Christmas markets traditionally bring joy by breaking up the winter season with lights, caroling, shopping, and festivities. All of the senses are delighted with scents of ginger, the flavor of gluehwein and stollen, and the abundance of lights and songs.
Originating in Germany, Christmas markets are now found in small towns throughout the U.S., as well, highlighting the wonder of the season. Enjoy these 13 small-town Christmas markets spreading cheer throughout the U.S.
Greater Williamsburg, Virginia
Celebrate the holiday season in the Greater Williamsburg area, the birthplace of American holidays, with a variety of events. The area comes alive with festivities throughout the season.
The town of Yorktown has a Christmas market, and celebrations kick off with the Yorktown Christmas Tree Lighting, a tradition since 1945. Then there’s the Christmas Market on Main, featuring 60 vendors and holiday music, food and drink, and of course, a visit from Santa on December 5 and 6. On December 12, visit the Mistletoe Market for soups and baked goods, preserves, candles, soap, and seasonal art, plus view a live ice carving demonstration and the Toyland Parade.
In Colonial Williamsburg, enjoy the Grand Illumination and a mix of holiday events through December such as caroling at the courthouse, walking tours, a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” and more.
Garrison, North Dakota
Located along the north shore of Lake Sakakawea, this small town transforms into a Christmas village each year. Considered the “Christmas Capital of North Dakota,” Garrison creates an enchanting holiday experience at their Dickens Village Festival. The festival is inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and features a Victorian-era theme and activities. Enjoy craft shows, support food and gift vendors, ride the “Queen Elizabus” double-decker bus (imported from England), and watch the lighted Main Street parade at dusk.
Note: The Dickens Village Festival is canceled this year due to COVID-19, but it has been running for 26 years, and we recommend penciling it in for 2021.
Located in the Lafourche Parish and known as Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, Thibodaux is a small town with 14,500 people populating its French Quarter-style streets. You’ll find the charm of New Orleans but with all the hospitality and personality of a small town. Shops and restaurants throughout downtown mimic the style of New Orleans, located about an hour away, and the business owners instantly make visitors feel like family. The Cajun culture here is amplified by the festivals and events that take place around the town.
Stock up on locally-made gifts and products this holiday season at the Main Street Market, where local businesses, downtown merchants, and craft vendors sell everything from art to clothes and other local products. These products will showcase the rich culture of the area, and people will be able to browse the market downtown while passing by other local shops and restaurants they can support.
You’ll feel like you stepped onto the set of a Christmas movie in Georgetown. Literally. The 1980s film The Christmas Gift starring John Denver was filmed in this historic town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. At the Georgetown Christmas Market, enjoy carolers in Victorian dress, vendors selling homemade gifts such as jellies, spiced wines, ornaments, and candles, and the annual Christmas tree lighting, all set in a mountain wonderland.
Note: The Georgetown Christmas Market is canceled this year due to COVID-19, but since it has been running for 61 years, we recommend checking back in 2021.
The small German town of Frankenmuth celebrates its heritage as “Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” with the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Bronner’s offers Christmas decorations and gifts at one stop. The Christmas market runs year-round with the small town of 5,000 receiving more than 2 million visitors each year. If you can’t make it to shop in person, there are virtual visits with Santa this year.
Alpine Helen, Georgia
Located about an hour and half north of Atlanta, you’ll find the Bavarian town of Alpine Helen in White County. Enjoy the sweeping mountain views, vineyards, a river that runs through town, plus cobblestone alleyways and Old World towers. The Lifetime movie Christmas Love Letter was filmed there as well. Helen’s annual Christkindlmarkt, a German tradition, offers all the food, drinks, gifts, and treats one would expect at an authentic Christmas market. Be sure and sample the wurst (sausage), kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), and a glass of mulled wine, gluehwein. Located on the Marktplatz, the market will run November 28-29 and December 5-6. In addition to the market, the annual Lighting of the Village in Riverside Park is November 27.
Nikki Webster, owner of Brit on the Move, says the Helen Christkindlmarkt is one of the best small-town Christmas Markets because of its Bavarian theme. “It’s not just a Christmas market that is put up to mimic those in Europe. The setting is already European, it’s fairly cold, and it’s authentic.”
