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Best of Local Holiday Shopping in NYC & Brooklyn

More than ever, I think it’s really important to support local artists, craftsman, and designers during the holiday season. Visiting independent holiday markets and pop-up shops is not only fun, it’s a sure fire way to find gifts that are are completely unique, and so much more personally tailored to your loved one’s tastes and interests. No big box retailer in the mall, selling mass-produced crap from China, can compete with that!

Some of the very best local holiday markets are happening this weekend, so I’ve compiled a handy-dandy list of my favorite events to make your shopping a little less stressful, and a little more festive. Fingers crossed, you’ll get all those purchases out of the way in one fell swoop, so you can move on to the most enjoyable activities – cooking and spending time with the people you adore!

 

The Brooklyn Flea

Skylight One Hanson @ Ashland Pl., Ft. Greene

12/16, 2 – 9; 12/17 + 18, 10 – 5; 12/21 + 22, 2 – 9

If you can’t tick everything off your list at this one location, you’re officially a glutton for Christmas shopping punishment. If you like feeding all your birds with one seed, and getting the madness over with in one easy rip, head to The Flea immediately. This event is really the best of both worlds, merging the food purveyors from Saturday’s Smorgasburg, with the clothing, craft, and vintage treasure vendors of Sunday’s BK Flea. Thankfully, they are all co-mingling under one spectacular roof for the winter, at the architectural gem that is Skylight One Hanson, formerly the Williamsburg Savings Bank. It’s worth a visit just to see the gorgeous landmark’s interior, but with 100+ vendors lining the former teller windows on the ground floor, secret rooms on the upstairs mezzanine, and the original bank vault on the lower level brimming with an impressive food court and seating area, this is as good as local holiday shopping experiences are likely to get.

Best plan of attack? Start your shopping day here with a little coffee, breakfast noshing, and browsing. Do a full lap around to check out all that’s on offer, before heading back to your favorite vendors for those all too perfect gifts for you-know-exactly-who. Once you’ve had your fill, make your way over for the evening festivities at:

 

The Brooklyn Night Bazaar

149 Kent Ave, between N 5th & N 6th, Williamsburg

12/15 – 12/17, 5 pm – 1 am

This triple threat, grub-shop-party event pops up in a huge warehouse space this weekend only. The 3-day event, designed specially by JDS Architects, is guaranteed to be one happening spot, bursting at the seams with shopping, food, music, film, and art installations. Many of the food vendors are familiar faces from Smorgasburg, but seeing as Brooklyn has no shortage of culinary talent, dozens of other esteemed BK food scene luminaries will also be on hand to sweeten the pot, along side several local wineries and breweries. 60+ artist merchants will be peddling their crafty wares, as a handful of musical acts take to the stage, including DJ James Murphy (DFA/LCD Soundsystem) and The Hold Steady. Admission to TBNB is free, food is modestly priced, while tickets for the live performances can be purchased separately for $10 – $22. For a complete line-up of participating talent, and to purchase tickets, visit: http://bkbazaar.com

 

While you’re shop-crawling around Williamsburg, drop by Artists & Fleas Designer and Vintage Market (70 N 7th Street, every Sat & Sun, 10 am – 7 pm) to visit some of my very favorite artist merchants in the NYC area, housed all in one convenient indoor location, year-round since 2003. Affordable and cool gifts abound here: jewelry galore, chunky knit accessories, funky vintage & modern threads, one-of-a-kind handmade journals, decorative art, and much more.

If making the trip out to Brooklyn just isn’t your thing, you’re in luck because they’re bringing 30+ of their most stylish vendors to the heart of Manhattan for:

The Artists & Fleas Holiday Pop-Up Shop @ Chelsea Market

10th Avenue @ 15th Street

12/15 – 12/31, 10:30 am – 7:30 pm

Located in a never before seen, 4000 sq. ft. industrial space in Chelsea Market, this pop-up is a perfect destination for all your holiday shopping needs. You’ll undoubtedly find a cornucopia of handmade goodies by A&F’s cream of the crop. The full-time tenants of Chelsea Market, formerly the Nabisco Biscuit Co. Headquarters, have tons on offer as well – Morroccan home decor, kitchenware, gourmet food products, books, and more. Take a load off and stop for: a coffee at Ninth Street Espresso; a creamy cold treat from Arte Del Gelato or Ronnybrook Farms; a wicked hot chocolate a la Jacques Torres; baked goods from Amy’s Bread or Eleni’s. Choose from: Thai or Italian; California cuisine or NY farm-to-table; sushi from the seafood market or charcuterie from Dickson’s Farmstand; or a soup/salad combo from Hale & Hearty. The options are endless. The building is conveniently nestled directly beneath The High Line, along the picturesque Hudson River waterfront, and at the crossroads of the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and West Village shopping districts, making it a must stroll destination area.

