Every winter atmospheric Christmas markets take place in towns, villages and cities across America, helping get both locals and visitors into the festive mood.
There’s nothing quite like wrapping up warm and strolling around a Christmas market, browsing for gifts and sampling seasonal treats. With the roots of these buzzing bazaars found in Germany in the Middle Ages, many of America’s holiday markets are modelled on their Teutonic cousins across the pond. Wooden booths and northern European-style arts & crafts are both nods to this heritage, and it’s a pastiche that is lapped up by huge numbers each year. Listed from west to east, below is a potted journey around the 20 best Christmas markets to visit in the United States, based on size, history, and authenticity.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair (Daly City, San Francisco Bay Area, California)
Fans of the works of legendary English writer Charles Dickens will be familiar with his atmospheric novels, among which “A Christmas Carol” remains a favourite with many. This holiday fair invites visitors to step back in time and experience Victorian London, where most of Dickens’ novels were set, all the way down to the hustle and bustle of its street markets. Each year the event sees the Cow Palace Arena in Daly City transformed with improvised lamplit lanes, mock pubs and theatres, dance floors and music halls, tearooms and shops, plus hundreds of costumed characters doing the rounds.
Cow Palace Arena, Daly City
Leavenworth’s Christkindlmarkt (Leavenworth, Washington)
The logging town of Leavenworth reinvented itself in the 1960’s as a faux-Bavarian village. Today, nestled in the mountains of the Bavarian northwest, this scenic community pays tribute to its heritage by doing Christmas in authentic style, featuring month-long celebrations with carol-singing, lighting ceremonies, and special events for all ages and tastes. A hugely popular event for over two decades, the market is held both indoor and outdoors, ensuring visitors can enjoy themselves whatever the weather. Highlights include live music, kids’ craft activities, and a stunning lantern parade that heralds the opening of the market.
Leavenworth Festhalle & Front Street Park, Leavenworth
Georgetown Christmas Market (Georgetown, Colorado)
For the residents of Georgetown, the festive season offers up an excuse to turn back the clock by re-enacting Yuletide as it was enjoyed some 100 years ago. Revellers who come along to the town’s annual Christmas market will be greeted by such evocative sights as horse-drawn wagons riding through the historic centre and carol singers dressed in Victorian costumes, among other seasonal themed entertainment. There’ll also be plenty of speciality gifts and products to browse. And remember to pick up a bag of roasted chestnuts – surely no Christmas is complete without them?
Strousse Park on 6th and Rose Street, Georgetown
Denver Christkindlmarkt (Denver, Colorado)
Ambling through festively decorated and illuminated streets, enjoying rides on old-fashioned carousels, buying handmade Christmas decorations, listening to German Christmas carols, and drinking hot spiced wine. This is just a taster of what awaits you at Denver’s hugely popular Christkindlmarkt. Organised each year by the German American Chamber of Commerce and the German Cultural Foundation, the event has grown to become one of America’s biggest and best holiday fairs, bringing the atmosphere of European Christmas to Colorado and drawing visitors from far and wide.
Civic Center Park, Denver
Texas Christkindl Market (Arlington, Texas)
Arlington puts on one of Texas’ most popular Christmas markets, a family-friendly German-inspired fair featuring holiday gifts, decorations and other traditional festive goods, as well as an array of live entertainment. Visitors can ensconce themselves in the Warming Haus while kids will enjoy catching a glimpse of the Christkindl Angel and getting their photo taken with Santa himself. The market also claims to be the only place in the southwest where you can find exclusive Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas decorations and designs from the renowned Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Village in Germany.
Choctaw Stadium, Arlington
Tomball German Christmas Market (Tomball, Texas)
This fun-packed event is a street festival, musical concert and open-air Christmas market all rolled into one. Visitors can tap their feet to well-known stage performers and carol singers while perusing the 175-plus vendors peddling enticing Christmas items, arts and crafts, and plenty more. There’s also a huge range of festive food and drink offerings, including mulled wine, beer, Christmas Stollen, bratwurst and sauerkraut. A dedicated kid’s area featuring carnival rides, bungee-jumping, a rock wall, a petting zoo and pony rides help keep little ones entertained for hours.
