The Albuquerque River of Lights has provided sparkling fun in Albuquerque since 1997. Each year, volunteers create new sculptures to add to the light displays found throughout the Botanic Gardens. Watch running animals, twirling snowmen, Snoopy on the garden train, and all the decorated objects found in the gardens.
The 2013 River of Lights runs from Saturday, November 30 through January 5, and is closed December 24 and 25.
The show runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. November 30 through December 19, and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. December 20 through January 5. There are nearly 400 light sculptures, and for each season, some new sculptures will be on display.
Tickets can be purchased from any ABQ BioPark cashier during regular hours, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily, at the gate beginning at 5:30 p.m., or online. Group discounts are available for groups of 50 or more. Call (505) 764-6212 to purchase group tickets.
Cost: Early Bird Special: $10 adults, $5 children ages 3-12. Children under 3 are admitted free; from November 30 to December 19. From December 20 - January 5, tickets are $12 adults and $6 for children. Children under 3 are free.
Hours: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 11/30 - 12/19; 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. 12/20 - 1/5.
What to Expect
The River of Lights provides a place to enjoy the holiday season. In addition to the light sculptures which visitors can walk through, there is always something else going on. You'll find carolers and singers, a snowman display house, and the chance to have Supper with Santa. Visiting the River of Lights is fun for the entire family.
Each year, the River of Lights has new sculptures on display. Over 150 displays will dazzle and glow to become larger than life displays. Some displays are animated, others in 3D. The display is based in a botanic garden, so there are plants such as cactus and yucca, but there are also spiders, birds, zoo animals and trucks. Some glow with a steady light, others blink on and off. Some sculptures seem to move. The displays expand every year, some life sized, and others larger than life. All are fun.
New Light Sculptures for 2013:
- Unicorn (near Pegasus)
- Stegosaurus (near T-rex)
- Zebra (near roaring lion and ready to charge rhino)
- Synchronized laser light show in the Fantasy Garden's giant pumpkin
Polar Bear Express
Polar Bear Express Tickets are SOLD OUT for 2013.
On several weekends, the Rio Train Line provides a special experience. Passengers board the train and get a hot cocoa and cookie. As the train chugs through the Botanic Garden, listen to a story and holiday music. Santa and his elves will greet children in the train and give them a special gift. After getting off the train, passengers can enjoy the River of Lights.
Polar Bear Express tickets can only be purchased online and in advance. Tickets go on sale Friday, November 15. Tickets are available for:
Saturdays: December 7, 14, 21
Sundays: December 8, 15, 22
Monday: December 23
The train departs from the Garden train station. Arrive at 5 p.m., board the train at 5:15 p.m. and the train leaves the station at 5:30.
Tips Before Heading Out:
- Dress warmly, and in layers. Once the sun sets, it gets dark, and wandering the gardens is primarily an outdoor affair. Bring hats, gloves, mittens and scarves. As my mother used to say, bundle up.
- River of Lights is busiest closer to Christmas, and on weekends. Consider visiting on a Monday or Tuesday, when the traffic is light.
- Bring something the young ones can rest in, whether that is a stroller or wagon. Toddlers especially tire easily, bring a blanket to keep them warm in stroller or wagon.
- Wagons are available at the entry, $5 for a regular wagon, $7 for two seaters.
- Wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A driver's license is necessary.
- Find the wheelchairs at the Shark Reef Cafe.
- Bike racks are available at the entryway.
- Consider eating in Old Town first, or if you have young children, why not have Supper with Santa? Kids enjoy the Shark Reef Cafe because they can watch the fish and other creatures while they eat. This option is available from December 9 - 23, beginning at 5 p.m.
- Holiday Dining will continue December 26 - 30 and January 2-5, at the Shark Reef Cafe.
- Live entertainment happens nightly from November 30 through January 5.
- See a glass snowman collection in the Moorish Garden.
- The model trains will be running Wednesdays through Sundays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., weather and staff permitting. Look for Snoopy Santa on the holiday train.
- There will be other food for sale at the gardens as well.
- There will be Holiday Nature Crafts on Wednesdays from 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m. Visit the education building December 4, 11 or 18 and create some holiday presents.
- The Garden and Aquarium gift shops are open during River of Lights.
- Don't forget your camera!
Parking is free and there are always spaces at the Botanic Gardens lot. On busy nights, the lots by the Heritage Farm and Tingley Beach are used for overflow.
Park and Ride
Enjoy this free service on select nights and beat the traffic snarl. Note: Park and Ride is NOT wheelchair accessible. Accessible parking can be found at the Aquarium/Botanic Garden parking lots.
Park and Ride is available Friday and Saturday nights: November 30, December 6, 7, 13, and 14, and every night, December 20 - January 5.
Park and Ride Locations
ABQ BioPark Zoo
903 Tenth Street SW (school bus ride)
1800 Tingley SW (train or shuttle ride)
See images of River of Lights displays.
Visit the city of Albuquerque website about the River of Lights.