In the early 1800s, people began to use inexpensive paper bags instead of building bonfires. These small lanterns (called farolitos in norhtern New Mexico), have become a tradition, and are no longer limited to Christmas Eve.
The simple beauty of the luminous paper bags sitting along adobe buildings creates a quiet feeling of journey. Enjoy the magic that a luminaria tour offers as you stroll through the Albuquerque neighborhoods where the tradition brightens the darkness every year.
For some families, touring the luminarias through Albuquerque neighborhoods is a tradition. Walking can be fun, but many choose to take a bus tour, eliminating the need to find parking or getting caught in traffic delays. The City of Albuquerque offers an annual luminaria tour through Old Town and the Country Club area via bus. Sit and relax in the warmth of the bus, where you can forget the crowds and walking in the dark.
Tours start at the Albuquerque Convention Center, and are scheduled for Monday, December 24. The
Christmas Eve tours are scheduled for 5:20 p.m.; 5:45 p.m.; 6:10 p.m.; 6:50 p.m.; 7:15 p.m. and 7:40 p.m.
The tours last about one hour. Buses pick up passengers at the east side of the Convention Center, along 2nd Street.
The 2012 Luminaria Tour tickets go on sale beginning at midnight on Friday morning, November 23. Buy them online or at the ticket office at 112 Second Street SW in downtown Albuquerque, in the Sunshine building.
Tickets cost $3 for adults 18 and older, $1.70 for seniors and children ages 10 - 17. Tickets are free for children under 9.
Self Guided Luminaria Tours
Routes, Rentals and Tours offers a special Lights & Luminarias tour. Visit the heart of Albuquerque on Christmas Eve on the back of a bicycle. It begins in Old Town, where the city has its most dense concentration of luminarias. Then head to the nearby Country Club neighborhood, where the streets are also densely lined with brown paper lights. Each bike is decorated in festive lights of their own, and each tour is led by a seasoned guide.
Many choose to walk through Old Town, which has the highest density of luminarias to buildings. It is a wonderful tour and well worth the effort. Old Town is closed to driving tours with the exception of the city bus tours. Parking can be found at the lots east or south of Old Town. There is also parking in the museum lots nearby (Albuquerque Museum, Explora and the Museum of Natural History). While in Old Town, enjoy the San Felipe de Neri Church, which opens its doors to the public, and has several nativity scenes. Look for the Cottonwood Madonna behind the church. The Plaza Don Luis across from the church has a giant Christmas tree that is made of multiple Christmas trees; see if you can discern how it is made. Many like to visit the shops while in Old Town, with some favorite stops being the Christmas Shop and the Old Town Card Shop, which carries southwestern holiday cards.
The Albuquerque Country Club neighborhood creates a winter wonderland every year, dotting the streets with paper bag lanterns. Most people choose to walk, but some do drive, so caution is taken on both sides. The streets in this area meander in all directions, so any route is pleasant. The large houses are decorated in seasonal garlands and the walk can take as little or as long as you like.
The Ridgecrest/Parkland Hills tour can be a walk through, but it is a long walk, so most choose to drive. Begin at Ridgecrest and Carlisle and drive southeast along Ridgecrest Boulevard until Jackson or Truman. Turn at either street and turn around in the Parkland Hills neighborhood before continuing back in the opposite direction along Ridgecrest again.
Before Heading Out