5 American Christmas markets fighting back against overpriced art, cookie decor and moaning tourists

Brace yourselves: After a 50 percent decline in attendance in 2018, the American Institute of Architects and the Alliance of American Christmas Markets think it’s time to rethink the way we dine in Paris. After the first two markets came under fire for overpriced sculptures and tired Christmas decor, the two organizations have come together to create an ambitious plan to reinvent the Christmas experience.

But which American Christmas markets are fighting back? Here are some shining examples:

North Pole Market

What: A seven-month event, this year’s market is bringing back local food vendors from the farmers’ market in the North Pole and other Christmas traditions. The market takes place at The Dickens Hotel in downtown D.C. from Nov. 23 through Jan. 7.

When: Nov. 23 through Jan. 7

Where: 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 115

How much: $10

Mount Vernon Christmas Market

What: Bringing back famous French Christmas markets like Vendôme in Paris, this year’s Mount Vernon market will feature 80 vendors and 15-minute live demonstrations of a traditional hot cider craft.

When: Oct. 18 through Dec. 15

Where: Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, 1800 Mount Vernon Ave.

How much: $12.50

Fairfax County Holiday Market

What: This year’s Fairfax County Holiday Market has been redesigned to provide free parking for market attendees (this should go over a lot better in Powhatan). The holiday market, open from Nov. 23 to Dec. 9, will feature 50 vendors and craft-beer sampling.

When: Nov. 23 through Dec. 9

Where: 10495 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fairfax

How much: Free for mall parking; $8-$12 for parking, cash only, at the Fairfax County/Marine Corps complex

St. Mary’s Visitors Center Holiday Market

What: Take a seat at a festive buffet and then move on to live performances by a band from Nashville. At this third annual event, free activities for children are also available.

When: Nov. 15 through Dec. 23

Where: Smith Castle, St. Mary’s City, Md.

How much: Free

McLean Classic Holiday Market

What: Although the market still closed earlier this year, some of the shop owners are taking steps to renew relationships with their customers, like giving away K-rations and paying rent to set up shop. It will also feature traditional French and German stalls with handmade crafts.

When: Dec. 1-2

Where: 835 N. Church St., McLean

How much: Free for parking; $5-$10 for food and beverages

Still open

Union Market Christmas Market

What: The popular holiday market with food trucks and vendors, complete with fires, still remains open in Union Market. Billed as “The Place to Shop and Meatcake,” this market serves as a good place to get a boost of holiday cheer before the decorations start flying.

When: Nov. 23 through Dec. 23

Where: 1261 H St. NE

How much: Free for parking; $10 for food and beverages

Chopt Farmers Christmas Market

What: Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, this market is in the midst of a new partnership with chef/restaurateur Gordon Ramsay. You can meet the Australian restaurateur for $100, but you can’t be too picky about the choices. Whether you’re looking for a bite of bivalves, tart with tamarind or organic honey, shop vendors will be rolling out a turkey of the season.

When: Nov. 30 through Dec. 23

Where: 1215 T St. NW

How much: Free

Sweetgreen Holiday Market

What: The DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown D.C. is the new home of this alternative holiday market. Shop for gluten-free, vegan or non-GMO holiday gifts at Sweetgreen.

When: Nov. 30 through Dec. 30

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton, 1102 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

How much: Free parking is also available at the Marriott Courtyard, 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

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