En español | Want to put the ho-ho-ho back in the holidays? Plan a yuletide getaway to a holiday market. From San Francisco to Philly, city markets offer handcrafted gifts, live music and holiday comfort food, often with a German twist. It's a way-jollier experience than elbowing Black Friday customers for the last Barbie's Dream House. Check out these nine popular markets around the country (admission is free unless otherwise noted).
PHOTO BY: anna quaglia/Alamy Stock Photo
Arlington, Texas: Texas Christkindl Market
Nov. 29 to Dec. 22
Arlington is better known for Stetsons than lederhosen, but this German market has some serious Old World connections. Shoppers will find lebkuchen cookies — like a soft gingerbread — direct from Bad Königshofen (Arlington's German sister city), along with Christmas knickknacks from Bavaria's Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Village. Other gift options include children's books, beauty products and handcrafted dog bandanas. The market's newest addition is a 5,000-square-foot outdoor ice rink that will remain open until Jan. 12. (And if you're wondering what Christkindl is, she's a blond, fairylike woman who wears a gold crown and a white-and-gold dress. In some European countries, she's the traditional Christmas gift giver.)
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
PHOTO BY: Cultura Creative/Alamy Stock Photo
Cincinnati: Germania Christkindlmarkt
If you don't like Jack Frost nipping at your nose (or your hands, feet, cheeks, chest…), you'll love this holiday market: It's enclosed under heated tents. Sponsored by the city's Germania Society, the market lasts just three days, but it's packed with activities. Kids can enjoy everything from a lantern parade to a petting zoo, and shoppers can buy a variety of imported German gifts, including steins, nutcrackers, candy and crafts. Ready for a snack? Chow down on schnitzels, bratwurst and apple strudel, all while sipping German beer or glühwein (a hot German wine). Other downtown events include Macy's Light Up the Square on Nov. 29, featuring fireworks, ice skating and a Christmas tree lighting.
Hours: Nov. 22, 5 to 10 p.m.; Nov. 23, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Nov 24, noon to 5 p.m.
Admission: $3 for anyone 13 or older
PHOTO BY: Visit Denver
Denver: Denver Christkindl Market
Nov. 22 to Dec. 23
Sure, the market offers local and European food and gift options, but it also promotes something most others don't: dancing! The daily music options cross a range of genres, from classical (courtesy of the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra) to polka (with traditional German dancers) to bluegrass. “Dancing is encouraged,” the market's website notes. You can also pose for photos with the Christkindl. For a small-town experience, drive about an hour to the historic Georgetown Christmas Market for roasted chestnuts, horse-drawn wagons and carolers in Victorian costume (Dec. 7-8 and 14-15).
Hours: Sunday to Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thanksgiving: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 11: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 16-23: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
PHOTO BY: The Osthoff Resort
Elkhart Lake, Wis.: Old World Christmas Market
This market at the Osthoff Resort may require a road trip — Chicago, the closest big city, is 136 miles away — but it's worth it: USA Today readers voted this the best U.S. holiday market in 2018. What makes it special? The 70-plus local and international artisans sell their wares in traditional, European-style wood booths lined with fresh evergreens and white lights, in a heated tent the length of a football field. Gift possibilities include European items (Russian nesting dolls, Czech blown-glass ornaments), clothing (alpaca sweaters, cashmere socks), and a range of foods, from smoked salmon to homemade jams. Once you're done shopping, head to the Old World food court for Nuremberg bratwursts, Bavarian pretzels, baked cheese and more.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: $7 for anyone age 15 and up
PHOTO BY: Colin Miller
New York City: Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Oct. 31 to Jan. 5
With multiple top-notch holiday markets, the Big Apple might be Santa's favorite city. Start at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park: The 175 boutiques sell everything from clothing to crafts to artisanal foods. Be sure to skate on the park's 17,000-square-foot rink — free of charge — while admiring the Manhattan skyscrapers (starting in January, you can also slide and collide in ice-rink bumper cars). Haven't satisfied your Manhattan market fix? Go dashing through the subways to the Union Square Holiday Market (Nov. 21 to Dec. 24), the Columbus Circle Holiday Market (Dec. 4-24) and the Grand Central Holiday Fair (Nov. 18 to Dec. 24).
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
PHOTO BY: Chloe Rice/The Walt Disney Company
Orlando, Fla.: Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Nov. 29 to Dec. 30
Disney thinks big, so its holiday festival is not a mouse-sized affair. Each night, a celebrity narrator — from Whoopi Goldberg to Gary Sinise — tells the biblical Christmas story accompanied by a choir and a 50-piece orchestra as part of Epcot's Candlelight Processional. Popular speakers can generate four-hour lines, so consider a dinner package that includes the processional, suggests Tom Bricker of DisneyTouristBlog.com. Kids’ activities include Chip and Dale's Christmas Tree Spree, an ornament-based scavenger hunt. Each of Epcot's “world showcase nations” (pavilions that represent 11 countries) presents storytellers who share holidays traditions and offers a holiday kitchen with wintry meals. Naturally, the German pavilion is a hotspot with its traditional Christmas market.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission: Tickets start at $79 per day for a four-day pass, which provides admission to one of four parks per day (Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Magic Kingdom). One-day Epcot tickets start at $109 per person.
PHOTO BY: Christmas Village of Philadelphia
Philadelphia: Christmas Village
Nov. 28 to Dec. 24
Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men (and women). That's what the holidays are all about, right? So what better place to host a Christmas Village than LOVE Park, best known for its iconic LOVE statue. The market is not only kid-friendly — children's activities include a carousel, lantern parade and storytime sessions — but dog-friendly. Your pooch can pose for a photo with Santa and receive a free munchie from vendor Kylie's Canine Treats. And if you want to give the best gift ever, you can adopt a puppy from the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society. About 70 miles north, the town of Bethlehem hosts a Christkindlmarkt with 150-plus artisans, plus ice carving and glassblowing demonstrations.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thanksgiving, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
PHOTO BY: RICH YEE
San Francisco: The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Weekends from Nov. 23 to Dec. 22
You don't need a time machine to visit Victorian London. Just head to San Francisco's historic Cow Palace to wander winding London lanes and explore pubs, dance halls, theaters and more than 100 shops offering crafts, ceramics, antiquarian books and more. At least 800 performers appear as characters from Dickens’ novels, including, of course, A Christmas Carol's Ebenezer Scrooge. Entertainment ranges from plays to fencing lessons, but to really engage in some Dickensian role playing, head to Fezziwig's Warehouse. Mr. Fezziwig was young Scrooge's employer, and he'll invite you to join his holiday party and a rousing dance. Afterward, stop for high tea (with scones and finger sandwiches), but save room for fish and chips.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Admission: $32 for teens and adults, $14 for children ages 5-12 (children under 5 are free)
PHOTO BY: Downtown Holiday Market
Washington, D.C.: Downtown Holiday Market
Nov. 22 to Dec. 23
If you see something you want, don't wait — buy it. Why the rush? The market features 60 exhibitors each day, but they rotate, which means vendors can change daily. Over 150 regional artisans sell their wares, offering products such as pottery, paintings, photographs, jewelry and textiles. An added bonus: The market is located outside the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, so if you get cold, you can stroll inside, enjoy the artwork, shop in the museum store, and sip a warm beverage in the serene enclosed courtyard. Also worth a visit: Baltimore's Christmas Village, at the city's Inner Harbor, about 38 miles north on Interstate 95.
Hours: noon to 8 p.m. daily (closed on Thanksgiving)