4440 20LINKEDIN 7COMMENTMORE
Forget shopping malls — more people are finding the Christmas spirit in German holiday markets, where vendors sell traditional crafts and foods. “You walk along aside these tents and you feel the spirit. The spices that waft through the air with the roasted almonds. It’s almost picture-perfect,” says Arnim von Friedeburg, who runs Germanfoods.org. The holiday tradition is based on a market in Nuremberg, Germany, dating from the 16th century, but the gatherings have crossed the Atlantic. Friedeburg, a native of Cologne, shares some favorite markets with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Christkindlmarket Chicago
One of the nation’s oldest German holiday markets celebrates its 20th season this year. More than one million visitors stop by the downtown Daley Plaza location during its holiday run. A special Kinder Club offers activities for children, including a scavenger hunt and life-size advent calendar. “It’s the most authentic Christmas market I know,” von Friedeburg says. Open daily through Dec. 24. christkindlmarket.com
Christmas Village, Philadelphia
This popular market attracts crowds to JFK Park, noted for the iconic statue spelling out L-O-V-E. Highlights include a heated garden serving mulled wine, daily concerts and a German grill serving favorites like bratwursts, Belgian fries and strudel. “They’ve been there a long time, and it lasts a whole month,” von Friedeburg says. Runs through Dec. 27. philachristmas.com
Downtown Holiday Market, Washington
Now in its 11th year, the D.C. market may attract as many as 100,000 shoppers in a weekend, who find everything from fine crafts to imported snacks. Von Friedeburg exhibits there, selling traditional German foods, including hard-to-find sweets. Open daily through Dec. 23. downtownholidaymarket.com
Denver Christkindl Market
Organizers expect 175,000 people will visit this daily market during its season run, which is now in its 15th year. Located at Skyline Park at the city’s 16th Street Mall, the event features a skating rink with a warming tent, serving warm wine and hot chocolate. There are also numerous appearances from Santa, known here as St. Nikolaus. Runs through Dec. 23. denverchristkindlmarket.com
Epcot, Walt Disney World ResortLake Buena Vista, Fla.
Von Friedeburg was surprised by the authenticity and quality of the Germany Pavilion at the Walt Disney World park. “I expected fake tacky German imitations, but they showcase a whole lot of German products you can’t find in other stores." He also was charmed by the young German workers. “The spirit was quite authentic, and usually I’m very critical.” 407-824-4321; disneyworld.disney.go.com
See how the Disney parks celebrate Christmas:
Columbus Circle Holiday Market, New York
This large market, with more than 100 vendors selling crafts from around the globe, has become a popular New York Christmas tradition. Its location at the southwest entrance to Central Park makes it popular for holiday visitors. “What I saw in New York was quite astonishing. It’s very artistic,” von Friedeburg says. Open daily through Dec. 24. urbanspacenyc.com
Alpine Village Christmas Faire, Torrance, Calif.
This year-round shopping, dining and entertainment area goes all-out for the holidays, bringing the traditional German Christmas spirit to balmy Southern California with decorations, crafts, a train ride and snow. “They have really authentic German stuff,” von Friedeburg says. “It’s getting very close to the spirt of Germany.” Held the first three weekends of December. alpinevillagecenter.com
Alpine Village, in Torrance, Calif., brings a bit of Germany to their holiday celebration going on weekends through Christmas. Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt, Cincinnati
The Ohio River city has a deep German heritage and a huge Oktoberfest. Four years ago it added a Christmas market, and the event has become one of the city’s top holiday celebrations. The market, held downtown in Fountain Square, is designed as a traditional European village with half-timbered homes. It features crafts, entertainment, traditional holiday sweets, hot spiced wine and German beer. Held Friday through Sunday through Dec. 20. cincideutsch.com
Tomball (Texas) German Christmas Market & Festival
This Houston-area gathering, running Dec. 11-13, has all the traditional German market favorites, from mulled wine to bratwurst to Christmas stollen bread, along with fair foods like corn dogs and barbecue. Kids flock to the Kinderfest children’s play area, and four music stages feature German-style performers, while other musicians roam through the crowds. tomballgermanfest.org/christmas-market
Christkindlmarkt, Helen, Ga.
This northeast Georgia town in the Blue Ridge Mountains attracts visitors year-round for its alpine village scenery, with gingerbread trim, cobblestone streets and towers. Over the first two weekends of December, its Marktplatz fills with crafts and food vendors, and a Christmas parade running Dec. 12. helenchamber.com