Traditional Christmas markets — known as Christkindlmarkts — date back to the 1400s in Germany, when many families visited them to trade goods and stock up on food and other supplies. Now, German Christmas markets have become a holiday tradition all over the world. Many U.S. cities and towns offer them, but here are six of the largest U.S. Christmas markets for families, which remain true to the old traditions. Bonus: Some of them are free to visit.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the Lehigh Valley is nicknamed Christmas City and its Christkindlmarkt is one of our favorite German Christmas markets for families in the U.S. Located about an hour from Philadelphia, shoppers will find fine arts and crafts, Christmas ornaments and decor, and a food court with warm food and live holiday music performances. Families can sign up for special activities, like breakfast with St. Nicholas on select mornings before the market opens, too.
Recommended Hotel: Historic Hotel Bethlehem
Union Square Holiday Market
Situated at Union Square Park (between East 14th and 17th streets), this Christmas market for families is free of admission and features jewelry, men’s and women’s accessories, games and crafts for children, fine arts and crafts, decorations, pet products, and items for the kitchen.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Elysee
For more than 20 years, Chicago has operated a German-inspired Christkindlmarket with all the traditional offerings, including wooden chalet vendor shops. Taking place at Daley Plaza in the Chicago Loop, the market is free and features live entertainment. Shoppers can enjoy traditional German foods while perusing shops selling clothing, home decor, jewelry, handcrafts and more. Admission is free.
Recommended Hotel: Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown
Denver Christkindl Market
Denver has been home to one of the country’s best (and free) Christmas markets for families for more than a decade. Celebrating its 17th season, the Denver Christkindl Market is located at Skyline Park, at 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street. The event features story times, parades and live music and dance, with vendors selling foods and crafts.
Recommended Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton, Denver
Christmas Village in Philadelphia
The City of Brotherly Love is home to a traditional German-style holiday market, held in Love Park next to City Hall. Christmas Village in Philadelphia offers more than 60 booths set up in traditional wooden chalet styles found in Europe, with European foods, holiday gifts, jewelry and arts and crafts. The entire park is decorated in lights and features a large Christmas tree. Santa Claus visits the market on Fridays and kids can get a photo with the man in red for a small fee. Admission is free.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Palomar Philadephia – A Kimpton Hotel
Christmas Village in Baltimore
The city of Baltimore hosts its own Christmas Village at the Inner Harbor, in West Shore Park. Decorated as a holiday village with tons of twinkling lights, the village’s market features booths with vendors selling arts and crafts, accessories, gifts and traditional foods. Special activities and events take place on select weekends, such as face painting, meet-and-greets with Santa Claus and photos with the market’s Gingerbread mascot. Weekday admission is free.
Recommended Hotel: Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
Baltimore Marriott Waterfront