They're on everyone's shopping list: unique gifts. That's often easier said than done. But not when you live in a city that offers an abundance of alternative art markets.
Take my advice and try these. Each has its own flavor, with offerings that can fill question marks on your gift-giving list.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of market options, the five below are on my do-not-miss list. Hopefully, they'll be on yours, too.
Now through Dec. 24. West Shore Park, 501 Light St. baltimore-christmas.com.
For more traditional options, try this German-style market, back for a second year. An indoor-outdoor combo, this year's Christmas Village has more than 60 booths selling unique items such as stollen (a German fruitcake), elisen lebkuchen (gingerbread in cute tin boxes) and schwibbogen (a decorative light display inspired by German miners' tradition of hanging lanterns around the entrances of mines). 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Weekday (and opening weekend admission) is free; other weekend admission is $1 to $5.
On any day of the year, AVAM's Sideshow gift shop is a reliable spot for finding gifts. Bazaart is like Sideshow times 100. If Black Friday isn't your thing (and really, why should it be?), AVAM offers a worth-it Bazaart first dibs preview party on that day (5:30 p.m.-8 p.m.; $10-$20) where you can munch on light fare while perusing this year's offerings. The free holiday art market opens Saturday, runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes just about everything artistically quirky, including metalwork, jewelry and sculpture, from more than 50 local artisans and crafts people.
Dec. 6. St. John's Church, 2640 St. Paul St. charmcitycraftmafia.com.
When it comes to local DIY (well, done by someone else, but still) offerings, trust the Charm City Craft Mafia. This year features local pottery and jewelry, as well as T-shirts, growlers, stuffed monsters and skin care products. You could finish your shopping in one fell swoop. Early bird: 9 a.m.-10 a.m. ($15); free admission from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Everything at this building-wide sale is made by indie crafters in Baltimore and the region, including clothing, toys, ceramics and paintings. But Merry Mart also includes some stellar bonuses. There are craft tutorials, an arts workshop upstairs for the kiddies and brunch at the Marquee Lounge from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aww, you thought of everything, Creative Alliance. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Free admission.
MICA Art Market
Dec. 10-13. Brown Center's Leidy Atrium and Falvey Hall lobby, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave. mica.edu.
This is the grande dame of Baltimore art markets. More than 300 MICA students, alumni and faculty/staff offer one-of-a-kind creations covering mosaics, stationery, textiles, toys ... there's even wrapping paper. The artists are unique, the prices are fair and — you won't believe this — it's a shopping experience that's actually enlightening and fun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 10-12; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 13. Free admission.