Every year as a kick off to Christmas the Houston Ballet hosts the annual Nutcracker Market. Let's just call this the Christmas Olympics for ladies because it.is.serious.
Think pre-gaming with bloody Mary's and mimosas right before you binge shop on all things holiday, Christmas and gifts.
From home decor to novelty gag gifts to prepackaged soup seasonings and drink mixes, you will find it ALL at the market. Here are a few tips to help you make it through the day and most importantly, have fun!
1. Comfortable clothing but keep it festive
It happened to be raining the kickoff day to the market but that didn't stop us. Be sure you are prepared to walk a couple of blocks should you not decide to take a pedi cab or wait for the tram that makes loops around the parking lot. I'm sure in better weather this would have been everyone's go to option but people were just trying to get out of the rain as quickly as possible. You will need walkable shoes because although there is plenty of places to sit, you still want to be able to maneuver or stand in the long drink line.
I love seeing al the fun holiday outfits and headbands and lights the women (and some men) had on. From shirts that said "prosec-ho ho ho" to "santa claws (santa claus holding a white claw) to "happy alcoholidays". They did not come to play. Plus this was a great way to keep track of your crew. I mean who else would have on a gingerbread house headband in a crowd?
2. What to Bring?
I opted to not bring in a purse. It was another load I didn't want to carry in case I stumbled upon some items, I HAD TO HAVE. Keep your hands free and opt for a fanny pack - yea I said it or load your phone with Apple Pay or digital card. Most merchants have digital ways to pay but honestly, nothing beats cold hard cash.
If you have kids, strap those babies to you. (Strollers are NOT aloud) I saw plenty of husbands who had their little ones strapped to the front and a beer in each hand. That's how you shop. Yes...I said husbands. I'm not sure what kind of deal they worked out to tag along to the market but that must've been a good one.
3. Go in with a plan.
Duh right? Obviously you can just go to market to experience it but maybe you are looking to add a few key pieces to your holiday collection. If you know that some of your favorite out of town vendors only come in to town for market and you've been waiting all year, make a note of the things you HAVE TO HAVE. Want to solely focus on Christmas decor? Get your inspiration from Pinterest first so you can stay on target with the theme for this year. They have plenty of theme from Classic to Rustic to Boho to Trendy...they have it all. I visited with the plan to check out the food vendors and gain some holiday decor inspiration for a tree this year. We ended up walking directly to the back food court area (yes I said food court...we will get into that later) and weaving our way back up to the front.
Use the map/guide they give you to pinpoint your favorite vendors first and take note of booth numbers.
4. Take pictures!
Not only to document - there are plenty of photo op stations all around the market but take a photo of your favorite item. Chances are if it isn't food but a decor or novelty item, there may be another vendor that has something similar or the same exact thing with a competing price. I love creating a digital shopping list through photos so when I made my loop from the back moving forward, I was able to compare what I already captured in photos. Plus should you need to send out a search party for a specific item, send the photo and booth number to your group text crew and meet them there.
5. Need a break?
There are plenty of "rest stops" around the perimeter of the market - and by rest I mean food stations and bars. You can grab a mimosa in a to go cup, beer, bloody mary's...all of it. That's how you shop right? You will be paying market prices so don't be surprised...just swipe, enjoy and keep it moving. It makes shopping that much more fun right? Also, there are plenty of restrooms so if you see one with an ungodly long line, chances are there are plenty more that don't have as long of a line in the back. People in a bind can't walk that far, haha!
6. Two a days...multiple days
Think about investing in an early bird ticket - for $50 you can get access to the early market times aka less crowded and all 4 days of the market. This isn't a last minute purchase so if you decide to go all out for market, get the upgraded ticket. This also gives you time to visually shop one day and then go back and buy the next, especially if you are uncertain. Another option is to volunteer for the market - volunteers get free admission and parking on the day of their shift. Come and help and then shop - not a bad deal! For those who are unsure about even attending, Reduced price admission tickets are sold starting 3 hours prior to closing each day. That's another savings for you!
Now if you decided to skip all the text and just want a video visual, I got you. Check out the video recap of The Nutcracker Market 2019, Clara's Dream.