I heard "Feliz Navidad" on the radio this week and I took a deep, centering breath because I knew exactly what it meant. Holiday shopping season is really, actually here. Even if you've already fought the crowds at Nutcracker Market, or you were smart and made the most of your Holiday Shopping Card, it's now officially go-time for gift buying.
Assemble your list and head to these one-of-a-kind shopping events over the next few weekends. It's kind of like shopping at the mall, except parking is easy, crowds are manageable and you might actually find yourself having a good time talking to the local artists, makers, small business owners and other vendors. Trust us, ignoring the Black Friday madness is the best gift you can give yourself.
Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM): Nov. 20-22
For the past decade, WHAM has made Winter Street Studios the ultimate destination for finding treasures made by Houston creatives, from photography prints to handmade stationary to jewelry and soap. The preview party on Friday night costs $10 but offers the best selection. As a bonus, this year vendors can take payment at their own stalls, so there's no waiting in line to make purchases.
Home for the Holidays Gift Market: Nov. 20-22; 27-29
If you missed the Nutcracker Market, you can get a similar shopping experience with over 200 vendors at the Katy Merrill Center, followed by a similar lineup the following weekend at Moody Gardens Convention Center Galveston.
13th Annual Junior League Shopping Market: Nov. 20-22
This Woodlands event isn't just a place to shop for gifts, its a major destination for everything you need to deck the halls and make your home merry and bright, with over 120 vendors.
Houston Makerspace Maker Market: Nov. 21, 12-6 p.m.
This place is a haven for Houston creators, so a ton of them show up every year for the annual market. Shop with a more relaxed vibe courtesy of free 8th Wonder beer and a DJ spinning old-school vinyl.
Fashion Truck Holiday Festival: Nov. 21, 12-6 p.m.
Tell everyone you're going to Liberty Station for a drink and then shop while you sip with eight local fashion and accessories trucks like Urban Izzy, Ranch Road Boots and Show Bar Houston holding court outside. This is particularly great for those shoppers who take a "one for you, one for me" attitude towards gifting.
Vintique Flea: Nov. 21-22
In its first year, Vintique has impressed with seasonal markets inside Silver Street Studios offering a varied mix of vendors with a mix of furnishings, gifty home accessories, jewelry and other potential impulse purchases. The food trucks outside are a nice touch, too—never forget that shopping totally counts as cardio.
Pop Shop Houston Holiday Festival: Nov. 27-29
For a free shopping event, this feels a lot like a party (and way more fun than typical Black Friday), with cocktails served on-site, a full schedule of musical acts, ugly sweater contests, a photo booth and free workshops for DIY lovers. Yes, there's plenty of awesome, locally made stuff to buy, too.
Lei Low Art Market: Nov. 29, 4 p.m.
Calling all tiki lovers. If you love the tropical vintage feel of this bar, you'll want to check out the tiki-inspired goods for sale, including wood carvings, tattoo art prints and tiki masks.
Holiday on 19th Street: Dec. 4, 6-10 p.m.
Arguably the best shopping block in Houston, with shops like Big Blue Whale, Manready Mercantile and Jubilee, 19th Street will pull out all the stops for an evening of shopping and merriment.
6th Annual Design Craft: Dec. 5, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sponsored by AIGA Houston, this market focuses on local makers with a strong sense of design and a unique point-of-view. If you find other markets are a bit overwhelming, this one is nice because it's curated and kept to about 30-40 vendors, and takes place in downtown's picturesque Market Square Park.
Villa Wanderlust—A Very Boho Holiday: Dec. 5, 12-6 p.m.
The best shopping events aren't necessarily the biggest ones. The dozen or so globally-inspired, Houston-based lines found at this pop-up have been expertly curated by Sarrah Zadeh of La Mochi and Joy Kennedy of Priya and are perfect for the jetsetters and fashionistas in your life.
First Saturdays Montrose: Dec. 5, 12 p.m.
Never choose between brunching and shopping again. This monthly market stretches between Royal Oak and Doc's Motorworks, two popular bars on the Westheimer curve, and includes plenty of artsy, vintage, crafty, weird, stylish and delicious offerings with live music and and a DIY Christmas card station.
11th Annual Heights Holiday Market: Dec. 5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Heights-area artists and crafters have been gathering to share their wares for over a decade.
Craftidote 2015: Dec. 5, 12-5 p.m.
This small market of wares found in the Antidote Coffee parking lot is a great one for families, with a crafting and play area for kids. Did we mention there's plenty of coffee nearby?
Santa's Holiday Market at CityCentre: Dec. 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Santa, reindeer and Dickensian carolers descend on CityCentre for an afternoon, and the shopping center will also host local makers offering unique gifts and stocking stuffers alongside a line-up of retailers that includes brand-new West Elm and Madewell stores. Westsiders can also stop by to check out Glisten, CityCentre's tree-lighting event, on Nov. 21.