Searching for gifts while supporting local businesses and vendors
When we were kids, it was as if magic was in the air when the holidays rolled around. Twinkling lights, red reindeer noses, and the giddiness of what was under the tree were too much for us to get any sleep. As we get older, the holidays still hold a whimsical sense, but for different reasons: the comfort of a warm mug of spiced cider, the excitement of a little mistletoe, and the gratification of gifting the perfect presents.
Of course, showering our loved ones with gifts has become a big part of our holiday traditions, but with online shopping, the whole experience has become a little less enchanting. This year, instead of cramming in all your shopping the day before and praying for reliable overnight shipping, spread out the holiday cheer and start your gift hunting early at marketplaces and mom and pop shops.
Last year, we brought you 25 of the best cities for holiday shopping, based on our social media analysis, and this year, the results are in again! We scoured over three million social media posts, the majority of which occurred over Twitter, and homed in on conversations relating to local shops and holiday markets. From there, we extracted the most buzz-worthy places to determine the it spots for holiday shopping in 2017—one lucky city even made the list twice!
The holidays are coming up quickly, so arrange your poinsettias, turn up ol’ Nat King Cole, and start making your lists—and checking them twice—in these festive cities. Looking for even more inspiration? Check out our 2016 list at the end of the article, and don’t miss our special Expedia Holiday Deals—only available for a limited time!
Come December, it will look a lot like Christmas in Auburn as the festivities start to ramp up. On December 8-10, Downtown Auburn will celebrate Christmas Open House, in which the local shops don their garland and invite merry shoppers to browse their selection and join in holiday activities. The same weekend, you’ll find the Annual Holiday Art Sale at the Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center, where you can lose track of time as you stroll through more than 60 artists and pick up treasures for all your friends and family.
’Tis the season to sip on egg nog and spoil your loved ones. Instead of scrambling at the last minute though, get your holiday shopping done early at the West Virginia Arts & Crafts Christmas Spectacular, November 10-12. With more than 150 exhibitors, you’re bound to cross some special items off your list—and find some unexpected gems, too. You can even stretch the shopping sessions out until November 25, Small Business Saturday. To encourage everyone to shop local, Main Street Morgantown will have raffles and a special visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus to help further spread the holiday cheer.
When you’re looking for gifts outside of the ordinary, Athens has you covered. The Indie South Holiday Hooray on December 2 will tempt you with handmade goods and vintage treasures that will have everyone talking about your amazing gift-giving skills. Then on December 14-15, the Athens Holiday Market at Big City Bread Café is pulling out all the stops with a night market, bonfires, and even live music. Once you’ve covered everyone on your “nice list,” it’s time to warm up with some hot chocolate and marvel at the magnificent Downtown Athens Parade of Lights—this year’s theme is Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree!
When it comes to holiday shopping, don’t get your tinsel in a tangle. You’ll find just what you’re looking for in Bowling Green. Imagine having all of your shopping done before Thanksgiving: On November 18, the vendors at Girls Day Out are taking over the Sloan Convention Center, offering rows and rows of gift ideas. Still on the hunt? You can’t go wrong with the artisan wares at the downtown SoKY Marketplace—a local gift is always appreciated. Then with all your presents wrapped and ready to go, it’s time to get jolly: practice your figure 8’s at the Holiday Ice Skating Rink, wave at the floats in the BG Christmas Parade, and decorate your holiday wreath.
Don’t worry if you missed Kansas City’s nonprofit Holiday Mart in October, because there are a number of festive events in the upcoming weeks. Martin City Holiday Market, November 17-18, is one such bazaar that belongs on your shopping radar—you can even drink a Martin City brew as you eye the eclectic selections. There’s also the annual Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair on December 10th, where creatives bring their handmade goods that are just waiting for you to wrap them in golden bows and fancy tissue paper. To really feel the holiday magic, mosey around the shops laced in twinkly lights at the Country Club Plaza.
Christmas will feel like it came early when you realize just how many holiday-themed shopping events are happening this season in Missoula. The Missoula Christmas Vintage Market kicks off the jolliness on November 11 with all kinds of antique treasures, followed by the joys of the Little Red Truck’s European Christmas Market on December 8-9. The Holiday MADE Fair sets up shop at the Adams Center on December 10, and then the Hip Holiday Market rounds out the shopping extravaganza on December 16. With all your shopping covered and only a little over a week to go until Santa makes his appearance, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the onset of the holiday.
