah made of glowing hot air balloons at Balloon Fiesta Park’s Chanukah Night Glow.
5. Angel Fire
On December 31, the slopes of Angel Fire Resort gleam with trails of light during the annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade; each year, skiers holding gleaming lights zigzag down the hill to create the thrilling display. Bundle up and head to the base of the mountain to watch the parade. Afterward, join the locals at the Village Haus, where a DJ plays dance music, and the bar offers holiday food and drink specials.
Escape into the New Mexico mountains for a secluded New Year’s Eve getaway in Ruidoso. During the day, head to Ski Apache for some of the state’s best skiing and snowboarding. When the sun sets, change into your evening wear and head for the New Year’s Eve party at the Inn of the Mountain Gods. Dance to a lineup of live bands in the Mescalero Ballroom and indulge in a dinner buffet packed with lobster and prime rib; be sure to book tickets well in advance. For a more low-key evening, check out the festivities at Cree Meadows Country Club or Hidden Tap.
7. Las Vegas
Find your inner bravery with a New Year’s getaway in tiny Las Vegas, New Mexico. After a cozy New Year’s Eve in your vacation rental, gear up for a famous local event: the Polar Bear Plunge. Each year, locals and visitors gather at Storrie Lake State Park for a dip in the frigid waters. Hop off the dock for a quick submersion, or test your limits with a few backstrokes; divers in cold gear are on hand for safety.
8. Las Cruces
Escape the snow and ice with a late-December visit to cool Las Cruces. Each New Year’s Eve, thousands of locals pack into the Plaza de Las Cruces for the annual Chile Drop. The evening starts with live music on the outdoor stage, and a dance floor draws in revelers. Food trucks and a beer garden keep everyone happy, and at midnight, a crane drops an enormous lighted chile pepper to ring in the new year. Elsewhere in town, the Pecan Grill and Brewery hosts an annual themed party, and the Azul Ultra Lounge at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces features music, dancing, and a champagne toast.
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