It’s not yet Thanksgiving, but the pressure to find creative holiday gifts has already started. This year, skip the long lines and cookie cutter Christmas gifts. Instead, visit a local holiday craft fair to stock up on one-of-a-kind gifts, support local artisans and find a few holiday craft ideas you can create at home. Here are 10 of our favorites across the country:
Downtown Holiday Market
Nov. 29- Dec 23
More than 180 regional artisans and boutiques offer ethically produced goods at the Downtown Holiday Market. The rotation of 60 exhibits offering jewelry, antique collectibles, gift foods, soaps and candles means that you’ll find different gift items each time you return. When you’re exhausted from shopping, seasonal entertainment and musical acts keep you entertained and festive foods from local vendors keep your stomach full and your holiday spirit fueled.
Think artisan-quality holiday gifts are out of your price range? Think again. Craftboston Holiday, one of New England’s most popular juried exhibitions of art, craft and design, highlights holiday crafts under $100. Sponsored by the Society of Arts and Crafts, America’s oldest nonprofit craft organization, the event showcases more than 200 exhibitors that sell one-of-a-kind crafts, from baskets and ceramics to mixed media decorations.
Yearning for an old-fashioned Christmas? Imagine you’re in a Charles Dickens novel by visiting Christmas Traditions, where downtown St. Charles is transformed into a Victorian Christmas village. Carolers, fife and drum corps, and characters dressed in handcrafted period attire mingle with modern day visitors. A Christmas tree lighting, carriage rides, a gingerbread village, and Las Posadas, the reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before Jesus’ birth, all celebrate the reason for the season.
Renegade is the first, largest, and most well-respected event of its kind and has been a major force in pioneering the way for the booming DIY craft movement since it’s Chicago debut in 2003. One of the only Christmas craft fairs to focus on the DIY craft movement, Renegade highlights both experienced and emerging designers who create diverse, one-of-a-kind and limited edition works. Decorative art installations, local DJs, a free photo booth, local food, and hands-on workshops make this a dream for creative holiday craft ideas and inspiration.
For 2013, this multicultural festival is “Celebrating the Culture of Community,” a tribute to people bound together by their language, customs and beliefs. Learn the oral traditions, social practices, rituals, festive events and traditional crafts of Wisconsin’s many cultural groups as you explore music, food, dance, and arts exhibits. The traditions of diverse cultures come together through the food at the world café, artisans selling their wares at the international bazaar, and cultural shows put on at the All Nations Theater.
Watch for indoor snow falling over 150 European-style holiday village boutiques selling fine art, woodworking, pottery, jewelry, wreaths, garlands, toys, gourmet foods and more. Don’t worry about the freezing temperatures. For the first time, the annual event will be held indoors at the Gaylord National Resort Convention Center. A free craft and activity center, sing-alongs and puppet shows will keep children entertained while parents shop. One shop in particular those parents might like is Santa’s Cellar & Store, which sells holiday spirits at a discounted prices. While you’re shopping, you’re also helping the community — part of the proceeds from the festival benefit the Spirit of Hope Children’s Foundation.
One of the largest holiday shows in the country, the Pennsylvania Christmas & Gift Show draws thousands of visitors to more than 750 booths featuring holiday decorations, arts and crafts, furniture, flowers, holiday foods and more. When you’ve shopped until you’re about to drop, take a break as musical groups and dance troupes entertain with holiday classics. Young visitors can whisper their Christmas wishes in Santa’s ear, watch a 1,000-foot model Christmas train, craft gingerbread houses, ornaments and toys in the Children’s Workshop.
Buying fair trade gifts supports artisans, their culture and the environment. Find unique, ethically sourced gifts at the annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival. Over 60 vendors come together at the Monona Terrace Community Convention Center to sell globally sourced products for one day each holiday season. Outside the Bean, a non-profit organization that promotes community partnerships between the U.S. and coffee-farming families in Latin America, has sponsored the annual event since 1997.
Mark your calendars for next year:
Greensboro, North Carolina
Pet treats and toys, cookware, cutlery, sports memorabilia, yard accessories and more. Find gifts for everyone on your list at the 24th annual Greensboro Holiday Market, presented by Gilmore Enterprises. Sample gourmet food and drink, shop specialty vendors, find holiday decorating and craft ideas and don’t miss a visit with Santa.
Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show
Christmas Village storefronts and hundreds of gift booths set in a winter wonderland welcome you into the Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show, one of the largest in the region. More than 400 exhibits offer handmade arts & crafts, seasonal decorations, home décor, and gourmet foods. Children will be in awe of the 2,000 square foot candy wonderland display and a multiple level, three-train model Christmas train exhibit. If you need ideas for a holiday dinner, visit the Colorado Cookin’ area for live demonstrations from top local chefs, restaurants, and cooking schools.