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.
Updated for 2018 with new dates and markets!
An American Christkindl Market
For several years now, many American cities have been 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, they have the very affordable admission price of free! (Note: The Texas Christkindle in Arlington has been absorbed by the Enchant Festival, and is no longer free. Ergo, it is no longer included in our list. Sorry, Not Sorry.)
For your holiday pleasure, we have updated our annual list with 2018 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.
Christkindlmarket Chicago has expanded in recent years, with a satellite weekend location in Naperville. This year, the Wrigleyville location at Gallagher Way is closed due to construction.
2018 Dates: Chicago – Daily from 16 November through Christmas Eve, 24 December; Naperville – Thursday through Sunday, 23 November through 24 December.
Location: Daley Plaza, downtown Chicago, and Naperville.
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.
Christkindlmarket Milwaukee is new for 2018! The Wisconsin market is an off-shoot of Christkindlmarket Chicago, administered by the same group. The Market opens November 17th at Fiserv Forum. The first Don’t Miss family event happens December 2nd at the Christkindlmarket Milwaukee Lantern Parade. (Details to reserve your lantern are on their Facebook page.) If you’re a true Midwestern Christkindlmarket fan, you can collect a special set of commemorative mugs from Milwaukee, Chicago, and Naperville!
2018 Dates: Daily from 17 November through 31 December; Closed Christmas Day.
Location: Fiserv Forum in the Haymarket district of Milwaukee.
Website: Christkindlmarket Milwaukee on Facebook
Nearby Attractions: Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee RiverWalk District
Closest Hotel: The Aloft Milwaukee Downtown is within walking distance of Fiserv Forum on the banks of the Milwaukee River.
Denver’s Authentic Christkindl Market has won the Denver A-List Award for Best Festival every year it’s been open. It’s easy to see why! The annual Market offers a wintery dose of Gemuetlichkeit: fun, festivities and holiday cheer at Skyline Park, complete with food, entertainment, and plenty of “shopportunities.” A wide variety of performers, from high school groups to the Denver Philharmonic, will entertain. Exploring the market, with gifts and goods from across Europe and Colorado, is a highlight of the season. Then there’s the food, with everything from gourmet German dishes to sweets and treats, and even Kinderpunsch, a non-alcoholic Glüwein, for the kids. Events throughout the market’s schedule include appearances by St. Nikolaus, the Christkind, and Krampus. As the calendar changes from November to December, Denver’s Parade of Lights passes the Christkindl Market on Friday and Saturday nights, November 30th and December 1st.
2018 Dates: Daily from 16 November through 23 December.
Location: Skyline Park in the Five Points neighborhood, Denver (1515 Arapahoe Street).
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 takes place over Thanksgiving Weekend, and 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. The Lighting Ceremony happens at 4:30pm each Saturday and Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, followed by holiday concerts, sleigh and dogsled rides, and plenty more!
2018 Dates: Christkindlmarkt: Thanksgiving Weekend, Friday 23 to Sunday 25 November; the Christkindl Lantern Parade happens Friday and Saturday at 5pm. Christmas Lighting Festival: Weekends 30 November through 16 December.
Location: Front Street Gazebo & Leavenworth Festhalle.
Website: Information at christkindlmarktleavenworth.com and 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 attractions. 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.
2018 Dates: Daily 15 November through Christmas Eve, 24 December; 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 celebrates its 15th season this year, offering 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.
2018 Dates: Daily 28 November through 24 December.
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 170 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).
New in 2018: The Lodge: The Winter Village has a new rinkside bar and food hall called The Lodge by Urbanspace. The Lodge features a dozen new and classic NYC restaurants plus a beer garden, and is open daily from 8am to 10pm. (Note: the shops are open 11am to 8pm weekdays, 10am to 8pm Saturday and Sunday.)
2018 Dates: Daily 27 October through 2 January.
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.
2018 Dates: 12 November to Christmas Eve; Closed Thanksgiving Day.
Location: Vanderbilt Hall in 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 at the Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter, between the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. 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. Assorted publications have named the market one of the top Christmas Markets in the USA!
2018 Dates: Daily from 23 November through 23 December.
Location: Penn Quarter: F Street NW in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW.
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, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is literally across the street. Can’t beat a short walk during a Washington winter!
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!
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