So, after you’ve enjoyed the Artists & Fleas pop-up, had a bite in Chelsea Market, taken a jaunt along The High Line and through the fashionable MPD, make your way east a few blocks to round out your shopping adventures with a visit to:

 

The Union Square Holiday Market

14th Street between Broadway and University Place

11/24 – 12/24; M-F: 11-8; Sat: 10-9; Sun: 10-6

This has been my go-to holiday shopping destination for the last several years running, despite the fact that it can be a claustrophobic zoo, packed with wide-eyed tourists all day long. Nevertheless, I do enjoy meandering through the maze of red & white, candy cane striped tents, browsing and sampling, and intermittenly stopping for a hot chocolate or apple cider to warm up. I confess that this year, the market feels as if it’s lost a bit of its magic. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to it several times before, and there aren’t as many new vendors participating. Cool pop-ups have been increasingly the rage throughout 2011, so organizers really have to up-the-ante to keep things interesting, especially for resident shoppers. A lot of this year’s fine artists in particular look rather identical to each other, though I do dig the NYC cityscape themed art that seems to adorn every canvas, leather clutch, tote bag, t-shirt, greeting card, or surface that one can manage to print a digital image on.

I do have a few absolute favorite vendors that I consider to be real stand outs, who lure me back again and again to buy items that have become a part of my personal holiday traditions.

My favorite gift vendors are: COPA Soaps’ intoxicating essential oil infused, heaven-scented bars of skin softening, shea-buttery magic that smell good enough to eat; Nirvanna Designs’ warm and stylish line of crochet/knit hats, gloves, and outerwear, made with high quality wools and lined with super soft fleece; DeLong Ceramics’ decorative tiles and hanging ornaments featuring the iconic landmarks of NYC/BK; Edie Art’s whimsical, colorful paintings depicting the magic of child’s play against the backdrop of NY cityscapes; Shaya’s stunning line of simple, geometric, handmade jewelry that artfully mixes elements of sterling silver, gold, and copper.

My favorite food vendors are: Brooklyn Salsa Co.’s line-up of palate-pleasing, kick ass salsas, consciously prepared utilizing a rather unique combination of sophisicated flavor profiles, with local sustainable ingredients, each cleverly named to represent 1 of the 5 boroughs; Spices and Tease’s beautiful rainbow of exotic, ethnic spices and nose tantalizing herb/flower/tea blends; No Chewing Allowed’s exquisite, melt on your tongue, premium French truffles and steamy hot chocolate.

If you’re still craving more shopping after all that, I should probably take your credit card away from you (or ask you to be my sugar daddy). That said, should you be interested in visiting other local holiday markets, in more neighborhoods throughout the city, I suggest you check out Destination Guides’ equally comprehensive list.

May you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and have a blast doing so. Wishing you and yours a most happy holiday season and a grand New Year of the Dragon 2012!

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Holiday Windows on 5th Avenue

Taking a stroll along Fifth Avenue to see all the magnificent storefront window displays is a must do holiday tradition in New York City. Nothing gets me more in the holiday spirit. As the windows are completed around November 22 every year, taking a Thanksgiving eve jaunt to see them is a fantastic way to walk off a few calories of your enormous feast. If you’re planning on visiting after December 6, I like to start by taking the subway to Rockefeller Center (@ 47-50th Street) to see the towering Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza, just adjacent to the legendary ice skating ring. Then I work my way north up Fifth Avenue, eventually ending up at my absolutely favorite windows – at Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t think there’s much debate that Bergdorf’s represents the pinnacle of holiday window displays. Standing there on the street, you can’t help but hear the constant gasps of “WOW!”. Amongst the crushing crowd (not a scene for the claustrophobic/faint of heart), mouth after mouth hang agape, as on-lookers stare in disbelief at their utter magnificence. No other store holds a candle, in my opinion.

I give props to Cartier and Fendi for their use of twinkling lights, wrapping their entire buildings’ facades in a red sparkling bow and a “diamond studded” belt. Saks Fifth Avenue is always on the top of my list year-round for the beauty of their window displays, and I was quite impressed with Henri Bendel’s windows this year which had a sort of dominatrix’s New Year’s Eve party complete with a spread of decadent faux edibles and glasses overflowing with rose champagne. They definitely up-ed the ante this year. Despite the recession, all of the stores on Fifth Avenue seemed much more opulent than 2008.

And Bergdorf’s windows, designed for the last 13 years by genius, David Hoey, were no exception. Even though I always think that no year can top the last, my expectations are always exceeded. The east side of the street/men’s windows are dedicated entirely to the actual sets and delightful characters from this year’s hit movie “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” which were incredibly fun and adorable, and a favorite of kids and adults alike. The west side of the street/women’s windows are a “Compendium of Curiosities” featuring an “Alice in Wonderland” Lewis Carroll meets MC Escher theme, and serving as backdrops to the spectacular costumery of Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Monique Lhuillier, Pamela Roland, and more. A triumphant spectacular spectacular!

I HIGHLY recommend you go for a visit, if you’re in the area between now and January 6, 2010. If you aren’t able to make it, plan a trip for next year! In the meantime, here’s a gallery of some of my favorite photographs of this year’s windows. To view last year’s Bergdorf Goodman windows and a sampling of the best window displays of 2009, please visit my website, www.eyeforstyle.net.

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