Tomball Old Town
Old World Christmas Market (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin)
This market does what it says on the tin, rekindling the centuries’-old German Christkindlesmarkts with authentic gifts, ornaments and food specialities sold at quaint timbre booths. The setting is perhaps unusual for a Christmas market, taking place in a luxury resort overlooking Wisconsin’s scenic Elkhart Lake, but it’s certainly eye-catching. The market stalls feature freshly-cut balsam trees adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, a European-style food court, and an appearance by Father Christmas, all staged in a heated tent the length of a football field.
The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake
Christkindlmarket (Chicago, Illinois)
Sausages are one of the main incentives for visiting Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, one of the longest-running Christmas markets anywhere in America. Though there’s plenty of other mouth-watering German-inspired food to be found here too, not to mention numerous vendors selling cuckoo clocks, table laces, ornaments, woodworking masterpieces and other great gift and souvenir ideas. One of the most popular activities at the market is to grab yourself a glass of gluehwein in a themed cup that changes its design every year. For kids, there’s a Kinder Club that hosts fun-packed activities including scavenger hunts.
Daley Plaza, Chicago
Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt (Cincinnati, Ohio)
This market is part of a broader celebration called Macy’s Light Up the Square, which takes place each year in the heart of Cincinnati and features the annual lighting of a Christmas tree along with live music, a fireworks display and an ice skating rink. The market itself in Fountain Square is authentically German in style and boasts a wide range of vendors and local artisans selling traditional German fare including Glühwein, hot chocolate, sweets and baked goods, handcrafted gifts, seasonal decorations and other festive-themed products from charming half-timbered stalls.
Fountain Square, downtown Cincinnati
Germania Society Christkindlmarkt (Cincinnati, Ohio)
If anyone in America is going to hit the bullseye with a Christmas market, you’d hope it would be the Germania Society, a Cincinnati-based organisation that celebrates German culture through a diverse programme of events and activities throughout the year. Each winter, they play host to an extensive market at Germania Park featuring an assortment of imported German gifts, along with traditional food and drink. Live entertainment is also in ample supply, with German music, a children’s lantern parade, a petting zoo and carriage rides all helping to create a warm and welcoming family-friendly atmosphere.
Germania Park, Cincinnati
Atlanta Christkindl Market (Atlanta, Georgia)
A visit from the Nuremburg Christkind, with her white and golden dress, long blond curls and golden crown, kicks off this busy Christmas market in dramatic style each year, with kids enjoying the chance to take selfies and listen to her regale them with German Christmas folktales. The market itself is packed full of German crafts and other items, including hand-carved wooden toys and trinkets, delicate Christmas tree ornaments, and fine laces. There’s also also tons of excellent traditional food, including hearty German dishes like currywurst, bratwurst, and leberkäse to keep revellers well fuelled.
Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta
Downtown Holiday Market (Washington, District of Columbia)
The Downtown Holiday Market is consistently ranked among America’s best Christmas fairs, and anyone who’s visited will testify as to why. Located on Washington’s F Street between 7th & 9th streets NW, outside the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, the event features a consistently rotating selection of exhibitors and artisans offering a huge array of fine art, crafts, jewellery, pottery, clothing, speciality food items, and plenty more. The market takes place annually every day from mid-November all the way through to Christmas Eve.
WeihnachtsMarkt (Harmony, Pennsylvania)
Set in the grounds of a prestigious museum, this is another untypical venue for a Christmas market, but does nothing to deter the large numbers who visit each year to enjoy the unique atmosphere and array of gifts on display. There’s a high level of quality control, meaning that artists and vendors are selected based on the standard of their offerings, so you can guarantee the items you’re browsing are authentic German imports. There’s also live entertainment, including quilting, weaving demonstrations and carol singing, plus a Reindeer Express Mailbox for kids to send off their letters to Santa – plus lashings of traditional German food and drink.
The Harmony Museum, Harmony
Christkindlmarket (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)
Held over five weeks each year and featuring more than 125 artisanal stall holders, Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem positively oozes old-world charm. As well as an impressive range of souvenir and gift ideas, there’s also the heart-warming sound of live Christmas music, plus impressive ice-sculpting demonstrations and giant playhouses, both of which help draw families with kids to the market. Visitors can expect to find beautiful glass art, handmade jewellery, wheel-thrown pottery, gourmet foods and hand-crafted candles, to name just a few goodies.