Count down the days until Saint Nick’s visit with a stop at the 40th Annual Band Boosters Hobby & Craft Show on November 11. Featuring 60 vendors, this market will definitely help you make some progress on that never-ending wish list. Don’t worry if you still have a few lingering items you still need to pick up though, because Small Business Saturday Downtown Cadillac comes in strong on November 25. Local businesses are opening their doors, offering specials, and hosting raffles to get the holidays off on the right foot. Come November 28, listen to angelic carolers and watch as Cadillac lights up like the North Pole.
You’ll find good tidings in Lewiston this holiday season, as the city gears up for the annual Small Business Saturday celebration. On November 24, Lewiston will ring in the event with carolers and horse-drawn wagon rides, as shoppers are encouraged to support the community stores in search of the perfect gifts. Shop Downtown also kicks off on the same day and runs through Christmas Eve—if you purchase presents at participating businesses, you could win a shopping spree! Once you’ve knocked out all of your gifting, relish the season with a stroll through Winter Spirit in the illuminated Locomotive Park.
To ease the shopping burden, the city hosts the Holly Day Fair, November 2-5. Considered the largest gift and craft show in Eastern North Carolina, this marketplace presents more than 200 vendors. Then to ensure your house is properly decked out, load up on decorations at Your Wicker Home & Christmas Wonderland Shop, where the year-round Christmas shop has all the bells and whistles. And just a few weeks later, the city will roll back the hands of time in celebration of A Dickens Holiday with Victorian decorations, horse carriages, a visit from Ebenezer Scrooge, and vendors galore.
Itching to begin your shopping but don’t know where to start? Do your thing at the 36th Annual Christmas Arts & Crafts Show, where you can scour over 100 booths worth of potential gifts and gadgets. For more holiday goodness, venture to Downtown Bryan; another shopping mecca where you’ll come across one-of-a-kind shops and galleries that offer that little extra something. Then let the Downtown Bryan Lighted Christmas Parade add some festive flair to your gift hunting, as garland-draped floats cruise by while Frosty the Snowman blares through the speakers. With holiday tunes stuck in your head, you’ll be all set to put the presents under the tree.
Hattiesburg is all about the candy canes and sleigh bells, and there’s no better way to feel those season’s greetings than with a stop at the Pine Belt Holiday Expo and Christmas Market on December 2. Whether you’re searching for stocking stuffer ideas or holiday decoration inspiration, this fair has it all. And if you don’t mind extending your shopping for another week, you’ll receive a delightful display of comfort and joy at the Annual Victorian Candlelit Christmas, in which the shops and homes downtown decorate to the nines, while carolers serenade.
It’s a holly, jolly time of year in Fort Wayne, so don’t let your shopping woes get to you. Crank up the Christmas music and make your way down to the Night of Lights. This tradition dates all the way back to 1928, when the local department store created dramatic light displays in their windows, rivaling the decorations of much bigger cities at the time. Next up, on November 25-26, allow the Indiana Artisan Holiday Marketplace to offer inspiration as it provides a treasure chest of possibilities. That same weekend, you won’t want to miss out on showing your community pride by supporting Small Business Saturday—the Holly Trolley will take you all over town, from the West Main shops to the Wells Street Corridor.
The holidays don’t stop just because you have a front-row view of ocean waves lapping on the shoreline. In fact, Myrtle Beach hosts some of the best places to go Christmas shopping this winter season. Begin by making the rounds at the Vintage Market Days of Coastal Carolinas, and check out the Dickens Christmas Show and Festival, a Victorian holiday marketplace that takes inspiration from everyone’s favorite, A Christmas Carol. Next up, head to the Holiday Bazaar at The Market Commons, which will have seasonal vendors luring you to their enticing stands every Saturday until December 16. Meanwhile, wintery events pop up all over the beach town, from the Lighting of the Menorah at Valor Park to the Intracoastal Christmas Regatta.
For the past few years, you’ve done your shopping the night before Christmas Eve, scouring the Internet for last-minute gifts and thanking your lucky stars for the invention of over-night shipping. Sure, that’s great for the procrastinator in you, but it’s really taken away from the magic of it all.
This year, vow to get into the holiday spirit before Old Saint Nick starts heading down the chimney. First, drape some tinsel and garland across your mantel, then whip up some hot chocolate, and put on your favorite Bing Crosby song. Next, begin your hunt for the perfect gifts, but instead of turning to corporate companies, support small businesses and shop at local shops and vendors.
