Some of this information was gathered during a hosted press trip. All opinions remain my own.
Mulled wine, enormous soft pretzels, and fairy-tale settings: The magic of Europe’s Christmas markets has long been an irresistible draw for American travelers during the holidays.
But what if you can’t get to Europe to take in the fabulous markets in Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, or London?
The good news is that there are authentic and charming markets all across the United States that offer German, Dutch, Austrian, and British influences. In some cases, these markets have risen from immigrant communities’ European roots, and in others, the markets have thrived by taking full advantage of beautiful parks and downtown settings.
From suburban Indiana to small-town Michigan to America’s megacities of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, Christmas markets are flourishing.
Here are 10 fabulous U.S. Christmas markets to get you into the holiday spirit -- from the obscure to the celebrated.
1. Carmel Christkindlmarkt -- Carmel, Indiana
If not for the occasional sign in English, you would swear you were in Germany as you take in the slowly rotating blades of a 33-foot-high German-made wood Gluhwein Pyramid, sip warm elderberry wine, and browse stands featuring beer steins and cuckoo clocks.
It’s not Germany, however, but Carmel, Indiana -- a suburban area about 40 minutes north of Indianapolis. For the past several years, the pretty Carmel City Center has been transformed into a traditional Christkindlmarkt, complete with an ice-skating rink, dozens of food vendors serving everything from raclette to schnitzel, and live Christmas music.
Although more than 4,000 miles separate Carmel from its European inspiration, the community takes its Christkindlmarkt seriously, sourcing all of the market’s merchandise and food from Germany.
And don’t be surprised if you hear German being spoken. Many of the vendors hail from Germany, and Indiana’s strong German heritage is on display at a fascinating museum that details 10 U.S. Christmas traditions that you didn’t know were from Germany. (It turns out that virtually all of the popular holiday symbols -- Christmas trees, candy canes, gingerbread houses, glass ornaments, and Christmas markets -- originated in Germany.)
Although it has only been in existence since 2017, Carmel’s market has grown dramatically in its three years. Organizers say that 150,000 people visited the first year, and that number grew to 328,000 in the second year, including visitors from 42 states and virtually every Indiana county.
The Carmel Christkindlmarkt runs annually from late November through Christmas Eve.
2. Christmas Village Of Baltimore -- Baltimore, Maryland
A harbor setting combines with authentic wood shopping huts, a 65-foot-high Ferris wheel, and a Christmas-tree lighting on an ice rink to create an authentic German Christmas market experience right on the Baltimore Waterfront.
The Christmas Village is a beloved Baltimore tradition that features old-world charm and family-friendly entertainment.
With more than 50 food vendors, the Christmas Village boasts German-influenced fare for a variety of tastes.
“Follow the smell of gingerbread and freshly charcoal-grilled brats to the authentic wooden huts and to the grand heated tent which features a full menu of European food, sweets, and drinks,” says a press release about the event.
The Christmas Village, which dates to 2013, runs annually from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.
3. Leavenworth Village Of Lights -- Leavenworth, Washington
Located in the midst of the Cascade Range, Leavenworth fully capitalizes on its alpine setting. The Washington community is known for its Bavarian-style architecture as well as its lively German beer scene.
The village conducts weekend lighting festivals throughout the holiday season.
“During the Christmas Lighting, the quaint Bavarian village is transformed into a dazzling array of over 500,000 Christmas lights with live music, a special visit from Santa Claus, and more fun for the whole family,” says the event’s website.
The lights remain on from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day weekend.
4. Denver Christkindl Market -- Denver, Colorado
For nearly two decades, Denver’s downtown Skyline Park has been transformed into an old-world German village, complete with sparkling overhead lights, wooden huts, and a German beer hall.
The Denver Christkindl Market features Bavarian musicians playing Christmas classics while vendors offer holiday specialties such as baked apples, gingerbread biscuits, Austrian-inspired goulash, and charcoal-grilled sausages.
A hallmark of the Denver market is the presence of such Christmas characters as Sankt Nikolaus, Krampus, and the Christkind, according to the event’s website. It explains that the Christkind is the traditional bearer of gifts in parts of Germany, Austria, and other European countries. The “fairy-like being with a white-and-gold dress, golden locks, and golden crown” is featured in the Denver Christkindl Market’s logo.
The market is open from Thanksgiving through December 23.
5. Christkindlmarket Chicago -- Chicago, Illinois
Christkindlmarket Chicago was inspired by the Christmas market in Nuremberg, Germany, which began in the 1500s. The Chicago event -- the city’s largest open-air Christmas market -- was first held on Pioneer Court in 1996, according to the event’s website.
Well known for its red-and-white-striped vendor booths, the Christkindlmarket features vendors from around the world offering handcrafted ornaments and toys and traditional German food, sweets, and drinks.
Unique to the market is the Stammtisch, a German tradition that allows for the reservation of a private table to be shared with friends and family amidst the cozy atmosphere of the heated Grand Timber Haus.
The market is open through Christmas Eve.
6. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair -- San Francisco, California
For a chance to walk the streets of Charles Dickens’s London, the Cow Palace Arena & Event Center of San Francisco offers The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a Bay Area tradition since the 1970s.
Based on Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, the fair is billed as a one-of-a-kind adventure that recreates the winding lanes of Victorian London, complete with music halls, pubs, theaters, dance parties, and charming shops.
“Discover holiday revelry in this lamp-lit city brimming with over 800 lively and colorful characters from the imagination of Charles Dickens, the pages of history, and the sometimes-saucy world of the Victorian stage,” says the event’s website.
The event takes place from late November through December 22.
7. Downtown Holiday Market -- Washington, D.C.
More than 150 regional artisans, crafters, and boutique businesses converge on the area, all offering ethically produced goods.
“The market brings a unique and festive shopping ‘village’ to the heart of downtown D.C., including lively seasonal entertainment plus great snacks and festive treats,” said event organizers.
The market runs from late November through December 23.
8. Columbus Circle Holiday Market -- New York City, New York
“The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is internationally known as one of the most elegant and beautiful places for holiday shopping,” says the event’s website.
Featuring glittering aisles of art, jewelry, home goods, and festive treats, the market offers shoppers a unique opportunity to do their holiday shopping while soaking up the splendor of winter in New York City.
The market runs from early December through Christmas Eve.
9. Kerstmarkt -- Holland, Michigan
For a taste of the holidays in the Netherlands, head to Holland, Michigan, where the annual Kerstmarkt celebrates the Dutch roots of the Lower Peninsula city.
Featuring wares such as wooden toys, heirloom spoons, and blacksmithed hooks and hangers, the Kerstmarkt has been bringing a Dutch Christmas to the Holland area since 1997.
Even after the mid-December end of the Kerstmarkt, visitors can take in Holland’s festive DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory.
10. Christmas Village -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Not only will LOVE Park turn into a holiday wonderland, but also City Hall Courtyard will transform into ACME Winter Memories,” said event organizers, noting that 15 additional vendors will be located at City Hall, along with the dozens at LOVE Park.
The open-air market features a holiday carousel, live music, themed weekends, and a 27-foot-high walkthrough holiday gift box known as The Present.
The Christmas Village runs from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.