Christmas cruising: Drive-through holiday light displays keep viewers safe from COVID - Albuquerque Journal

Christmas cruising: Drive-through holiday light displays keep viewers safe from COVID

The Old Town Christmas Tree stands across the street from the San Felipe De Neri Church (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal

There will be a noticeable difference in Christmas in New Mexico this year.

City of Albuquerque-sponsored events such as the Twinkle Light Parade in Nob Hill, the ABQ Ride Luminaria Tour, River of Lights at the ABQ BioPark, and the Old Town tree lighting ceremony and Shop and Stroll are postponed until next year.

Even the illuminated Santa Fe Plaza is off-limits.

But not all is lost.

While it may not be traditional, there are plenty of holiday lights to see across the state – all while adhering to New Mexico’s current health guidelines, which don’t allow more than five people to congregate.

Old Town Christmas Tree
The lights on the Christmas tree in Old Town were turned on Dec. 4 – and it was celebrated virtually.

The Old Town Christmas Tree is one of the places families can see Christmas lights this holiday season while in the area. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Plaza Don Luis in Historic Old Town has hosted this Albuquerque tradition for over 25 years.

The tradition holds a special meaning for the Aceves family.

In 2018, the family marked the tree-lighting ceremony’s 25th anniversary and the second since the passing of Henry Aceves, longtime Old Town business owner and the one who, along with his wife Karen, began the tree-lighting community tradition. The family gathers dozens of trees from its land in northern New Mexico then assembles the largest tree in Albuquerque for all to enjoy.

Visitors can still shop in the area and see the tree.

Route 66 Shop & Glow

Route 66 in Nob Hill will be more illuminated during the holidays.

The Route 66 Shop & Glow is an effort that will provide shoppers with an illuminated experience – which will be somewhat familiar.

The New Mexico BioPark Society lent the city some River of Lights sculptures, which are placed in various locations along the stretch in Nob Hill.

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill area has been adorned with lights normally used during the River of Lights festivities. Pictured are lights located near the Parlor Slice restaurant. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“We were looking for some opportunities in Nob Hill with these two events not happening this year,” said Shelle Sanchez, director of the Cultural Services Department.

The city’s effort is to draw shoppers to Nob Hill for holiday purchases or dinner, all while they’re greeted by glowing snowmen, flowers, icicles, animals and more along the path where the Twinkle Light Parade would have taken place.

The Route 66 Shop & Glow will light up Central from 5 to 9 nightly throughout December.

Nineteen restaurants will be offering carryout or curbside pickup. Sixteen retail shops will have holiday gifts for purchase.

Lights of Enchantment

West of Albuquerque, at Sandia Speedway, one mile of the track is adorned with lights.

The first Lights of Enchantment is taking place through Jan. 3.

Lights of Enchantment will be a community event for friends and families to enjoy from the comfort of their cars.

It features about 100 light displays in dozens of themes.

Lights of Enchantment is being held at the Sandia Speedway on Albuquerque’s West Side. (Courtesy of Lights of Enchantment)

Bright, colorful and intricate animated light displays are designed to make the speedway’s first drive-through light show a magical and magnificent must-see event this holiday season.

As a contactless experience, attendees will purchase tickets online and display their ticket’s QR or bar code through their car window, where it will be scanned, minimizing direct person-to-person contact and the risk of exposure.

Lights of Enchantment will give back to New Mexico charities as well. Partnering charities will receive up to $5 per car.

The event is organized by Garfield Carjill.

More information on times and prices can be found at

A Magical Mesa Christmas

The Rio Rancho Events Center is hosting the drive-through A Magical Mesa Christmas through January. (Courtesy of A Magical Mesa Christmas)

The drive-through Christmas light event is presented by Sparklight at the Rio Rancho Events Center.

Organizers say there are over 5 million LED lights on hundreds of displays and exhibits.

The event runs through Jan. 17. Tickets are $40 per car for general admission at

Santa Fe Plaza Lights
The Holiday Plaza lighting took place on Nov. 27, and the lights will be up through January.

Santa Fe Plaza held the annual Plaza lighting as usual on the Friday after Thanksgiving. But, this year, to help prevent the spread of COIVD-19, people were not allowed into the Plaza, yet wer able to drive by and see the thousands of lights from their cars. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Due to COVID restrictions and per the governor’s orders, this year the event is a “cruise-by” as the plaza will be closed to all pedestrian traffic.

“We know so many things are different during COVID, so we wanted to find a creative way to keep this tradition alive, while still being safe,” said Kristine Mihelcic, the city’s director of constituent and council services. “Our City team is working hard once again to make the Plaza absolutely magical for the holidays, and I hope everyone finds time to enjoy the Plaza.”

Mihelcic says the lights will remain up through the holidays.

“So if you don’t want to come the night of the event, you can still drive by and enjoy the plaza during the holiday season at your leisure,” Mihelcic says.

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