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 nine of the largest U.S. Christmas markets for families, all of which remain true to the old traditions. Bonus: Some of them are free to visit!
1. Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem – Bethlehem, PA
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.
Recommended Hotel: Historic Hotel Bethlehem
2. Denver Christkindl Market – Denver, CO
Denver has been home to one of the country’s best (and free) Christmas markets for families for more than a decade. 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
3. Union Square Holiday Market – New York City
Situated at Union Square Park (between East 14th and 17th streets) in New York City, this Christmas market for families offers free 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
4. Christkindlmarket – Helen, GA
This Christkindlmarket is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Helen, Georgia, about an hour from the Lake Lanier Islands. The town of Helen is a recreation of an Alpine village complete with cobblestone streets and old world towers, and at Christmas time the markets come alive. This traditional German event features unique gifts and decorations, food, drinks, music and more. All of the merchandise sold must be handmade, making each item even more special. Admission is free.
Recommended Hotel: Legacy Lodge
5. Carmel Christkindlmarkt – Carmel, IN
Located about 30 minutes north of Indianapolis is the Christkindlmarkt in Carmel, Indiana, one of the most authentic German Christmas markets in the U.S. The outdoor market features tons of food and craft vendors, live music, demonstrations, ice skating and even gift wrapping services so you can find the perfect gift at the market and then have it wrapped before heading home. This U.S. Christmas market features a life-size, traditional German centerpiece called a Gluhwein Pyramid, hand-crafted in Germany. The Christmas pyramid stands 33 feet tall, weighs more than 10 tons and twinkles with more than 3,000 lights. It’s the only one of its kind in the United States!
Recommended Hotel: JW Marriott Indianapolis
6. Christkindlmarket Chicago – Chicago, IL
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 by Hilton Chicago Downtown
7. Christmas Village – Philadelphia, PA
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
8. Christmas Village – Baltimore, MD
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
9. European Christmas Market – St. Paul, MN
This Christmas Market in St. Paul, Minnesota, takes place at the Union Depot in East Plaza. Families can shop for handmade holiday gifts and decorations at this free Christmas market. The kids will love to sample all of the European-inspired treats and the adults can enjoy drinking some spiced, mulled wine, called Glühwein. There is Polish dancing, reindeer petting and even sled dog team rides. This Christmas Market is complete with live music and visits with Santa.
Recommended Hotel: The Saint Paul Hotel