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River of Lights

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I love looking at Christmas lights. There is just something so magical about all the glowing, brightly colored lights that shine in the brisk winter night air, taking it all in, breathing out puffs of white air, and sipping hot cocoa. We were so excited to check out the dazzling displays of thousands of twinkling lights for the River of Lights holiday show at Albuquerque’s Botanic Gardens.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

We’ve got a holiday lights show at our Botanical Gardens back home as well, and I grew up going to the massive Callaway Gardens light show at Christmas, but this was my first walk-through holiday lights experience.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I had too much fun snapping photos and wandering through the cozy twinkling paths.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

It was also a great place to play with bokeh! For these I just switched my lens to manual focus and twirled the focus ring on the lens until I got something I liked. I usually didn’t have to take the picture much of out focus at all — too much blurriness created one massive light blob!

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

So snuggle up, grab some hot cocoa and enjoy these festive holiday lights with me. :)

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Dancing penguins!

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

These guys made some fun bokeh. If you’re wondering about my settings for these nighttime shots, you can click on any photo to see the camera, lens, and settings I used. You’ll notice most of these have a pretty slow shutter speed, usually around 1/25 to 1/30. I handheld the camera for all the photos here, but I have a pretty steady hand. This shutter speed might be too slow if you have a shaky hand! :)

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Who wants to take a ride on Mater down Route 66??

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Loved this dinosaur! He was trying to get us with his moving arms and jaws. :)

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Colorful trees and benches to stop and watch the lights.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Beautiful garden archway.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

You could also get married in the wedding bell chapel! Well, I don’t know about for real, but it sure was pretty.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I loved these rainbow lights.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

And spiral trees!

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

This tree was raining chilly, twinkling icicles.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The giant musical display was gorgeous!

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Cute little rooster! I love roosters and chickens, I’ve always wanted a french country style kitchen decorated with the cute little roosters and chickens.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

There was a pond in the middle of the gardens, and I loved the light displays on the water.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The colorful reflections were so beautiful.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Near the end, we came across these toy soldiers…

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

They were guarding the castle from the dragon!

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

We had to take a peek inside the mysterious toy soldier castle.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

How fun and spooky were these glimmering castle corridors?

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Disco ball room!

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The last room in the castle was the courtyard, a maze of dazzling rainbow lights as far as the eye could see. I think I could’ve stayed here all night!

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

On our last night in Albuquerque, we also made our way over to the the Plaza Don Luis in Old Town to check out the giant Christmas tree.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The square was so beautiful all decorated for Christmas.

Holiday River of Lights in Albuquerque, New Mexico

You wanna know something cool about this tree? It’s actually not one giant tree… It’s 135 regular-sized trees hanging horizontally to form one massive Christmas tree! How awesome is that??

Stayed tuned for more fun things we found in Albuquerque. I cannot wait to show you the ranch where we stayed! Have a wonderful, beautiful, merry, merry Christmas!

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34 Responses
  1. Angela

    I love the shots with the water. I also love the square… how on earth did you have that gorgeous place to yourselves with no other people around? Just beautiful.

  2. Vicki Bell

    Love the pictures. Thank you for telling us about the giant tree. I would have never known. Merry Christmas from my home to yours.
    Vicki Bell

  3. Steph Ruud

    WOW!!!! I love in Los Alamos, NM so when I saw this post I was thinking “What?! they were so close”. It looks like y’all had a fun time. Thanks to your photography tutorials I just shot some bokeh “heart” photos as well as used other tips. Thank you so much. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
    Steph

  4. amy

    OMgosh!! I was blog surfing and saw all your photos..I live here in Abq. and I’m so glad you had such an amazing visit..I love it here, it’s such an under-rated city! Thanks for sharing..glad you had a great time!! :) Oh..I adore your blog as well!

  5. Anne

    oh.em.gee. Amanda, these photos are stunning! What a fun place to visit… you always go to the best places! I can’t wait to see photos of your accommodations…I’m certain they will be as stunning as these!

    Merry Christmas to you and Kevin… Miley and Howie, too!

  6. Janet Thwaits

    I love Albuquerque, I grew up there and was a young married there. So many good and happy memories. Many dear and close friends still live there. I miss it. Thanks for the wonderful tour and the sweet memories. Merry Christmas to you and all my good Albuquerque friends!!!

  7. Angie

    Among all the hustle and bustle of the season, the lights are always thing that gets me to slow down and relax a little. Love these photos, looks like a gorgeous place to visit. Wondering how late you had to wait to have the Plaza all to yourselves …? That tree is pretty spectacular!

  8. Jewels

    Makes me wish I was there!! Your are such a wonderful artist with the camera! I cannot believe you took all of those without a tripod. Steady steady girl.

  9. Karen Skeens

    Must be amazing to see this in person….the photos are AMAZING. I love, love, Christmas lights. You are so blessed!!! Merry Christmas

  10. The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh

    That is absolutely stunning! I LOVE the truck and that courtyard is just Christmas personafied baby! Love the pic of you too as well! So cute!

  11. Ms. Sew N Sew

    Thank you Amanda these photo’s are amazing as always! I love Christmas lights makes me want to take a trip to Albuquerque. Have a very merry Christmas!

  12. Jessica Lynn

    I’m in tears looking at these photos. I randomly stumbled on your blog and saw “River of Lights” as the title and had to keep reading. I’m from New Mexico–Albuquerque, actually–and this is the first year I won’t be home for Christmas, and the first year I won’t be home to see the River of Lights. My husband and I live in Italy now (we actually just moved here from Georgia–we used to go to Callaway every year after Thanksgiving to see the lights), so it’s starting to hit me with just how far we are from home. Thank you for this post. I can’t wait to go see what else you posted from New Mexico!

  13. Stephanie

    Beautiful photos Amanda!!! It looks like such a cool place. What was your white balance set on? I never get pretty pictures at night like yours!

  14. Leslie

    Thank you for providing your camera settings for all these great pictures. I was hoping you might be able to tell me, though, if you used a tripod for these, or if your shutter speed was adequate enough to get a clear shot. Thanks!

  15. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

    The photos are gorgeous and put me in the holiday spirit. Even more impressive is your amazing success with night time photography…something that is beyond tricky for me. Just beautiful images!

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Meet Kevin & Amanda

Kevin and Amanda

We love to travel and to eat! Here we share our favorite quick and easy recipes, plus travel tips and guides for our favorite places around the world. Meet our Boston Terriers. Take a tour of our house. If you have any questions about what camera I use or how I edit my photos, check out my photography tutorials.

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