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The Best Outdoor Holiday Markets in New York

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Bryant Park holiday market
Strolling Bryant Park's Christmas market. Photos by Nicole Puhl

The holidays are upon us and New York City is abuzz with hurried shoppers and jubilant tourists enjoying the winter decor. With the city’s holiday transformation also comes the temporary transformation of city squares and spaces into pop-up holiday marts.

These little boutiques are great for last-minute shoppers and those looking for unique gifts and trinkets to bring home to friends and family. If you happen to be dragged to one of these marts against your will, have no fear because there is usually an excess of hot chocolate, cider and gourmet treats to enjoy as you mill around.

Here’s the roundup of the best holiday marts in NYC:

Bryant Park holiday boutiques

Boutique shopping in Bryant Park

Bryant Park’s Holiday Shops
Sixth Ave. and 42nd St.
Through Jan. 2
Hours: Mon.– Fri. 11 a.m.– 8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.– 9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.– 6 p.m.

The shops surrounding the Citi Pond are surprisingly upscale for their temporary stature. A “boutique village” now appears where Bryant Park normally resides, complete with windows and an array of national brand names ready to serve holiday shoppers.

Among crafters and home decor you can also find stores like Sabon, Max Brenner and Kate Spade–all offering special gift packages for the season. In addition to these there are some unique shops like Dynomighty Design, featuring the slimmest, most indestructible wallet known to man (the “Mighty Wallet”) and jeweler Lucid with festive snowflake necklaces and rings for the ladies.

Union Square Holiday Market

Strumming at Union Square

Union Square Holiday Market
14th St. between Park Ave. and Broadway
Through Dec. 24
Hours: Daily 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The Holiday Market at Union Square has a much more hometown feel than that of Bryant Park. The plywood-constructed booths are home to a variety of entrepreneurial ventures–jewelers, knitters, importers, artists and bakers. The ambiance is full of spirit, with apple doughnuts, hot cocoa and a guitar player or two all making their way around the garland-decorated square.

Not to be missed is the Alpaca Hat vendor, Back from Bali importers for children’s clothes and Copa Soaps. There are plenty of stocking stuffer options on the cheap, plus a free holiday gift-wrap booth courtesy of HSBC!

Columbus Circle Holiday Market
Central Park South and Central Park West
Through Dec. 24
Hours: Daily 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The Columbus Circle holiday marketplace is in its seventh year running and becoming a center for delectable food vendors. Though it is still home to many crafters and unique artisans, it offers some of the city’s best grub with Pies N’ Thighs, Fatty Crab and Crif Dogs now on the scene. If you still have room after that, you can indulge in a gingerbread house (or buy a kit to construct your own) and chow down on some French truffles found in nearby booths. New to the Columbus Circle Market this year is the Market Concierge, which will help lead you to the vendor or nearby shops you desire.

Grand Central Holiday Fair
42nd St. and Lexington Ave.
Through Dec. 24
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

If the outdoor chill is a major deterrent to market shopping, then you can head indoors to Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall, which currently hosts 76 holiday vendors. The hall offers similar merchants to the other holiday markets, however it is geared towards a higher-end clientele. This can be seen in merchants like scarf designer Margo Petitti, and Aviva Stanoff’s detailed pillows and home décor.

About the author

About the author: Nicole Puhl lives in Manhattan and writes the blog GetNYCd, which explores the nuances and thrills of city life.

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