Avoid the Mall: The Best One-Stop Artisan Holiday Shopping in LA
Sure, you could hit the Grove or the Beverly Center to get your holiday shopping all in one place, but you'll just wind up buying your loved ones preppy-looking socks from Banana Republic again and then mumbling something about "Pima cotton" as they're unwrapped. Avoid the rut by hitting one of the many artisan markets taking place around LA over the next month, where you can pick up interesting gifts made by actual humans and not corporate factories. (Meaning, you'll feel good about yourself and look thoughtful at the same time). The fact that there will be booze, food, and Santa at many of them is simply a bonus.
This weekly Sunday market is going all holiday for most of the month with a gaggle of sellers offering a curated variety of items including art deco prints
, vegan skincare products
, and these really cool geometric planters
, along with food gifts like organic olive oils, small batch nuts, foie gras, and cookie samplers. As per usual, there will be a ton of food vendors (60, actually) and a bar pouring its usual offerings along with holiday specials of mulled wine and cider. Free admission
This is the place to get gourmet gifts (think locally produced honeys and sauces, s'mores kits, and fancy boxes of handmade chocolates), and the market will even have real-life Girl Scouts on hand to wrap them for you, so you can feel like you’re helping kids AND look like you know how to wrap something as well. In terms of fun, non-shopping stuff going on, there will be carolers, horse-carriage rides, and an ugly sweater contest (yep, time to break it out again). It's also a good fest to hit if you've got kids in tow, thanks to crafts, face painting, and balloon animal-making, as well as photos with Santa (and it's pet friendly so he'll be happy to take a pic with you and your dog). Be sure to bring an unwrapped toy as the Arcadia Fire Department will be holding a toy drive that day too. Food trucks, including the Pudding Truck and Luckdish Curry, will be on hand as well. Free admission
Yes, you're supposed to be here to get locally made gifts for those pesky people in your life (in this case everything from home décor to leather accessories to furniture), but entry also comes with lots of perks you should take advantage of: You can make DIY ornaments with Paul Frank, get a free haircut at the barber lounge, down kombucha and snacks, and also get holiday portraits taken. Admission includes re-entry all weekend, and the first 2,000 entrants each day will get a pin designed by illustrator Tuesday Bassen. So you're pretty much going to be getting a pin. Admission: $15
As if you needed another reason to hit Grand Central Market these days, this event is a doozy. You can get your gift shopping done at the many pop-up retailers like Ink + Smog
, maker of groovy cards and prints; YA Living
, which sells homegoods made by artisans from around the world; and Los Angeles County Store
, purveyor of one-of-a-kind LA-made stuff from blackberry-bay leaf jam to recycled-paper iPhone speakers. After the hard part is done, reward yourself with eats from GCM faves like Bombo
, which will be doing some holiday-themed specials, then overdo it with something ridiculous from Sunday's cookie party and bake sale headed up by Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections and guest bakers including KCRW's Evan Kleiman. As for general fun, there will be gingerbread-man decorating and lots of musical guests throughout the weekend -- from steel drummers to carolers the ragtime-Dixie band California Feetwarmers
-- in addition to a meet-and-greet with, you guessed it, Senor Claus himself. Free admission
Back for a fifth year, this annual sale features lots of original works like jewelry, prints, photography, and handmade cards, created by students and faculty of the art school. You can buy raffle tickets at the event or beforehand
for a chance at gift cards and passes to Disneyland, with all proceeds going to the center. Oh, and if you're just accompanying a significant other and have no interest in shopping, simply hang back and indulge in some wine and treats from Sweet Lady Jane and Sprinkles. Free admission; Raffle tickets, $5 each or 5 for $20
The more than 90 vendors at this holiday marketplace will be hawking everything from clothing to art to vintage goods, but there's a twist this year: The market will also be offering hands-on gift-making workshops, which means you can actually make someone a gift for the first time since you enchanted mom with those popsicle stick ornaments in second grade. The market will host four different workshops (which you can sign up for ahead of time
), where you can learn to make jewelry, wreaths, and even bow ties. The same deals repeat when the market moves to 740 E. Third St, Downtown LA on December 17. Free admission; Workshops, $15-$40
It has "antique" in the name, but the fair will also have vendors selling giftworthy new stuff like art, plants, and home décor. Expect free eggnog and cookies, photos with Santa, carolers and live music, a toy drive, and plenty of pups with antlers on, since it's pet-friendly. And if you've been wondering what some weird old vase you have in a closet is worth, the fair will also have experts on hand doing antique appraisals for three bucks (Hopefully your treasure will be worth more than that). Free admission
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Lizbeth Scordo is a freelance writer who covers food and lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @lalizbeth and on Instagram @modlizbeth.