Just taking in the sights of a magical desert city in the winter, you could get a lifetime of Instagram posts from an afternoon spent downtown. But you might miss something if you just head out and start walking, so here are some suggestions for planning your Christmas week in the Land of Enchantment.
Take in the Lights
Every major city has a sort of a signature visual. You can take a picture and crop it down to the size of a postage stamp, and if we see neon lights against the night sky, we’ll know we’re looking at Las Vegas. If we see yellow with a checkered pattern, we’ll think New York City. London has its fog and Philadelphia has its beautiful old brick buildings. We have adobe buildings all over the state, but maybe nothing says “Santa Fe” as loudly as do our Christmas farolito lights, those little paper lanterns lining the walkways come nightfall.
We recommend a guided tour up through Canyon Road on Christmas Eve. If you don’t have time for all that, take a leisurely drive (bring the hot chocolate) and get a good view of the lights. You will be sharing your stroll with thousands of other Santa Feans and visitors singing carols and warming by bondfires.
A New Mexican town isn’t just the downtown but all the terrain and communities surrounding it. There is no Santa Fe without Taos, and there is certainly no Christmas in Santa Fe without Taos Yuletide.
Plenty of events take place around Taos in winter, but the stars of the show are the Native American ceremonies. Feast Days are the heart of these ceremonies, with brilliant tribal dances and singing. There are some strict rules for observing the ceremonial dances. These are religious traditions, not just performances. Applause, photography, cell phone use, alcohol, and pets are all no-go’s.
Different dances take place at different times so check the schedule and see what lines up with your own plans. One of the very best is the Taos Pueblo Matachinas Dance, at the Pueblo Plaza on Christmas Day at 2 PM, fitting in perfectly between Christmas morning and dinner.
Symbols of Peace in Stone Sculpture
Those days right after Christmas and right before New Year’s—can feel a bit melancholy as you see the Santa’s taken down from the roofs and stores already gearing up for Valentine’s Day. If you want to offset some of that somber energy, we recommend the Symbols of Peace exhibit at the Thomas-Carole Fine Art Studio, running from Christmas Eve to December 28. It’s a relaxing way to wind down after Christmas so that you have the energy for New Year’s Eve.
Taos Plaza New Year’s Celebration
This is one of the best New Year’s Eve events in the country. The perfect way to end the year in Santa Fe starts at 7 PM with the mayor’s pig roast and live music and a balloon release at 9. And if you really miss Times Square, a 12-by-16-foot video wall will simulcast the NYC ball drop accompanied by a fireworks display by the Taos Volunteer Fire Department. If you show up in Taos an hour early you can check out the spectacular torchlight parade and fireworks coming down Ski Valley Mountain starting at 6 PM.