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11 fall festivals in New Mexico

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. | Photo by Victor J. Banta/Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. | Photo by Victor J. Banta/Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

When temperatures cool down, New Mexico’s celebrations heat up. Activities range from roasting chiles to riding in hot air balloons as fiestas across the state celebrate the cultures of the Land of Enchantment. Here are a few of our favorite fiestas that take place in September and in early October.

1. The Burning of Will Shuster’s Zozobra, Santa Fe

September 2

Photo by Melinda Herrera

Photo by Melinda Herrera

Zozobra is a 50-foot-tall marionette representing Old Man Gloom. He’s built and burned every year in Fort Marcy Park, and his conflagration marks the unofficial start of the Fiestas de Santa Fe. Artist Will Shuster created the celebration in 1924 as a way to bring the entire community together. Today, tens of thousands of people attend the event, and many write their ills on scraps of paper to be stuffed into Zozobra and burned away. Can’t make it in person this year? Visit the website to upload your ills to be burned, and watch the livestream during the event. Tickets start at $20.

2. Totah Festival & Indian Market, Farmington

September 2–4

This celebration of Native American cultures throughout the Southwest begins Friday at the Farmington Civic Center with a juried art competition. On Saturday and Sunday, Navajo (Diné), Pueblo, Hopi, and Apache artists display their jewelry, silversmithing, painting, pottery, carving, and other talents at the Indian Market, and at 1 p.m. Saturday, the acclaimed Authentic Navajo Rug Auction begins as Zuni Olla Maidens and other groups dance in the outdoor courtyard.

The Run the River 5K Fun Run & Walk takes place at 8 a.m. Sunday in Animas Park as festivities continue at the Civic Center.

3. Santa Fe Fiesta de los Niños

September 3–4

El Rancho de Las Golondrinas is a living-history campus of historic buildings, and this event allows kids (and adults) to stamp tin, make tortillas, play historic games, spin wools, and participate in other work and play activities from throughout New Mexico’s history. The fiesta takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, and admission is free for children 12 and younger. Admission, $8.

4. Fiesta de Santa Fe

September 3–11

Originally a commemoration of the “bloodless” 1692 return of the Spanish to New Mexico following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Fiesta de Santa Fe has grown to be a celebration of both Spanish and Pueblo cultures.

At this year’s 310th annual Fiesta de Santa Fe, the Fiesta Fine Arts and Crafts Market takes place on the Santa Fe Plaza from September 3–5, when artists display their jewelry, pottery, sculpture, carving, photography, and other traditional and contemporary art.

On September 9, food booths fill the Plaza as Pueblo and folklórico dancers and singers take the stage into the evening.

Saturday, September 10, sees costumed pets of all sizes and species escorted by their young owners during the Desfile de Los Niños Pet Parade, and live music again carries the party into the night.

On September 11, the solemn procession of La Conquistadora—a wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was carved in the early 1600s—commences at 9:30 a.m., followed at 1 p.m. by the Desfile de la Gente, when participants dress up like figures from New Mexico history.

5. Four Corners 4x4 Week, Farmington

September 5–11

Photo courtesy Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau

Move over, Moab. Farmington becomes the nation’s off-roading capital during this week of 4x4 competitions and extreme off-road driving fun. Highlights include the weekend’s Fall Crawl, during which the public can experience 4x4 rock climbing with guides from Cliffhangers 4-Wheel Drive Club on routes ranging from easy to gravity-defying through Chokecherry and Largo canyons.

Beginning at 6 p.m. on September 9, Farmington’s Main Street transforms into an off-road playground and party where W.E. Rock Grand Nationals competitors tackle the flex ramp and 4x4ers display their rigs.

Spectators can watch as competitors take on the terrain of Chokecherry Canyon on September 10.

6. New Mexico State Fair, Albuquerque

September 8–18

Photo by Nathaniel Paolinelli

Photo by Nathaniel Paolinelli

Rides, rodeo, livestock shows, funnel cakes, and concerts—the fair is back in full force for its 83rd year. The fair opens at 10 a.m. daily, and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets, $15.

7. Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta, Mesilla

September 17–18

Photo by Whispers/

Photo by Whispers/

Experience the rich Mexican culture of Mesilla at the celebration that commemorates Mexico’s break from the Spanish Empire on September 16, 1810. Festivities begin with a parade through Mesilla with floats, marching bands, school groups, and classic cars. On the Mesilla Plaza, folklórico dancers and mariachi bands perform as kids bat at piñatas and play traditional games, and food trucks and artist booths line the Plaza.

8. Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta

September 21–25

Photo by Gabriella Marks

Photo by Gabriella Marks

Sip wines from more than 90 international and local wineries and savor bites from 60 Santa Fe restaurants at Fort Marcy Park during the 31st annual Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta’s Grand Tasting on September 24, from noon to 3 p.m.  

Enjoy demonstrations at the Santa Fe School of Cooking as well as wine and food seminars throughout the week, and the Champagne and Dirty Boots brunch on Sunday. Tickets, $185.

Read more: Where to learn to cook traditional New Mexican dishes

9. Corrales Harvest Festival

September 24–25

Photo by Sharon/

Photo by Sharon/

Tucked between Albuquerque and Rio Rancho along the Río Grande, Corrales celebrates its farming heritage at its 36th annual Corrales Harvest Festival. Tractor-pulled hayrides, a petting zoo and pet parade, food and art booths, and corn mazes welcome the fall harvest. Blacksmithing, sheep shearing, and other traditional skills are demonstrated at Casa San Ysidro, an 18th-century hacienda that is now a satellite of the Albuquerque Museum. Tickets, $10. Ages 12 and younger, free.

10. All American CowboyFest, Ruidoso Downs

September 30–October 2

Photo by Rachelle Vance/

Photo by Rachelle Vance/

The Ruidoso Downs Race Track turns into rodeo grounds during this 3-day festival honoring New Mexico’s cowboy culture. Country music, vendors selling hats and leather goods, Western art, and plenty of chuckwagon cooking and other food choices round out this Professional Bull Riders–sanctioned rodeo. Tickets, $20.

Read more: 3 beautiful New Mexico mountain towns

11. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

October 1–9

Photo by Angelina Peace/Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Photo by Angelina Peace/Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

More than 600 balloons will splash Albuquerque’s skies with color the first week of October when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Traditional balloons are joined by 100 special-shape balloons including flying cows, dragons, and even Darth Vader and Yoda. Balloon Fiesta week is a mix of morning mass ascensions during which all the balloons fly, ballooning competitions, special shapes-only events, and evening balloon glows and fireworks shows. Tickets, $15.

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