Since it is the time for giving, we’ve ranked 25 of the best cities with holiday cheer that have festive markets and shops, too. We analyzed millions of social media posts to determine the top cities by the number of social posts talking about shopping at local stores and markets in these towns. As you explore these markets, you just may catch a glimpse of Santa’s reindeers or even the jolly old man himself.
1. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
On November 26, celebrate Small Business Saturday with some early holiday shopping at your local stores, because with Thanksgiving behind you, it’s full speed ahead on the Christmas festivities! Further get into the holiday spirit at the Downtown Sault Ste Marie Christmas Open House. Santa will be there to greet you in the Christmas Tree Forest, while you’re busy scoring in-store deals and entering to win prizes. Once your arms are filled with your newly purchased items, sit down for a meal at Grillroom 1901, where a plate of steak frites and a pint of local brew will perk you right up.
2. Crookston, Minnesota
It may only be November 12, but it’s never too early to have sugarplum fairies dancing through your head. With Christmas on your mind, head to the Craft and Vendor Fair at the Eagles Club, and browse through the stalls, chatting with the artisans themselves. With so many purveyors and their goods, you’re bound to find thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list. After stocking up on local crafts, follow your appetite to RBJ’s Family Restaurant, where the menu is stocked with sandwiches, burgers, pastas, and more. One bite of the popcorn chicken and you’ll be ready for shopping round two.
3. Iowa City, Iowa
If finding a gift for your artsy cousin is nearly impossible, then the Holiday Thieves’ Market is here to make the hunt easier. Showcasing more than 100 exhibits with original works of art, from ceramics to paintings, we’ll be surprised if you don’t leave with your hands full. For more handcrafted and homemade goods though, do the rounds at the Holiday Market at Robert A. Lee Recreation Center on November 14 and December 12. When all that shopping makes you hungry, find a spot at Atlas Restaurant and Bar, and dig into some Iowa pork tenderloin and save room for the chocolate cake.
It’s impossible not to get into the festivities of things when you’re shopping downtown. Yes, those are jingle bells you hear. During Pensacola Winterfest on November 25, hundreds of lights make the trees twinkle outside the shops, while the Polar Express Trolley rolls by. Find gifts at the boutiques and cornerstone shops, before joining Santa’s reindeers and watching the Elf Parade. Once you’ve put on your own elf ears and marked off all the items on your shopping list, treat yourself to some tasty rainbow trout or a wagyu burger at nearby Restaurant Iron.
5. Stillwater, Oklahoma
After you attend the Holiday Craft Show in Stillwater on December 3, you’ll only have 22 more days to finalize your shopping. You’re sure to find some treasures at this holiday bazaar, but if you’re still stuck on a gift for your sister, head to the local shops on Main Street. Between the independent boutiques and jewelry shops, you’ll find just what you had in mind. Then with all your shopping worries gone, chomp into a poblano matchstick burger and some sweet potato wedges at Brooklyn’s, while eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival.
6. Coffeyville, Kansas
For some of the best holiday shopping, mark your calendars for the Coffeyville Open House on November 13. This is your chance to get all your holiday shopping done before December crunch time hits. The shop local event welcomes you in to buy from small-town retailers versus major corporations. Purchase all your Secret Santa gifts here and then stick with the local vibes over at The Turtle Restaurant. This eatery, known for its slow food from neighboring producers, prides itself on farm-to-fork fare, and you’re sure to enjoy it even more knowing the stress of shopping is behind you.
7. Savannah, Georgia
Support local businesses down at the Craft Scout Savannah Holiday Market. On December 3, the American Legion Ballroom will be bursting with handmade wares that make the perfect stocking stuffers. With more than 35 craftsman and artists selling their wares, you might as well consider your shopping finalized. The market will show off the region’s sense of style, while the nearby restaurant, The Olde Pink House, demonstrates the city’s tastes. This restaurant serves up deep-dish chicken pot pie and low country she crab soup—the best way to round out a day of retail therapy.
8. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Kitty Hawk is another one of the best cities for holiday markets. Find the ultimate surprise gift to place under the Christmas tree at the eighth annual Manns Harbor Holiday Craft Show on November 11 and 12. Between the canned goods and homemade crafts, you’re going to be all set to deck the halls this season. Still have shopping left in you before you drop? Don’t miss the Annual Outer Banks Entrepreneurs OBE Holiday Bazaar on November 26. All that present hunting calls for a plate of seafood Cioppino and glass of wine at the local Sea Salt Grille.
