This List of U.S. Christmas Markets Rivals the Magical Markets of Europe!
November—the leaves are gone, and the sun sets earlier, but it is a bright and cheery month for anyone in the know about Christmas markets. Parks and public places fill with stalls displaying all manner of gifts and food, the air smells of hot chocolate and mulled wine, towering pine trees covered in bright lights and fanciful decorations. The best part? There is a Bavarian or Dutch or Swiss village a day’s drive from where you live.
Yes, we have wonderful Christmas markets all over the U.S. with traditional foods and numerous handmade goods. You can leave the passport at home and still enjoy a traditional festive European-style holiday, courtesy of communities and creative people eager to share their traditions.
There are Christmas markets from New York to California and Michigan to Texas. Some are short, lasting a week when artisans and food venders crowd the streets. Others, as Philadelphia’s Christmas Village and Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, are huge affairs, recreating entire cities. Philly’s Village will leave you feeling like you just got off the plane in Munich. Travel to Chicago and you will think you are in Nuremberg.
Some of the best Christmas Markets in the United States:
New York—The city that never sleeps will have you roaming between Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Rockefeller Center. The entire city can seem one huge Christmas Market. Skate beneath the enormous tree in Rockefeller Center and imagine yourself on a movie set.
Boston—Faneuil Hall. Not to be overshadowed by New York, the four halls are covered in holiday decorations, crafts and foods, and another enormous tree. Explore the magic of snow falling in Boston’s historic downtown.
Philadelphia—starting in mid-November the City of Brotherly Love transforms itself into a European fairy tale city complete with a beer garden, thousands of little lights, dozens of artisans’ huts, and a food court with everything from bratwurst to Belgian fries to mulled wine. Over the years Philadelphia’s Christmas Village has grown and now spills out over neighboring streets, something no one seems to mind.
Chicago—Of course my hometown is one of the best places to be for the holidays. My prejudices go back to years of wandering the amazing displays along State Street, the thousands of lights decorating the trees lining Michigan Avenue’s miracle mile, and now the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Inspired by the Nuremberg markets, the market could be straight out of Bavaria.
Holland, Michigan—A few hours drive to the north of Chicago, Holland lives up to its name with markets resembling those all over the Netherlands. There are special soups instead of bratwurst, and different sugary treats. I must bring my good friend from Amsterdam to judge if the desserts are as good as her home.
Atlanta—this Christkindlemarket may not have the snow of its northern neighbors but thanks to the German American Cultural Foundation visitors can enjoy centuries old German traditions of handmade toys, wooden carvings, and plenty of delicious food.
Raleigh, North Carolina—For a change from German traditions, head to Raleigh for traditional Scandinavian Christmas customs. Enjoy Swedish meatballs, glogg and cinnamon buns while stocking up on Norwegian sweaters or cute gnomes like the one on my desk. Remember, those little guys are supposed to bring good luck.
Denver— Predictably Denver’s markets are decked out in the style of Swiss sky villages. Here wine and cheese are the preferred refreshments in Denver’s winter wonderland markets.
San Francisco—For something different transport yourself back to Victorian England for the Great Dickens Fair held in San Francisco’s Cow Palace. Enjoy music halls, dance floors, food, and shopping in this holiday party tradition dating from 1970.
The Christmas Markets of Europe are magical, with hundreds of years of history behind the bright displays and copious refreshments. It is a bucket list experience. But if flying to Europe is not an option right now, know there are still many places to celebrate the season, closer than you realized.
Donna Zabel, owner of DreamMaker Destinations, has been helping travelers turn their travel dreams into travel reality for over 20 years. Having explored all seven continents and over 135 countries, she enjoys sharing her travel tales and encourages everyone to find their own story to tell.