One of the best parts about living in a city during the holidays is the festive nature of it all—the lights, the decorations, and the hustle and bustle of locals rushing to holiday parties wearing ugly sweaters and weighed down by presents. But another tradition—the outdoor holiday market—has emerged as a key event in cities across America.
Borrowed from the European tradition, the outdoor holiday market is modeled after long-standing events like Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremburg, Germany. Arguably the most famous Christmas market in Europe, Christkindlesmarkt offers more than 180 wooden stands full of handcrafted ornaments, games, and treats and runs from late November to December 24.
The American version looks a bit more contrived and corporate, sometimes featuring big time sponsors like banks. But the main elements of the European holiday market are there—think twinkling lights, wooden stalls, steaming cups of Gluehwein (mulled hot wine) and most importantly, an outdoor location. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, and in fact, sometimes that’s the point.
If a trip to Europe isn’t in the cards this holiday season—and let’s be frank, for most of us that’s unlikely—don’t fret. We’ve rounded up the nine best holiday markets around the country, so you too can experience the joy of sipping hot wine on a cold winter night in a city you love. Bonus: Many of the markets are free and all of them are family friendly.
The Union Square Holiday Market in New York City, New York
Located in Union Square Park, this holiday market is a favorite of New York locals thanks to its prime location, warming huts, kids craft station, and live music. It also offers artisan-focused products, some of which are handmade in New York, made from recycled or vintage items, or certified organic. The twinkling lights of the surrounding city don’t hurt the aesthetics, either. Looking for even more NYC holiday markets? Check out this map.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia’s Christmas Village is always a hit each holiday season the event is held in LOVE Park. This year’s Christmas Village features more than 80 outdoor vendors selling ornaments and more, a carousel, an ice-skating rink, and a winter garden maze at Dilworth Park.
The Christkindl Market in Chicago, Illinois
This outdoor market in the Chicago Loop offers typical German food and drinks, hot wine, live music, and various vendors selling holiday-themed goods—many of which are from Germany. Pro tip: Try a baked apple and order the kids a Kindergluhwein, a blend of apple and grape juices with the same spices as the adult version.
Downtown Holiday Market, Washington D.C.
Located on F Street in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, locals love that this long-running market is home to more than 150 artists selling jewelry, prints, and holiday cheer. Don’t miss the live music and the hot donuts.
The Christkindl Market in Denver, Colorado
Running from November 22 through December 23, the Christkindl Market in downtown Denver offers music, beer, abundant Gluehwein, and decent shopping in the food and craft stands on site. Don’t miss the nearby ice skating rink at Skyline Park.
Christmas Village in Baltimore, Maryland
Located at the West Shore Park in the Inner Harbor and running until December 24th, this market uses wooden huts to house ornaments, holiday gifts, and plenty of treats.
Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt in Cincinnati, Ohio
Organized by the non-profit German cultural organization Cincideutsch, the Christkindlmarkt brings an authentic German Christmas market to downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. Although not quite as large as some of the other markets on the list, you’ll still find traditional wood stalls, plenty of hot wine, and friendly volunteers.
Texas Christkindl Market in Arlington, Texas
From November 29 through December 22, the Texas Christkindl Market in Arlington, Texas, hosts one of the largest open-air holiday markets in the Southwest at the North Plaza at Globe Life Field. Festival goers can take photos with Santa, ice skate, and partake in traditional German cuisine and gifts.
Christmas City Village and Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Head to this eastern Pennsylvania city—coined Christmas City in 1937—for two stellar holiday markets. Christmas City Village is an authentic German Weihnachtsmarkt located along the city’s Main Street, with local vendors offering up unique presents from wooden huts. Similarly, Christkindlmarkt showcases aisles of handmade artisanal goods and collectables.
Did we miss your favorite outdoor market? Let us know in the comments.