9. Paragould, Arkansas
There’s nothing like a visit from Santa and horse-drawn carriages to get you in the mood for some Christmas shopping. On December 3, downtown Paragould will turn into a winter wonderland, where you’ll find not only your holiday cheer, but also plenty of gifts for the occasion. Mosey around the downtown stores and snag some seasonal discounts, before heading to Chow at 118 for some post-shopping grub. Nosh on a grilled chicken club and start counting down the days until Christmas day.
10. Nashville, Tennessee
Christmas carols, hot chocolate, and eggnog—does it get any better than this? This December 5, Hillsboro Village covers all your favorite holiday traditions. Many of the local vendors are taking part in the celebrations, offering treats, samples, and specials. Shop for gifts between crafting mistletoe ornaments and posing in the holiday photo booth. If you want more than candy canes for dinner though, stop in Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint for a hearty plate of the pit master combo.
11. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster knows how to do Christmas right, as it’s one of the best cities for holiday shopping. On November 25, the town kicks off the tinsel season with the Mayor’s Tree Light and Tuba Christmas celebration at Penn Square. During the festivities, the Central Market stays open extra late, so you can stock up on holiday gifts, while Santa makes an appearance. Nearby Kitchen Kettle Village is another epic spot for a holiday shopping spree, as twinkly lights and wreaths decorate the storefronts. After spoiling all your friends and family with gifts, treat yourself to a decadent meal at The Belvedere Inn—you deserve it!
12. Austin, Texas
Austin likes to keep it quirky and the Blue Genie Art Bazaar is the place for finding handmade gifts that showcase the city’s unique charm. Meanwhile, the German-Texan Heritage is hosting its 20th annual German Christmas Market on December 3. Browse the handcrafted goods from Germany’s Erzgebirge region and sip on some authentic Gluhwein (hot spiced wine). Once you’ve found a gift for everyone on your list, continue your cultural immersion over at the Russian House NaZdorovye, where you can scarf down traditional Pelmeni and Ukrainian cuisine.
13. St. Joseph, Missouri
Knock out all your shopping with one fell swoop at the St. Joseph Holiday Food and Gift Mart, November 12-13. Boasting 150 vendors, this market is your one-stop shop for everything from gourmet food to arts and crafts. Once you’ve picked out gifts, wine tasted, and explored the Festival of Trees, you’ll be more than ready to start the 12 days of Christmas countdown. Celebrate getting all your shopping done early with a meal at the JC Wyatt House Home—did we mention that a dessert trio is served with every dinner?
Christmas is coming early this year! On December 3, Charleston will be teeming with Santa’s elves and jingle bells at the Christmas Parade and Festival. Along with all the good tidings and cheer, you’ll come across the Holiday Market, which has tons of local crafts and vendors that will make shopping a breeze. After getting all your remaining gifts, catch the parade at 5 p.m., and then reserve a table at the much-acclaimed Poogan’s Porch for a lowcountry dinner.
15. Ketchikan, Alaska
Imagine how great it would feel to get all your holiday shopping done a whole month early. Well, at the Winter Arts Faire, you can make it happen. This November 25-27, more than 80 local artists are gathering to provide you with an epic spread of gift ideas. This holiday spectacular even has an Imagination Station, where you can drop the kids off while you get down to business. Once all your shopping is under your belt, grab some of the state’s finest seafood over at Annabelle’s Famous Keg and Chowder House, and summon the reindeer.
16. Tupelo, Mississippi
Shop local with the sound of jingle bells in your ears. On December 2, the 68th annual Reed’s Tupelo Christmas Parade is taking over downtown. Pop your head into the gift shops, galleries, and interior design stores for present inspiration, and then marvel at the “Miracle on Main Street” procession, which starts marching down the main drag at 7 p.m. You ought to have worked up an appetite, so fuel up at nearby Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, where their delicious bites are made with fresh, local ingredients.
17. Boston, Massachusetts
Forget the same ol’ stocking stuffers you’ve been doing for years and find something extra special at the CraftBoston Holiday Show, where 175 exhibitors are showcasing their goods (December 2-4). If you haven’t finalized your holiday shopping by December 10, though, don’t worry, the SoWa Holiday Market is here. Taking over the Benjamin Franklin Institute for two days, this massive, crafty exposition has it all, from letterpress stationary to cocktail headbands. Shopping list complete? Time to chow down at Artbar Cambridge—the root beer braised short ribs won’t disappoint.