Cheyenne may be known for its cowboys and the great outdoors, but it’s also a winter wonderland that transforms into a Western-themed winter wonderland each year. You can shop for gifts at the Holiday Artisan Market from December 3-23 (closed on Sundays and Mondays). From November 21 to December 31, take part in the Old West Holidays with actors dressed in period costumes, a Pony Express, Santa’s Saloon and Stables, plus a visit to Kringle Ranch. The Cheyenne Christmas Parade features Western floats, horse-drawn wagons, live music, and performers.
Located in Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem is known as “Christmas City” as it was founded by Moravians and named on Christmas Eve. The town’s streets are laden with lights and decor, and it has been recognized as a top holiday market by Travel + Leisure because of its “quintessential holiday cheer.”
Visit the Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem for its 28th year, this year with an outdoor format that features 60 artisans and vendors, live entertainment, St. Nicholas, of course, and delicious food and drink. Sample strudel, German bratwurst, and Christmas cookies, or stop by the biergarten for a hot toddy or beer.
New York State
Several small towns in New York State bring joy to the holiday season with festivals and Christmas markets.
You’ll feel the Christmas spirit in the picturesque village of Altamont at the Altamont Victorian Holiday Celebration and Winter Market. Festivities include a pet parade, wreath auction, holiday scavenger hunt, gingerbread houses, and much more in addition to the market.
Note: Many activities associated with the Altamont Victorian Holiday Celebration and Winter Market are canceled this year due to COVID-19, so check their website for updates before visiting. We recommend considering adding it to your 2021 travel plans if you are unable to make it this year.
In Ellicottville, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride, go caroling with live reindeer, and stroll the streets while shopping in the decorated village.
Every Saturday and Sunday during the holidays, Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles comes to life with live music, food, shopping, and can even skate or have breakfast with Santa. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Charles Dickens won’t be making a visit this year. Instead, join in the festivities for a Distant Dickens Christmas on Facebook.
The joy of the season comes alive in North Pole with Santa’s blacksmith, where reindeer shoes are made, a reindeer barn, and Santa’s house.
This city of just over 10,000 population has a thriving downtown area. In addition to being known for bicycling and unique bridges, Sparta puts on its annual Kriskindlmarkt that starts on Black Friday and runs for three weekends. Start at the Bavarian-style information building and then enjoy European treats such as mulled cider and fresh-roasted nuts, plenty of authentic foods such as bratwurst, pretzels, and chili, and numerous vendors. There’s plenty of holiday shopping with local artisan crafters showcasing their handmade items. Don’t miss the horse-drawn wagon rides each evening that travel from the Kriskindlmarkt, or the live entertainment that includes carolers and performers.
Greenville, South Carolina
Stroll along tree-lined sidewalks decorated with lights in Greenville. You can enjoy ice skating at an outdoor rink that’s a mini replica of Rockefeller Center, take a ride on Santa’s motorized sleigh that’s a converted 1993 Ford Aerostar, and every weekend from November 8 until December 22, shop the holiday pop-up shops. You’ll find locally made food items, handmade crafts, holiday basketry, seasonal produce, and more from more than 90 makers. The handmade items are unique and contain gorgeous, made-with-care items such as handwoven washcloths, linens, and pillows from Daughter Handwovens.
Or visit Holiday Fair, considered to have the largest selection of arts, crafts, and gifts in the region with more than 350 crafters and commercial vendors. December 3-5 will be their 50th year of celebration.
Pro Tip: You can plan your path ahead of time online so you know exactly which booth to head to first. The Great Harvest Bread Company is known to sell out of their brownie bread in minutes.
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Visit the Nantucket Christmas market virtually this year. This town-wide virtual market put on by the Nantucket Chamber’s Holiday Red Ticket Program is where you can discover unique island merchandise from home. The Annual Christmas Stroll would have celebrated its 47th year in 2020 but has been postponed until 2021. Instead, visit the city virtually for holiday shopping.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Another virtual market this year, Santa Fe hosts its Virtual Winter Indian Market from November 27 through December 11. The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts will hold the two-week virtual market and feature a variety of jewelry, pottery, and ornaments from 2020/2021 juried artists.