MANHATTAN — The holidays are right around the corner — and so is the season of Manhattan shopping madness.
New Yorkers who want to avoid department store lines and get more eclectic gifts can take advantage of the city's most popular holiday shopping fairs.
From exotic spices in Union Square to designer jewelry in Columbus Circle, DNAinfo has put together a guide of the top 5 holiday fairs in Manhattan.
THE HOLIDAY SHOPS AT BRYANT PARK
Nestled next to the Bryant Park ice-skating rink and a decorated Christmas tree, few places in New York feel as festive as the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park, open from late October through December. For the 10th year in a row, the open-air market houses vendors that sell unique gifts from all over the world.
The shops are listed by category on the fair's website, separating fashion from jewelry and artwork. The General Gifts section features Dynomighty's avant-garde "The Mighty Wallet" — microfiber wallets that come in designs based on subway maps, Superman logos, dollar bills and more. Ruffluv offers high-end fashion for furry friends, including knit hooded sweaters and miniature pooch puff jackets. A section of the shop titled "Spanning the Globe" features work by artisans from the Himalayas, Africa, Ireland and more.
For hungry shoppers, the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park has an entire section devoted to cuisine. Selections span from around the world and include Daisy's Grits, Pickle Me Pete, Dumpling Soup House and TopArepa, a shop devoted entirely to mozzarella cheese. Chocolatier Max Brenner also offers gourmet chocolate presents.
The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park are open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sixth Ave. between 40th and 42nd Sts.
GRAND CENTRAL HOLIDAY FAIR
This is a perfect fair for shoppers who want to stay warm while they browse through hundreds of affordable gifts. The Grand Central Holiday Fair houses 76 vendors in the terminal's historic Vanderbilt Hall, where artisans sell everything from crafts and jewelry to clothing and children’s gifts.
For shoppers interested in buying local, this year's holiday fair has several featured artisans from the New York area. They include Wendy Isaacson of Heart Art, a company that creates heart-shaped artwork often bought by Broadway producers for opening night gifts, and Paradis Found Designs, a line of children's accessories and clothes hand made from vintage fabrics and materials found in the city.
The fair is also offering gifts from Rebecka Froberg, a Brooklyn-based jeweler who uses recycled materials and stones in her handiwork, and the New York Transit Museum, which will have its own booth highlighting New York City bus toys and models, Christmas ornaments and subway T-shirts.
The fair opened on Mon., Nov. 14, and runs through Sat., Dec. 24. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
89 E 42nd Street
UNION SQUARE HOLIDAY MARKET
The Union Square Holiday Market is in its 18th season this year, and promises to be as big as ever. Over 100 merchants will be selling gifts large and small from around the world.
Some highlights this year include handmade leather belts and handcrafted jewelry, Tibetan crafts, Indian spices, handbags made from recycled plastic, travel pet clothing and dishes, and hand-blown glass items.
The market also offers German chocolates, hot cider and cappuccinos to keep patrons' hands warm while shopping the outdoor market.
The Union Square Holiday Market runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 24. Hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
14th to 17th streets between Broadway and University Place
COLUMBUS CIRCLE HOLIDAY MARKET
The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is one of the most convenient markets in the city due to its central location on the edge of Central Park South. Although its only in its seventh year, this holiday market is already becoming popular with New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors alike.
Highlighted items include handmade wooden puzzles, gingerbread houses and kits, mother and daughter apparel, truffles and more. Winter-bitten hoppers can also take advantage of local vendors offering hot cider and other tasty treats.
The Columbus Circle Holiday Market runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 24. Hours are from Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Central Park at 59th Street and Broadway
CRAFTS AT THE CATHEDRAL
Crafts at the Cathedral, held annually at the Cathedral of St. John's the Divine, is devoted to housing hand-made, unique items crafted by local artisans. The three-day event will celebrate its 16th year beginning in December.
During the weekend fair, holiday shoppers can find jewelry, pottery, glass, wooden items, paintings, porcelain decorations, sweaters, silk scarves and even furniture. Some featured items include a wooden table with curvy legs made by David Hurwitz Originals, ceramic vases by Susan Broderick, a peacock feather clutch made by Handbags by Daphne, and tapestry created by the company Fiesta Fibers.
Crafts at the Cathedral runs Dec. 2-4. Hours are from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. on Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m on Dec. 3, and 11 a.m to 5 p.m. on Dec. 4.
Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street