Every winter, many travelers’ thoughts turn to Europe and the traditional Christmas Markets that dot the map from Finland to the Mediterranean, from the Baltics to the British Isles. But where is the American Christkindl Market? As immigrants settled in the United States, they naturally brought traditions with them but somehow the Christkindlmarkt never quite caught on like it has in the homelands.
An American Christkindl Market
Today, many cities are making valiant efforts to bring a little bit of Europe home for the holidays. When you’re ready for festive holiday cheer and a warm mug of Glühwein, without the cost of transatlantic air fare, we have just the ticket: An American Christkindl Market! While there are many holiday celebrations and markets around the country, these are our favorite traditional Christmas markets. They’re also some of the country’s largest and, best of all, almost all have the very affordable admission price of free!
For your holiday pleasure, we have updated our annual list with 2017 dates and additional Markets.
An annual event since 1996, Christkindlmarket Chicago in Daley Plaza is the season’s highlight. Begun by the German American Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the city of Nuremberg, Germany, the event is now a bona fide Chicago tradition, complete with Chicago’s official Tree Lighting. The annual McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wraps up nearby, making for a festive day in downtown Chicago. Not only will Santa be in attendance, but also Chicago’s very own Christkind, the angel who watches over the festival.
The event is designed for the whole family to enjoy. Kinder Club offers fun activities to help the little ones explore the market, visit with vendors, and learn about German holiday traditions. A wide variety of school groups, professional entertainers, carolers and dance troops entertain visitors, while vendors offer hungry shoppers traditional German meals, snacks and sweets. The market hosts over 50 vendors, many of whom travel from Germany to share their holiday wares and traditions in traditional, colorful wooden huts, including a few locations where you can warm up in the chill of a Chicago winter wonderland.
2017 Dates: November 17th through Christmas Eve, December 24th.
Location: Daley Plaza, downtown Chicago, with satellite markets in Naperville and now at the Park at Wrigley.
Nearby Attractions: Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, Navy Pier
Closest Hotel: The Cambria Hotel & Suites Chicago Magnificent Mile is almost literally across the street, though almost any hotel inside the Loop would be in walking distance.
Denver’s Authentic Christkindl Market offers a wintery dose of Gemuetlichkeit: fun, festivities and holiday cheer at Skyline Park and 16th Street Mall, complete with food, entertainment, and plenty of “shopportunities.” A wide variety of performers, from high school groups to the Denver Philharmonic, will entertain. Kids will enjoy Storytime, while the grown-ups explore the market, with gifts and goods from across Europe and Colorado. Then there’s the food, with everything from gourmet German dishes to sweets and treats. Events throughout the market’s schedule include appearances by St. Nikolaus, the Christkind, and Krampus.
2017 Dates: November 17th through December 23rd.
Location: Skyline Park in the Five Points neighborhood, Denver
Nearby Attractions: Southwest Skating Rink at Skyline Park, the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve, Writer Square shopping
Closest Hotels: The Four Seasons Hotel Denver and the Westin Denver Downtown are both within a block of the market.
Leavenworth has been called America’s most Bavarian village, so it makes sense they’d have a traditional Christkindlmarkt, and they’ve been doing it for almost two decades. This celebrated Washington tradition includes delicious Bavarian foods, handmade holiday crafts and gifts, family-friendly entertainment, and activities for kids and the whole family. In traditional style, the Leavenworth Christkindlmarkt marks the beginning of the holidays. For the next three weekends of December, Leavenworth celebrates the holidays during the Christmas Lighting Festival, featuring more than half a million lights, and nearly as many events, activities, and festivities all around town.
2017 Dates: Christkindlmarkt: Thanksgiving Weekend, 24 to 26 November; The Christmas Lighting Festival: Weekends December 1st through 17th
Location: Front Street Gazebo & Leavenworth Festhalle
Website: Information at Leavenworth.org
Nearby Attractions: Leavenworth Ski Hill, Stevens Pass Ski Area
Closest Hotels: The Bavarian Lodge, and Bavarian Ritz Hotel are right on Front Street and are among the most popular in town.
(Ed. Note: Hotels sell out well before the holidays; consider booking as much as a year in advance.)
New York, New York
The city so nice they named it twice is home to at least four great holiday markets that have become local traditions and international destinations. You’ll find the markets sprinkled amongst iconic holiday sights like the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, window displays on 5th Avenue, and the Radio City Rockettes.
Begun in 1994, the Union Square Holiday Market has become a holiday institution in the Big Apple, drawing more than a million visitors every year with the promise of unique gifts, festive foods, and holiday cheer. Grab a warm beverage and some tasty treats to enjoy as you stroll among the rows of candy-cane striped tents filled with decorations of every description, and more gift ideas than you can imagine. Some are imported from around the world, others crafted by the very merchant you’re talking to, ranging from home beer brewing kits to handmade scarves and accessories to…well, the list is too long to list here, but there’s a complete vendor list on their website. Look with vendors with the Artisan’s Pledge, meaning goods are 100% handmade in the USA, organic-certified, Fairtrade-certified, or recycled, reused, or vintage items.
