Add these fun and festive events to your winter travel list.
Want to put the ho-ho-ho back in the holidays? Plan a yuletide getaway to a holiday market. From San Francisco to Philly, city markets offer handcrafted gifts, live music and holiday comfort food, often with a German twist. It's a way-jollier experience than elbowing Black Friday customers for the last Barbie's Dream House. Check out these nine popular markets around the country (admission is free unless otherwise noted).
Photo courtesy of Anna Quaglia/Alamy.
Texas Christkindl Market | November 29 to December 22
Arlington is better known for Stetsons than lederhosen, but this German market has some serious Old-World connections. Shoppers will find lebkuchen cookies—like a soft gingerbread—direct from Bad Königshofen (Arlington's German sister city), along with Christmas knickknacks from Bavaria's Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Village. Other gift options include children's books, beauty products and handcrafted dog bandanas. The market's newest addition is a 5,000-square-foot outdoor ice rink that will remain open until January 12. (And if you're wondering what Christkindl is, she's a blond, fairylike woman who wears a gold crown and a white-and-gold dress. In some European countries, she's the traditional Christmas gift giver.)
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Visit Denver
Denver Christkindl Market | November 22 to December 23
Sure, the market offers local and European food and gift options, but it also promotes something most others don't: dancing! The daily music options cross a range of genres, from classical (courtesy of the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra) to polka (with traditional German dancers) to bluegrass. "Dancing is encouraged," the market's website notes. You can also pose for photos with the Christkindl. For a small-town experience, drive about an hour to the historic Georgetown Christmas Market for roasted chestnuts, horse-drawn wagons and carolers in Victorian costume (December 7-8 and 14-15).
Hours: Sunday to Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thanksgiving: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 11: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 16-23: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Photo courtesy of The Osthoff Resort
ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN
Old World Christmas Market | December 6-15
This market at the Osthoff Resort may require a road trip—Chicago, the closest big city, is 136 miles away—but it's worth it: USA Today readers voted this the best U.S. holiday market in 2018. What makes it special? The 70-plus local and international artisans sell their wares in traditional, European-style wood booths lined with fresh evergreens and white lights, in a heated tent the length of a football field. Gift possibilities include European items (Russian nesting dolls, Czech blown-glass ornaments), clothing (alpaca sweaters, cashmere socks), and a range of foods, from smoked salmon to homemade jams. Once you're done shopping, head to the Old-World food court for Nuremberg bratwursts, Bavarian pretzels, baked cheese and more.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Admission: $7 for anyone age 15 and up
Photo courtesy of Colin Miller
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park | October 31 to January 5
With multiple top-notch holiday markets, the Big Apple might be Santa's favorite city. Start at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park: The 175 boutiques sell everything from clothing to crafts to artisanal foods. Be sure to skate on the park's 17,000-square-foot rink—free of charge—while admiring the Manhattan skyscrapers (starting in January, you can also slide and collide in ice-rink bumper cars). Haven't satisfied your Manhattan market fix? Go dashing through the subways to the Union Square Holiday Market (November 21 to December 24), the Columbus Circle Holiday Market (December 4-24) and the Grand Central Holiday Fair (November 18 to December 24).
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Chloe Rice/The Walt Disney Company
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays | November 29 to December 30
Disney thinks big, so its holiday festival is not a mouse-sized affair. Each night, a celebrity narrator—from Whoopi Goldberg to Gary Sinise—tells the biblical Christmas story accompanied by a choir and a 50-piece orchestra as part of Epcot's Candlelight Processional. Popular speakers can generate four-hour lines, so consider a dinner package that includes the processional, suggests Tom Bricker of DisneyTouristBlog.com. Kids' activities include Chip and Dale's Christmas Tree Spree, an ornament-based scavenger hunt. Each of Epcot's "world showcase nations" (pavilions that represent 11 countries) presents storytellers who share holidays traditions and offers a holiday kitchen with wintry meals. Naturally, the German pavilion is a hotspot with its traditional Christmas market.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Admission: Tickets start at $79 per day for a four-day pass, which provides admission to one of four parks per day (Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Magic Kingdom). One-day Epcot tickets start at $109 per person.
Photo courtesy of Christmas Village of Philadelphia
Christmas Village | Nov. 28 to Dec. 24
Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men (and women). That's what the holidays are all about, right? So what better place to host a Christmas Village than LOVE Park, best known for its iconic LOVE statue. The market is not only kid-friendly—children's activities include a carousel, lantern parade and storytime sessions—but dog-friendly. Your pooch can pose for a photo with Santa and receive a free munchie from vendor Kylie's Canine Treats. And if you want to give the best gift ever, you can adopt a puppy from the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society. About 70 miles north, the town of Bethlehem hosts a Christkindlmarkt with 150-plus artisans, plus ice carving and glassblowing demonstrations.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thanksgiving, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Rich Yee
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair | Weekends from November 23 to December 22
You don't need a time machine to visit Victorian London. Just head to San Francisco's historic Cow Palace to wander winding London lanes and explore pubs, dance halls, theaters and more than 100 shops offering crafts, ceramics, antiquarian books and more. At least 800 performers appear as characters from Dickens' novels, including, of course, A Christmas Carol's Ebenezer Scrooge. Entertainment ranges from plays to fencing lessons, but to really engage in some Dickensian role-playing, head to Fezziwig's Warehouse. Mr. Fezziwig was young Scrooge's employer, and he'll invite you to join his holiday party and a rousing dance. Afterward, stop for high tea (with scones and finger sandwiches), but save room for fish and chips.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. | Admission: $32 for teens and adults, $14 for children ages 5-12 (children under 5 are free)
Photo courtesy of Downtown Holiday Market
Downtown Holiday Market | November 22 to December 23
If you see something you want, don't wait — buy it. Why the rush? The market features 60 exhibitors each day, but they rotate, which means vendors can change daily. Over 150 regional artisans sell their wares, offering products such as pottery, paintings, photographs, jewelry and textiles. An added bonus: The market is located outside the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, so if you get cold, you can stroll inside, enjoy the artwork, shop in the museum store, and sip a warm beverage in the serene enclosed courtyard. Also worth a visit: Baltimore's Christmas Village, at the city's Inner Harbor, about 38 miles north on Interstate 95.
Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. daily (closed on Thanksgiving)
Written by Ken Budd, Courtesy of AARP.
Main photo courtesy of Downtown Holiday Market.
This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at AARP.