New York's best holiday markets

It’s been argued that the preponderance of chain stores --- we’re looking at you, JC Penney, Pottery Barn, and Victoria’s Secret --- have turned the streets of New York City into a giant mall. Escape that “we could be anywhere” feeling by shopping at the unique, holiday craft markets that pop up throughout the boroughs in November and December.

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park, Now through January 2nd, 2011

While most of us were still sorting Halloween candy into piles, the folks behind the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park had already begun setting up. Open from November 5th to January 2nd, this holiday market features 120 vendors packed around the New York Public Library. After loading up on kettle corn and throw pillows, leather goods and handmade earrings, you can go ice-skating for free at Citi Pond. Then treat yourself to a hot drink from Big Apple Cider.

Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd Streets at Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Stay nearby at the Bryant Park Hotel New York City.

Union Square Holiday Market, Now through Christmas Eve

Beginning on November 19, Union Square transforms into a holiday shopping spectacular. Artisans from all over sell their wares in red-and-white striped tents until December 24. In past years, we’ve bought tiny picture frames, handmade journals, funky asymmetrical necklaces, multicolored candles, and perfumy lotions for stepmothers, bosses, and our brothers’ impossible-to-shop-for-wives and girlfriends. For the first time ever, the market has an on-site concierge, who’ll help you pick out perfect gifts of your own.

Union Square is located between 14th and 17th Streets at Union Square West and Union Square East. The W New York is on the park’s northeast corner.

Queens County Farm, December 1st to 24th

Throughout December, the only working historical farm in New York City sells Christmas trees large and small, poinsettias, and wreaths, with profits going toward feeding the livestock on site as well as maintaining the property, first settled in 1697. On December 4th and 5th, the Queens County Farm will also be hosting a make-your-own-evergreen-wreath extravaganza ($20 per person, registration and garden shears required: 718.347.3276, ext 301). Its Open House, December 26th to 28th, features activities for kids and walks around the wintry land, guaranteed to banish any post-Christmas blues.

The farm is located at 73-50 Little Neck Parkway. Stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania New York City, across the street from Penn Station, where you can take the E or F train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike Station, a few blocks away.

3rd Ward Holiday Craft Fair, December 4th

3rd Ward, in East Williamsburg, offers classes in everything from welding to glass bead-making to screen printing. At the Holiday Craft Fair on December 4th, you’ll be able to pick up handmade, one-of-a-kind goods. No cookie cutter gifts here, although you’ll probably be able to find cookie cutters in crazy shapes, as well as housewares, clothes, jewelry, and toys --- being sold by the folks who made them. In addition, Brooklyn’s premier craftopia will also have workshops in sewing, flocking, and printmaking, along with live music and cocktails made from Red Jacket Orchards’ produce. You might as well RSVP now.

3rd Ward is located at 195 Morgan Avenue, Brooklyn. Stay at the Maritime Hotel New York City and take the L train to Grand Street, a few blocks away.

Handmade Cavalcade, December 5th

A while back, a group of Etsy crafsters based in the tri-state area got together and formed The {NewNew}, an indie collective whose members share resources and help one another. On December 5th, they’ll be hanging out and selling their stuff at OpenHouse Gallery, in Nolita. And by “stuff,” we mean handprinted dresses from Better than Jam, cute kids clothes from Overall Baby, whimsical prints from My Zoetrope, or mash-up jewelry from Elle F. Bijoux. Etsy is awesome, but there’s really nothing like shaking the hand of the person who made your legwarmers or the man-purse you’ll be giving your fella for Hannukah.

OpenHouse Gallery is located at 201 Mulberry Street. Stay at the Thompson LES New York City and walk.

Gifted, December 15th to 23rd

Simply put: you can’t get more indie than Gifted. A partnership between Brooklyn Flea and uber-popular design*sponge, everything on sale here will be as aesthetically pleasing as it is custom-designed and handcrafted from more than 100 vendors. It’s a three-floor, craftastic craftacular! Look for mini-goodies from Kumquat Cupcakery, t-shirts from Species by the Thousands, stuffed animals and objects by Kate Durkin, and pickled veggies from Rick’s Picks.

Gifted is located at 1 Hanson Place, Brooklyn. Stay at the Nu Hotel Brooklyn and walk, although you might be too loaded down with packages to walk back.

--Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler of We Heart New York

[Photo credit: Flickr/gsz (Garrett Ziegler)]

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