Get into the holiday spirit by visiting one of the area’s “Christmas Towns” for a weekend. Several communities throughout New Mexico offer unique experiences during the holiday season with classic winter activities, elaborate light displays, and small-town charm. Here are a few places to check out.
Just outside of Las Cruces, Old Mesilla is a popular tourist destination in Southern New Mexico. People visit the community for its unique shops, famous restaurants, and historical landmarks. Mesilla Plaza is the hub of the town’s festivities, including its annual holiday celebrations. Mesilla hosts its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the plaza on Friday, December 2, which is normally accompanied by local choir groups.
Each Christmas Eve, thousands of luminarias light up the plaza and surrounding streets, sidewalks, and buildings. Christmas Eve on the plaza is a tradition that started in the mid-1960s and includes Christmas carols, vigils, and free hot chocolate and cookies. While in the area, visitors can also get some Christmas shopping done by perusing the many stores, which offer everything from clothing and jewelry to souvenirs and gift items. Be sure to stop at ‘Tis the Season de Mesilla (2402 Avenida de Mesilla), just a short walk from the plaza. Here you can find special gifts, collectors’ items, and a wide range of holiday décor.
During the winter season, Santa Fe can feel like the backdrop of a Christmas love story. Beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving, the city is festively decorated with evergreen garlands and farolitos (called luminarias in the southern part of the state). The historic Santa Fe Plaza is lit up with colorful lights strung on trees and decorations adorning lamp posts. Visitors can enjoy the holiday ambiance while shopping at specialty shops and art galleries.
Additionally, Santa Fe offers several seasonal activities in which to partake, including skiing and snowboarding at Ski Santa Fe about 16 miles outside of the city in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a Las Posadas reenactment (celebration of the pilgrimage to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph) around the plaza in December, a living Nativity event in mid-December at the First Baptist Santa Fe church, and the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Winter Indian Market Saturday and Sunday, December 3 – 4, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
“One of the largest and most well attended events is the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road,” said Joanne Hudson, public relations manager for Tourism Santa Fe. A new attraction this season is Pablo’s Holiday Train on the Sky Railway in the nearby town of Lamy. “It’s a totally new holiday story and not the average Polar Express experience,” Joanne said.
While the southern town of Carlsbad may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of the holidays, it boasts impressive light displays and festive fun unique to the area. “Every community has its own special Christmas memories, but Carlsbad’s Christmas celebration is one that our residents and guests will always treasure,” said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. “Christmas on the Pecos, as well as our Night of Lights and Light Parade, are our big events, but faith and family are really what makes Christmas time special in Carlsbad.”
A popular event, Christmas on the Pecos, begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s Day. Visitors can go on a boat tour through the twinkling light displays along the Pecos River while taking in the sights. Get your tickets early so you don’t miss out!
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the community comes together for MainStreet’s famous Electric Light Parade, featuring elaborately decorated and lighted floats. On the same night, the Creative Carlsbad Arts Council hosts the Night of Lights with live music, vendors, art, contests, and light displays at Halagueno Arts Park.
Located in Northern New Mexico, Taos is filled with plenty of smalltown charm, from its boutiques and shops offering locally made products and art to its historical sites. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, Taos begins its Yuletide celebrations, bringing its small community together. The town will host its annual Yuletide Tree Lighting on Taos Plaza on Friday, December 2. Other festivities throughout the month include Bonfires on Bent Street, hosted by the John Dunn Shops and Bent Street merchants on Sunday, December 11; the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade at Taos Ski Valley Christmas Eve; and the Matachina Dance, an ancient Native American ceremonial dance honoring the depths of winter, at Taos Pueblo on Christmas Day.
“There’s also no shortage of winter activities in Taos,” said Director of Marketing and Tourism Karina Armijo. “Stroll through the John Dunn Shops while sipping hot chocolate from the award-winning chocolatier Chokola, or ski through world-class slopes at Taos Ski Valley Resort. Take a scenic drive on the Enchanted Circle and visit the Taos Pueblo for Pueblo Christmas celebrations, like traditional dances held on Christmas and New Year’s Day.”
Nestled in the Southern Rocky Mountains in New Mexico, Angel Fire is known primarily for its ski resort. Along with skiing and snowboarding, families can enjoy Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, sledding, and tubing. A couple of days before Christmas, you may also run into Santa on the mountain for pictures and candy. On Christmas Eve, Angel Fire Resort hosts a Torchlight Parade and fireworks.
Other winter activities to enjoy include hiking the snow-covered trails in the area or booking a horse-drawn sleigh ride through Nancy Burch’s Roadrunner Tours. Be sure to check out the locally owned and operated shops in the area, offering art, ski and snowboard wear, jewelry, and toys. “(Angel Fire) represents the picturesque mountain ski town with the snow and the lights and the different activities,” said Angel Fire Tourism Director Michael Kobe. “It really is kind of what you picture in Colorado, but the great thing is you don’t have to go all the way up there. It’s right here in northeastern New Mexico, so it’s very ideal if you want to capture that.”
For a cozy, snowy town feel, book a cabin and stay a couple of days in charming Ruidoso, where you’ll find plenty of winter adventures and fun. A family favorite is tubing in the snow at Ruidoso Winter Park. Other popular activities include hitting the slopes at Ski Apache, exploring the snow-covered trails of Lincoln National Forest, or strolling Midtown to find unique holiday gifts. Visitors can also enjoy a winter sleigh ride through the historic upper canyon with Grindstone Stables. The village kicks off the holiday season with the Ruidoso Christmas Jubilee at the Ruidoso Convention Center, Friday through Sunday, November 11 – 13. Ruidoso Parks and Recreation then hosts Christmas in the Park on Thursday, December 1, featuring the lighting of the trees, at Wingfield Park.
The Festival of Lights Parade, hosted by the Ruidoso Valley Chamber of Commerce, takes place throughout Midtown on Saturday, December 3. Following the event, at Wingfield Park, is an afterparty including food, drinks, activities for kids, fire pits for roasting marshmallows, an outdoor movie, and photos with Santa.
“In all, I would say Christmas in Ruidoso is just so special,” said Andrea Joray, event coordinator for the chamber. “Everyone is so friendly and it’s like one of those cheesy, corny movies that you watch on Hallmark. It’s just a super inviting place, and I wouldn’t want to spend the holiday season anywhere else.”
Story by Alexia Severson | Courtesy photos
Originally published in Neighbors magazine.
Posted by LasCruces.com