Perhaps it’s the typically warm Houston weather that can last well into November, maybe it’s the fact that I’m not quite in Christmas mode until after Thanksgiving, or possibly it’s because I don’t care for large crowds of (sometimes) boozed up women spending oodles of money in a tight, enclosed space, but I never felt the need the attend the Nutcracker Market, despite it’s considerable annual significance in this city.
I take a great pride in living in one of the top US cities that has an extensive fine arts district. The Houston Ballet is the 5th largest in the United States in terms of number of dancers, and the theater that houses their performances, the Wortham Center, is America’s largest professional dance facility! Each year, as the Ballet gears up for their almost 2 month long (exquisite and magical) production of The Nutcracker, they roll into town at the beginning of November with this Texas-sized holiday market to raise funds for the Houston Ballet Foundation, their Academy & scholarship programs.
Every year around this time, the ladies of the city are lacing up their sneakers, prepping their monogrammed shirts, summoning their girl gangs and preparing their bank accounts, but all I can think about is the traffic and the crowds and spending more money than my budget would allow and I usually say to myself, “Not today, Satan!”
Until this year.
For lots, this is an annual tradition. You get together with your besties and/or your mom, sisters, tias & primas and make a big day of it! Ladies often tailgate beforehand (as it’s now held at NRG Center, next door to NRG Stadium where the Houston Texans play, so tailgating is only fitting for this event), getting a pre-game buzz going so that they can shop, shop, shop til they drop. A family friend of ours asked if we’d like to EXPERIENCE the market this year with her crew. Because this isn’t just a holiday market, it’s a holiday EXPERIENCE! I however, had no vacation days left this year and could not finagle even a half day to attend, so we decided to go after work on a Thursday, their opening night to the public.
Tips for making your first time as painless and as enjoyable as possible:
- If this is your first time, like mine, I would suggest to do as I did for my first time as well and attend after 3 P.M. on Thursday evening as the crowd is minuscule to what (I’ve heard to be) the normal daytime crowd. Because you guys, OH EM GEE!!! When you walk in, your jaw hits the floor.
Booths, upon booths, upon booths, upon booths, upon booths, upon BOOTHS of merchandise.
Anything and everything from the obvious Christmas decor & gifts & wrapping, to clothing to accessories to home décor to knick knacks to snacks and food to furniture to jewelry to shoes to house-ware to ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN!!
If you are a Nutcracker Market virgin like I was until 2018, you need NOT a crowd of retail hungry females ruining your experience when the experience in and of itself is overwhelming enough.
- Do your research : Upon entering the market, you are greeted by a volunteer who hands you a very large, empty shopping bag with a program. The program contains a list of their sponsors and a FULL list of merchants including a description of what they carry, along with their booth number and a website, if applicable (you can also find this on the Nutcracker Market website if you want to do your research prior to attending).
- If you need some help with the anxiety that can come from not knowing even where to start, there are plenty of bars with menu options from beer to mimosas to cocktails to double cocktails. (there are also non-alcoholic options like water!! Stay hydrated, my friends.)
- There are plenty of places to sit, but regardless, be sure to wear comfortable clothing and good walking shoes!
- Utilize the people there; lots of vendors have been there for consecutive years and right in the center of the market is an information center where you can ask questions to a handful of expert volunteers who will usher you in the right direction for whatever it is that you are looking for.
- Use ride-share to get there! Unless you plan on buying everything you see, the first time is really overwhelming, so I didn’t buy a thing. We took a Lyft, and used a code for $10 off a round trip ride that I found on the Nutcracker Market website. If you do plan on spending big bucks, then you might want to take your own car. Be aware of the $12 parking fee & $20 ticket price just to get in the market, FYI.
- Be prepared for buyers remorse/consumer regret. Everything you see there can literally either be made on your own or bought on Amazon/Hobby Lobby/Home Goods. Fight the urge to buy that $63 mermaid stocking… but the “see it, want it, buy it, own it” is REAL, girl!
You will leave feeling the Holiday spirit, financially depleted, and ready for next year’s Market!! If you’re anything like me, you will spend the ride-share car ride home creating a game plan for making sure you have at least one extra day of vacation, the vendors that you’ll plan to visit next year, the monogrammed shirts you’ll all wear, and who’ll be bringing the bubbly to the tailgate!
If you have any tips to help with my second go-around next year, please leave in the comments or email me! I’d love to hear more.
Should you be interested in visiting for the first time this year, check out their website for more information!
La Glam Greek