Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday deals… For those who prefer to do their holiday shopping outside of the big box stores and in places that are off the beaten track, local artisan markets can fit that bill. Not only will you be buying items that are unique and handmade, but also you’ll be supporting independent designers and small, sustainable businesses. The venues below include some of my picks for fabulous one-of-a-kind holiday shopping experiences in and around Boston.
Boston Handmade Gallery: Boston Handmade’s fourth annual pop-up Holiday Gallery, organized by a juried group of local artists and craftspeople, features limited edition, unique and locally-made items in a convenient location directly across from the Brookline Village T stop. In addition to the regular gallery fun, special events throughout December include the Handmade Holiday Hurrah grand opening celebration (December 5th, 5 – 9 PM), a series of craft workshops and Under The Wire: An 11th hour extravaganza (December 21, 3 – 7 PM). Free admission.
Dates: November 29 – December 24, 2013
Location: 2 Brookline Place (entrance on Pearl Street), Brookline
Hours: Tuesdays – Saturday, 11 AM – 7 PM
Downtown Boston Holiday Market: The fifth annual Downtown Boston Holiday Market features new artisan vendors under the white tent each week, along with musical performances and entertainment. Check it out, and while you’re there take in all of the new residential, retail and infrastructure development that has transformed the Downtown Crossing neighborhood.
Dates: November 30 – December 28 (closed December 25), 2013
Location: Summer Street Plaza, Boston
Hours: Mondays – Saturdays 11 AM – 7 PM, Sundays 11 AM – 5 PM
Craftboston Holiday: This well-established show is on my annual agenda and I can attest to the quality of the range of gorgeous items here… they’re part of my staple of accessories, I’ve given wonderful items I’ve purchased here as gifts and I even have a few unique pieces from this show in my home. At Craftboston, you’ll find nearly 300 contemporary craft artists’ pieces in ceramics, decorative fiber, wearables, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, and wood. General admission is $15, $13 for senior citizens and $12 for students. Admission tickets are valid for readmission throughout the weekend.
Dates Hours: December 6 – 8, 2013 1
Location: Hynes Convention Center 900 Boylston Street, Boston
Hours: Friday and Saturday 10 AM – 7 PM , Sunday 11 AM – 5 PM
Harvard Square Holiday Fair: One of the oldest and most popular fairs in Boston, the Harvard Square Holiday Fair will celebrate its 28th season in 2013. The fair is juried and includes a changing mix of New England artists featuring a great selection of beautiful, original and affordable gifts. The venue for this high-energy alternative marketplace is on the smaller size, but that doesn’t detract from the point of the fair: to encourage community spirit, strengthen the local economy and support locals in their business opportunities. The fair is located right across the street from the T station, making for easy access, and admission is free.
Dates: December 6–8, 13–15 and 18–23, 2013
Location: First Parish Unitarian Church, Courtyard and Basement, Church St. & Mass. Ave, Cambridge
Hours: Weekdays 11:30 AM – 7:00 PM, Saturdays 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Sundays 12:00 AM – 6:00 PM
ArtROX Holiday Pop-Up Shop: Part of a year-long series that highlights the visual, performing, culinary, and literary arts in Roxbury, the ArtRox Holiday Pop-Up Shop showcases vendors from Roxbury and beyond offering beautiful and unique arts and crafts to customers searching for one-of-a-kind, inspired, holiday gifts fitting a variety of budgets and tastes. Vendors and their unique items rotate weekly, including crafts, paintings, photography, jewelry, fashion, home goods and more.
Dates: December 6–24, 2013
Location: 2201 Washington Street, Dudley Square, Roxbury
Hours: Friday through Tuesday, 12 PM – 5 PM daily (closed Wednesdays and Thursdays)
Holiday Arts & Eats at Assembly: The first of its kind at Assembly Row, the three-day Holiday Arts & Eats Festival will feature 25 food trucks, arts and crafts by 60 Etsy artists, and seasonal music and drinks under a large, heated tent. The Friday night kick-off event with live bands and a DJ is for adults 21 and over, and tickets are $10. The festival will be open to guests of all ages on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $5 and free for those under 12, and can be purchased here.
Dates: December 6–8, 2013
Location: Assembly Row, 300 Grand Union Boulevard, Somerville
Hours: Friday 6 PM – 10 PM, Saturday and Sunday 12 PM – 6 PM
Eat Boutique Holiday Market: Eat Boutique is a market designed for food fans where you can discover the best small batch foods by 40-plus boutique food makers. Sample, sip, shop, and meet the food artists behind it all. From jam to jerky, chocolate to coffee, wines to kitchen wares, you’re sure to find new flavors and gifts for yourself of loves ones. Local culinary heroes, including Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery & Cafe, will also be on hand to sign their cookbooks that can get you started on a new culinary adventure. Tickets can be purchased in advance.
Date: December 7, 2013
Location: Cruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, 1 Black Falcon Avenue, Boston
Hours: VIP Private Shopping 11 AM – 12 PM, General Admission 12 PM – 5 PM
South End Holiday Cookie Festival: The South End Business Alliance will present its first annual Cookie Festival this season by offering unique, limited edition holiday treats by Flour Bakery, The Buttery, Five Seventy Market, Sugar Baking Co., Rox Café, and Above and Beyond Catering. Browse for the perfect edible gifts and indulge in sweet, special treats.
Three 90-minute tours will be offered throughout the day and a portion of every ticket ($20 each) goes directly to the Boston Center for the Arts. Along with the Cookie Festival, a tree lighting ceremony will be held at 4:00 PM at the BCA Plaza to welcome the holiday season.
Date: December 7, 2013
Location: Diseno, 409 Harrison Avenue, Boston
Hours: Tours at 11 AM, 1 PM and 3 PM
SoWa Holiday Market: The SoWa Open Market has wrapped up its outdoor season, but the tenth annual special holiday fair lets you access the best of New England’s designers, artists and crafters – from the fashionably chic to the hip and cutting edge – all in one place. Expect to find an exceptional array of indie goods, including handbags, jewelry, pottery, letterpress stationery, silk-screened t-shirts, baby clothes, re-purposed wool accessories and more. Admission is $5; children under 12 are free. Or, beat the shopping rush and get first dibs with a $15 VIP shopping pass. The SoWa Holiday Market is at the center of Boston’s hip and exciting South End, so consider extending your day with a visit to the neighborhood’s galleries, boutiques and trendy restaurants.
Dates: December 14 and 15, 2013
Location: Benjamin Franklin Institute, 41 Berkeley Street, Boston
Hours: 12 PM – 6 PM
So, take this list and skip the big box stores in favor of one-of-a-kind gifts and unique shopping venues that you can access throughout the Boston area this season. Be sure to share your favorite holiday shopping experiences and finds.