Christmas Village (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Taking place in the grounds of Philadelphia’s City Hall, this German-themed Christmas Village is widely renowned for its delightful festive atmosphere thanks to the thousands of lights and live music performances of Christmas classics. As for things to buy, there are more than 80 stalls selling ornaments, toys, jewellery, and arts and crafts, while traditional European food and drink is in good supply with waffles, gingerbread, bratwurst and mulled wine among the treats vying to tempt visitors into submission.
Love Park & City Hall, Philadelphia
Canandaigua Christkindl Market (Canandaigua, New York State)
There’s no need to worry about New York City’s famous winter cold snap at this market, which is held under several heated tents on the pristine lawn of the majestic Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum in Canandaigua. Over 130 regional artisans and food vendors regularly turn up for the annual event, which also features live entertainment and festive music. Younger visitors can meet the Christkindl Angel as well as the big man himself alongside his better half, Mrs Claus, who will be waiting to greet them in the dedicated Santa’s House.
Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum, Canandaigua
Christmas Village (Baltimore, Maryland)
Baltimore’s German Christmas market has been a regular fixture on the city’s winter calendar since 2013 and features thousands of lights, a giant Christmas Tree and enough traditional food to shake a stick at, including mouth-watering waffles, gingerbread and bratwurst. There are both indoor and outdoor areas, meaning those less inclined to brave the cold can always retreat to warmer environs thanks to a heated tent, underneath which you’ll find a food court and a diverse mix of stallholders selling holiday gifts, ornaments, jewellery, arts and crafts and much more.
West Shore Park, Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Union Square Holiday Market (NYC, New York)
While some Christmas markets are best suited for a quick wander, you could easily set aside an entire day to explore this internationally renowned event in the heart of Manhattan. As well as more than 150 vendors showcasing handcrafted goods and other eclectic items, there’s also a whole host of entertainment, including a kid’s craft studio and live musical performances. Some great gift ideas to be found here include brew-your-own beer kits and monogrammed stuffed animals. There’s also plenty of food and drink on offer, either to enjoy as you walk or to take home.
Union Square Park, NYC
Columbus Circle Holiday Market (NYC, New York)
This is one of the best known Christmas markets anywhere in the US, thanks in some measure to its iconic location at the entrance to Central Park. Visitors can – and very often do – lose themselves in the glittering array of aisles where art, jewellery, homeware and delicious food and drink are on display, much of which has been created by gifted artisans and independent designers. If you need help navigating your way around, dedicated on-site concierge staff will guide you to your preferred stalls.
Columbus Circle, NYC
Bryant Park Winter Village (NYC, New York)
Shopping is only half the story at the Bryant Park Winter Village. Each year, the expansive public park in Midtown Manhattan is transformed into a hugely popular entertainment hub, hosting a huge outdoor ice skating rink that helps make it one of the most atmospheric places to visit during Christmas anywhere in the Big Apple. There are also more than 100 stall holders and food kiosks here selling everything from distinctive apparel, jewellery and decorations to delicious festive cuisine.
Bryant Park, NYC
While most of the Christmas markets listed above are large city-based events, there are also a number of smaller, more low-key fairs that take place across small town America. Here are two of the best:
Yorktown Christmas Market (Yorktown, Virginia)
The small Virginia town of Yorktown comes alive each festive season with the opening of its Christmas market. Proceedings kick off with a Christmas tree lightening, a tradition that dates back in the town to 1945. As for the market itself, visitors can enjoy the presence of some 60 vendors, plus holiday music, food and drink, and of course, a visit from Santa himself. Seasonal gift and produce buying is popular here too, with soups and baked goods, preserves, candles, soap, and festive art among the wares on offer.
Venues across Yorktown
Frankenmuth ChristKindlMarkt (Frankenmuth, Michigan)
The small German town of Frankenmuth celebrates its heritage as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” each year. The Christmas market actually runs all-year-round, but really comes into bloom for the main event in late November, with the city dressed up in dazzling lights and lavish decorations for several weeks. Horse-drawn carriages offer festive rides, while glowing trees along Main Street light up the promenade through downtown towards a beautiful 40-foot Christmas tree. There’s also a free music and lights show that runs several times a day.
Venues across Frankenmuth