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Forget crowded malls and computer screens, turn this year's holiday shopping into a vacation. Here are our favorite places to soak up the Christmas spirit in North America.
Drawing its inspiration — and its name — from the famous Christmas market in Nuremberg, Germany, the annual Christkindlmarket in Chicago lights up Daley Plaza with open-air stalls featuring classic German handcrafts and gift items, as well as traditional fare such as sausages, beer, and hot spiced wine served in a signature boot-shaped stein. Activities include a tree-lighting ceremony, live music, and a visit from Nuremberg's "Santa Claus," the angelic-looking Christkind.
For a Victorian take on Christmas, travel to Toronto and shop the cobblestone streets of the Distillery Historic District, the best preserved example of nineteenth-century architecture in North America. The Toronto Christmas Market nestles outdoor gift and craft vendors, beer gardens, and performance stages amid the district's boutiques and restaurants. Nearby St. Lawrence Market scents the street with pine: It's said that locals have been shopping for trees at this farmers' market for more than a century.
With lively Newbury Street and historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the hub of New England is the perfect place to weave in sightseeing with Christmas shopping. Go ice skating on Boston Common, listen to carols by candlelight in Trinity Church, or shop the holiday fairs in Harvard Square.
It doesn't get more traditional than The Big Apple at Christmas. Featured in films time and time again, New York City's winter travel appeal lies in the romantic Rockefeller Plaza skating rink, the horse-drawn carts clopping through Central Park, and the glittering Manhattan skyline at night. Add to that the holiday gift and craft fairs at Grand Central Terminal, Columbus Circle, and Union Square, and you have the perfect destination for a holiday shopping weekend.
If cold temperatures dissuade you from shopping, then head to the Caribbean for some sunshine and salsa, Puerto Rican–style! Christmas here is one long party from early December through Epiphany (January 6), and whether it's fireworks and parranda (carolling) in the capital San Juan, or browsing quaint handmade craft stalls on idyllic Vieques Island, December in Puerto Rico is an exciting and exotic alternative.
Discover everything these destinations have to offer with a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide.