All aglow in Madrid

This New Mexico town really shines in December
Sharon Niederman

During its 1950s mining heyday, Madrid, New Mexico, celebrated Christmas by stringing thousands of lights all over town. The display was so grand that a fledgling airline, which later became TWA, used to reroute its cross-country flights over this village northeast of Albuquerque, just so passengers could enjoy the spectacle.

In years since, Madrid (mad-rid) has withstood many changes as it evolved from a 1970s hippie hideaway to the charming community of artists and galleries it is today. But Madrid's beloved holiday tradition of extravagant light displays is still going strong. From Thanksgiving into early January, you'll see lights strung up along a mile-long stretch of State 14, the town's main drag. And during the first two full weekends in December, there's added reason to visit: the annual Madrid Christmas Open House. Another highlight is a parade through town on December 7 at 4.

Tiny Madrid (population 370) is reached by an easy drive on scenic State 14, a 52-mile route between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and a major portion of the Turquoise Trail. It's a real bright spot for shoppers, with many galleries offering locally made, one-of-a-kind gifts. On Open House weekends, more than 30 galleries welcome visitors with hot cider and their best artwork, including pottery, ornaments, paintings, and photographs. Standouts include Tapestry Gallery  (2863 State 14; 505/471-0194), which sells jewel-colored handwoven chenille shawls as well as jewelry, and Primitiva  (Madrid Company Store building, 2860 State 14; 505/471-7904), which offers Southwest-style furniture and folk art at wholesale prices.

Need a break from shopping? Mama Lisa's  (13 State 14; 505/471-5769) serves homemade pies, quiches, and pastries. At Maya Jones Imports  (Madrid Company Store building; 505/473-3641), you can enjoy an old-fashioned ice cream soda at the fountain that originally served local miners.

See the lights

WHERE: Madrid is 40 miles northeast of Albuquerque via I-40 and State 14.

FYI: Holiday lights are up from Thanksgiving into early January; Madrid Christmas Open House is Dec 7-8, 14-15.

CONTACT: Turquoise Trail Association: www.turquoisetrail.org or (888) 263-0003.