United States

The best festivals and fairs in Albuquerque & New Mexico

by Paul Joseph  |  Published December 7, 2020

Commonly described as where the plains meet the mountains, the landlocked state of New Mexico in the Mountain Division of the southwestern United States makes for a superb vacation destination. Combining eye-catching natural wonders with charming Spanish colonial architecture and a buzzing cultural scene, the opportunities for discovery and adventure here are almost endless.

Balloon float in the sky at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Photo: Joe Ross via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Much of the state’s cultural life revolves around its largest city, Albuquerque, and it is here that a large number of popular events draw large crowds every year. If you’re coming to New Mexico and would like to attend one of its festivals or fairs during your stay, we’ve done some research and picked out 12 of the best that you should look out for.

Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest

Thought to be America’s largest consumer show for chocolate, coffee, and gourmet foods, the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest draws some 20,000 discerning gastronomes every year. As well as the chance to sample the delectable fare on offer, there’s also entertainment in the form of cooking demonstrations, live music, cake decorating classes, baking contests, a kids’ zone, and plenty more.

LOCATION New Mexico Fairgrounds, Albuquerque DATES November 2021

Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest

(Photo: Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest)

Santa Fe Film Festival

A five-day celebration of the cinematic arts, the Santa Fe Film Festival has been a fixture on New Mexico’s cultural calendar for 20 consecutive years. The festival features curated selections of over 40 film programs including tributes to world-renowned film artists and industry professionals, as well as a spotlight on local, New Mexican filmmakers and crew. As well as theatre screenings, there are also panels, workshops, art exhibitions and parties.

LOCATION Venues throughout Santa Fe DATES 17-21 February 2021

NM Renaissance Celtic Festival

Blending fantasy elements with Celtic culture, over 100 merchants of special crafts gather together for three days of fun and adventure at this immersive renaissance festival. Visitors get to step back in time and witness what life was like in the time of knights and clansmen, when people believed that fairies and mermaids ruled the forests and seas. Highlights include a knighting ceremony, a jousting stage, fire whips, street entertainers, and ale brewing.

LOCATION New Mexico State Fairgrounds, Albuquerque DATES 26-28 March 2021

NM Renaissance Celtic Festival

(Photo: NM Renaissance Celtic Festival)

Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

Since its inaugural edition almost four decades ago, the Gathering of Nations has grown into one of America’s most recognised annual festivals. Created to allow indigenous people to come together and share their culture, the event sees native revellers dance, sing, socialise, and honour their long-standing traditions and rituals. Each year the festival opens with a grand entry song and there’s also the crowning of Miss Indian World, an Indian Trader’s Market, a Horse & Rider Parade and live Native American music.

LOCATION Tingley Coliseum, Albuquerque DATES 22-24 April 2021

HIPICO Santa Fe Summer Series

Taking place within the beautiful grounds of HIPICO Santa Fe, a world-class equestrian facility, the venue’s Summer Series is a month-long celebration of equestrian competition. As well as staging captivating horse show contests, there’s also equine-themed art exhibitions, local food trucks serving up farm-to-table inspired meals,, handcrafted beer & wine, and a marketplace selling a wide range of jewellery, art, and merchandise.

LOCATION HIPICO Santa Fe DATES 24-25 April 2021


(Photo: HIPICO Santa Fe)

ABQ Blues & Brews

Craft beer and blues music go together like peanut butter and jelly – but that’s just part of what makes the Albuquerque Blues & Brews Festival one of the most eagerly awaited events on New Mexico’s entertainments calendar. Part of the ten-day ABQ Beer Week, there’s gourmet beer tasting and live performances by acclaimed local blues bands, with the chance to enjoy unlimited samples from the 60-plus breweries in attendance. Revellers can also learn about the art of homebrew, play games, and win prizes. The festival has a strong community focus too, with proceeds from the event going to a number of deserving New Mexico charities.

LOCATION Sandia Resort & Casino, Albuquerque DATES 30 May 2021

ABQ Blues & Brews

(Photo: ABQ Blues & Brews)

New Mexico State Fair

Taking place across the 236 acres of the EXPO New Mexico multi-use events centre, the New Mexico State Fair is a major regional event held each year. It plays host to a huge range of livestock exhibits, concerts, competitions, rodeos, carnival rides, games, farm animals, horses, agriculture and art, with plenty of kids’ activities and attractions in the mix. Look out for the hotly contested cheeseburger competition, which pits local restaurants against each other to vie for the prestigious title of “green chile cheeseburger champion”.

LOCATION EXPO New Mexico, Albuquerque DATES 9-19 September 2021

New Mexico State Fair

(Photo: Gila National Forest – New Mexico via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Rio Grand Arts & Crafts Festival

A fun and festive family-oriented arts & crafts event, the Rio Grand Arts & Crafts Festival offers a whole host of attractions and entertainment. Grown-ups can peruse a diverse assortment of arts works, with the chance to buy some to take home as gifts or souvenirs, while for kids there are magicians, puppeteers, and flute players, along with a craft area and artists’ demonstrations designed to spark little ones’ creative imaginations.

LOCATION New Mexico State Fair, Albuquerque DATES 1-3 October 2021

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Each October Albuquerque stages the acclaimed International Balloon Fiesta, which for nine days creates a jaw-dropping scene in the skies above the Rio Grande Valley. During the festival a huge number of kaleidoscopic hot air balloons pepper the sky as captive crowds look on from below, while back on firm land there are balloon rodeos, twilight balloon glows, and other balloon-themed entertainment.

LOCATION Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque DATES 2-10 October 2021

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

(Photo: Forsaken Fotos via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium

One of America’s premier cowboy events, the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium comes to the city of Ruidoso Downs each Fall, routinely welcoming more than 20,000 visitors who come to celebrate all things Western. On the packed programme are recitals by cowboy poets, live music, a chuck wagon cooking competition, horsemanship demos, Western-themed artwork for sale, and plenty of activities for children too.

LOCATION Ruidoso Downs Race Track, Ruidoso Downs DATES October 2021

Silver City Clay Festival

Now in its 10th year, the Silver City Clay Festival brings together artists, educators, entrepreneurs, families, and young people with a taste for adventure to explore the malleable material of clay in all its various forms. Visitors can take part in hands-on workshops where they can learn how to model clay into sculptures, and there are also exhibitions and lectures designed to educate and inform on the impact that clay has had on our past, present, and future.

LOCATION Endres Manufacturing Grounds, Waunakee DATES 17-18 July 2021

Silver City Clay Festival

(Photo: Silver City Clay Festival)

Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

Founded in 1972, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival invites scores of distinguished musicians, along with emerging young talent, to Santa Fe during its 6-week summer season. Thousands of enthusiastic patrons come to enjoy the more than 80 concerts staged at the intimate, historic St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art, along with recitals, youth concerts, and open rehearsals.

LOCATION St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe DATES 18 July – 23 August