It may not be quite as big or as lavish as the Christmas markets in Germany (or as cold, hooray!), but the Union Square Holiday Market (Union Square, NYC) definitely helps make the season bright in New York City. Open every year from before Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, the market celebrates all the season’s festivities, not just Christmas: Looking for Hanukkah themed gifts? No problem. Non-holiday-specific vaguely-ethnic-looking items? They’ve got you covered. And thanks to this year’s unseasonably warm weather, you can actually enjoy leisurely browsing the stalls without cursing the cold.
The market takes over Union Square Park, turning the plaza–often dominated by street performers or 99 percent-ers the rest of the year–into a veritable bubble of holiday joy. Rows of red-and-white striped wooden stalls snake through the park, decorated with pine garlands and wreaths, string lights, and red and gold bows–it’s everything that puts the warm fuzzies in our hearts this time of year.
Start out with a cup of spiced gluhwein (unfortunately, non-alcoholic only) or rich and creamy hot chocolate. Grab a huge gingerbread man–seriously, these things are bigger than your head–or, if savory’s more your thing, a truffle cheddar soft pretzel (yes, you read that right), and you’re set to shop! With more than 150 vendors, you’re bound to find something good to put under the tree. Find the holiday market regulars: jewelry, scarves, hats, and mittens, but also local artisans selling cool crafts, speciality olive oils and salts, handmade glass and wooden goods, paintings, toys, embroidered pillows, home brewing kits, and much more.
As with anything free and worth going to in New York City, you’ll most likely have to battle crowds, but at least you’re supporting local vendors, and not inside a mall. Also, did I mention that the stalls are just so pretty to look at?
Hours are 11am to 8pm on weekdays, 10am to 8pm on Saturdays, and 11am to 7pm on Sundays. On Saturdays, follow up your holiday shopping with grocery shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket! Farmers from New York and surrounding states sell fresh produce, dairy, meats, breads, cheese, cider, maple syrup, jams, flowers, and more.