18. Chico, California
Who says it’s too early to see Santa in November? Definitely not Downtown Chico. On November 20, Christmas Preview is kick-starting the jolly season with the help of the local store owners—and maybe an elf or two. Local vendors are inviting you in to shop their stores and join in the merriment. Dig into the refreshments, play raffles, and search for Father Christmas himself. Afterwards, warm up with some tasty wood-grilled pizza at Grana.
19. Hilo, Hawaii
The temperatures might not feel all frigid and frosty like Christmastime, but have no fear, Hilo’s craft fairs will surely get you in the holiday spirit. Between December 2 and 3, the Hilo Christmas Extravaganza Fair is bringing its unique Hawaiian flair to the festivities, showcasing everything from tropical sarongs to cultural paintings. Explore some of the Aloha State’s finest, while musicians and performers take the stage. With all your shopping done in one single spot, keep with the Hawaiian vibes and nosh on some authentic poke pupus at the nearby Pineapples restaurant.
20. Atlanta, Georgia
Tis the season for giving, and Shoppe Artisan Holiday Market is just the place to stock up on presents. The 3-day affair, December 9-11, is welcoming you to lose yourself while wandering the many stalls of handcrafted wares. But if you’re really committed to knocking out all your shopping in one weekend, spend the first half of it at this market, and then dedicate December 11 to finalizing your shopping list at the Ice Holiday Market Atlanta. With all your shopping taken care of, head to the Holiday Speakeasy at The Iberian Pig, where you can jumpstart the festivities on December 22.
21. New York City, New York
Arguably the most enchanting city during the holidays, New York City certainly delivers on the holiday market front. Begin your shopping early at the Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar on Thanksgiving weekend, and swing by The Awkward Scone vendor for a sweet treat in between browsing. Meanwhile, the Winter Market at Skylight One Hanson features more than 100 vintage and craft vendors, while the Grand Central Holiday Fair presents goods that are locally sourced and/or socially conscious.
22. Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capital is a melting pot to be sure, and its holiday markets certainly reflect its cultural influences. On December 3, the SWEA Christmas Bazaar is hosting a Swedish market, offering everything from Kosta Boda glassware to traditional mulled wine, glögg. Pick up some authentic Scandinavian gifts and then get your Italian fix at nearby 1789 Restaurant, with a serving of bucatini or straccetti. If you’re still looking to finalize your shopping, the Downtown Holiday Market is setting up shop in front of the Smithsonian Art Museum for 29 straight days, showcasing boutique goods, artwork, and crafts galore.
23. Burlington, Vermont
Fancy yourself an early-bird shopper? Make your way to Church Street Marketplace for some Black Friday Shopping and some Christmas charm; the Santa Parade starts at noon! However, by the time the BCA Holiday Market rolls around, you have less than a week until Saint Nick starts making his rounds—so act fast. On December 16-17 head to this eclectic event with so many ideal artisan gifts that you’ll wonder why you ever question your last-minute shopping skills. With everything gift wrapped and ready to go, sit down and enjoy some Italian comfort food at Trattoria Delia and cheers to the holidays.
24. Knoxville, Tennessee
It’s hard to start Christmas shopping before your home is fully decked out in tinsel and mistletoe, so go to Fantasy at a Glance to get all your ornaments and mantelpiece decorations, November 23-27. Once your home is all red and green, it’s time to find gifts for your friends and family at the Market Square Holiday Market. Local vendors will be selling their creative wares the first three Saturdays in December leading up to the big day. With all your presents squared away, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy a warm Cuban handheld at Oliver Royale and start cranking the Christmas tunes.
25. New Orleans, Louisiana
You’ve always loved shopping in the French Quarter, but now you can get a behind-the-scenes look at some of your go-to stores—and maybe even find a new favorite spot. On November 20, Shop Away in the Vieux Carre invites you on a tour of six local shops, where you’ll get to meet the faces behind the stores and have access to some incredible discounts. Live entertainment will spill out into the streets and the festivities will conclude with caroling and a lighting of the French Market Christmas tree. All the fun might make you hungry though, so step right up to Muriel’s Jackson Square for some Creole cuisine that you’ll be talking about for days to come.
Where do you go for your holiday shopping?
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