2016 Dates: November 16th through Christmas Eve, December 24th (Closed Thanksgiving Day)
Location: Union Square (14th Street & Union Square West)
Website: Union Square Holiday Market
Nearby at historic Central Park, the Columbus Circle Holiday Market offers shoppers gourmet bites from around the world, along with handmade gifts by some of the city’s finest designers and artisans. Plus, one of the most iconic New York settings: Winter in Central Park. Need more? The market is just across the street from even more incredible shopping at Time Warner Center and the Shops at Columbus Circle. One could easily knock out all of their holiday shopping, get an eyeful of people-watching, and see some of the city’s best decorations, and all in one place. (Holiday Under the Stars features a dozen 14-foot stars hanging from the ceiling of Time Warner Center’s 150-foot Great Room). You’ll find vendors displaying the Artisan’s Pledge here, too.
2017 Dates: November 28 through December 24th
Location: Columbus Circle (Central Park West at 59th Street)
Website: Columbus Circle Holiday Market
Fancy a stroll through a European-style open air market? The Winter Village at Bryant Park, which opened the last weekend of October, turns into the Holiday Shops at Bryan Park starting on Thanksgiving. The Holiday Shops feature more than 150 shopping kiosks and food vendors offering exquisite gifts including local foods, distinctive apparel and jewelry, and decorative arts from international artisans. Take a break from shopping at the free, 17,000-square-foot ice-skating rink (skate rentals are $20).
2017 Dates: October 28th through January 2nd
Location: Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets
Website: Winter Village at Bryant Park
“Meet me at the clock” has been a common invitation in New York for generations. During the holidays, that’s where you’ll meet one of the city’s longest-running indoor holiday markets, the Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair. Every year, the market takes over half of the historic Vanderbilt Hall with artwork, clothing and accessories, toys, and home goods. If you’re arriving in New York by train, this is a great first stop for holiday spirit. And it’s indoors, so you can enjoy the holidays without braving the weather. Don’t miss the towering, bejeweled Christmas Tree, and the New York Transit Museum’s Holiday Train Show.
2017 Dates: 13 November to Christmas Eve (Closed Thanksgiving Day)
Location: Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street at Park Avenue
Website: Grand Central Holiday Fair
All of these markets are centrally located in Manhattan. That means you can mix your Christmas market visits with all of the city’s sightseeing, fun, shows and shopping! See Hotels.com accommodations in Manhattan for some ideas on where to stay.
There’s already a lot to see and do in DC. During the holidays, you can do a different sort of sightseeing between the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery at the Downtown Holiday Market. It’s a unique and festive shopping “village” with more than 150 regional artisans, crafters, and boutiques. Fabulous food and live entertainment make for a fun, festive atmosphere for the whole family.
- Pro Tip: Get to Washington early for the Smithsonian Holiday Festival, December 2nd and 3rd at the National Museum of American History on the National Mall.
2017 Dates: November 24th through December 23rd
Location: 8th and F Street NW in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Nearby Attractions: The Downtown Holiday Market is just off the National Mall, and less than a mile from the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse across from the White House.
Closest Hotels: While there are plenty of great hotels in DC, Marriott’s Courtyard Washington Convention Center Hotel is literally (diagonally) across the street.
Arlington (Dallas-Fort Worth)
The home of Texas Rangers Baseball was home to Texas’ biggest Christmas market for five years, from 2011 to 2016. This year, the Texas Christkindl Market becomes part of Enchant at Globe Life Park. The massive display of Christmas lights makes its U.S. debut with the “World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze & Market.” Other attractions include a Skating Pond, Santa’s Palace, the tallest Christmas Tree in north Texas, and live entertainment every night.
The Texas Christkindl Market becomes the Enchant Christmas Market, and moves from a free to paid event. This year’s market features 21 local food trucks, and 85 local and national vendors. As part of Enchant, entry to market requires paid entry to Enchant.
2017 Dates: 24 November through 31 December (Closed Mondays and Christmas Eve)
Location: Globe Life Park (the Ballpark at Arlington)
Admission: Advance Tickets are $29.95 Adult, $21.95 Child (5 to 14), with discounts for Seniors, Military and EMS. A family fourpack (2 Adults/2 Kids) is $79.95. Day of Event pricing is approximately $5 higher. Skating is $5 (skates included) and benefits charity partners. VIP Admissions are available on-line.
Nearby Attractions: AT&T Stadium and Six Flags over Texas
Closest Hotels: The Sheraton Arlington Hotel is within walking distance. There is also a Howard Johnson Express and a Courtyard by Marriott nearby.
Where are your favorite holiday markets and festivals? Please let us know with a comment below, or link to your favorite holiday market blog post. Happy Holidays!