In November, I’m heading to Houston to join my close friend and a group of fun ladies as they embark upon Houston’s Super Bowl of holiday market shopping, the Nutcracker Market. Literally, there will be tailgating, there will be a half time, there will be celebration dances, and there will be a detailed, scrutinizing recap.
I started thinking about the holiday staple Christmas in Cowtown, Fort Worth’s worthy equivalent, and about how the one time I attended was more of a busted blitz than a touchdown. I went two months after my baby was born. I would mostly describe it as a mad dash: From my house, I mall-walked down to Will Rogers and speedily made my way through the entire exhibit in less than an hour. Leaving with nothing, hurrying to get back to a still-sleeping baby who had no idea I wasn’t there.
To say the least, I did it wrong.
Not this time. Research. Research. Research.
Everyone has heard of Christmas in Cowtown Holiday Gift Market, but few have the insider’s tips of Emily Strong, a Fort Worth Junior Leaguer, and, full disclosure, founder of this blog. She’s been involved with the market since its inception in 2007. As a reporter, I know full well that if you want to get the facts (and insider tips!) go straight to the source. This is what I learned.
Have an idea of what you may be looking for . . . and write down some notes. You won’t be able to remember anything when you open those doors to wonderful sights and smells of more than 150 vendors. Got a list? Great. Still be open to whatever. You never know what you’ll find sorting through the hundreds of booths.
Dress appropriately. Comfortable flats, crossover bag are musts. Keep those tootsies comfortable and those hands free.
Arrive early. Not that you’re going to miss anything. But this should be a fun outing. You’ll want to take your time, so clear your schedule. And if you would like a little more of an intimate (read: semi-private) shopping experience, look into the CIC Preview Party (held the night before the market opens) or the High Heels and Holly Private Shopping and Luncheon (held during lunchtime the day of the market).
Take advantage of the perks. Upon entry you will be greeted by enthusiastic helpers in aprons; if you have any questions throughout your shopping time, grab one of these ladies. You’ll be given a reusable tote, but don’t let the size fool you. They will gladly give you another when you fill that one up. There is also FREE bag check so you don’t have to lug all your purchases around; take advantage of it (in years past, it is adjacent to the entry/exit). I would advise bringing some cash with you to grab a quick drink at the refreshments bar located in the center of the arena. (You get mighty thirsty after all the great goodies you get to sample along the way.)
Some (Highlighted) Vendors
Cards for Kids (Women’s Board of Cooks Children Medical Center): All occasion and holiday cards are designed by children and sold to benefit Cook Children’s Medical Center.
Daddy Ray’s Famous Gingerbread: Owned by a local mom, Ashley, the store front is located on Bluebonnet Circle. Try the gingerbread bundt cakes (buy in bulk and freeze for later).
In a Pickle Foods: Local and popping up at your favorite community market/pop-up, don’t miss their booth. Market must-try: Blueberry Lime Jam. Their items make great gifts for teachers or coworkers.
Kendra Scott: Finally, a permanent store in University Park Village, but the brand has been a staple at the CIC for years. Kendra’s possesses a personal spirit of giving and is constantly involved in nonprofits and giving back to the communities where she builds stores. A fellow mom who really cares. Market tip: There may or may not be discounted prices on Saturday afternoon. But, shh. You didn’t hear that from us.
Mommy Made It For Me: Play tents litter my Pinterest boards. And Emily’s kids are big fans of theirs they got as a Santa gift a few years ago. Invest and watch your children find their imagination and a stylish place to nurture it.
Under Wraps: Heard about the best wrapping paper to get at the Market? This is the booth. Be sure to check out the accessories and tulle too.
All of Us: You remember the booth that has the “awesome dip” and “delicious soup” each year. This is their technical name. Stock up on gourmet soup and muffin mixes for fall and winter big-pot cooking and parties. Or stop by just to sample. We know you’ll want to take a little something home with you.
A complete list of vendors and their descriptions can also be found here so you can plan out your shopping trip even more!
Also, the Junior League donates all the proceeds raised during the event to non-profit beneficiaries. From the holiday market, more than $200,000 will be given to worthy nonprofit adding our community.
The Junior League of Fort Worth puts on the annual Christmas in Cowtown Holiday Gift Market as a fundraising event with the No. 1 making an impact in the local community. JLFW-designated beneficiaries receive more than $200,000 as a result.
Thursday, Oct. 9, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 10, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 11, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Will Rogers Memorial Center
3401 W. Lancaster Ave.
General admission: $12
Christmas in Cowtown Preview Party: $65
High Heels and Holly Luncheon and Shopping: $75
You can buy tickets here.
Share your best tips for making the most of Christmas in Cowtown? Have you purchased from a vendor in year’s past that you will be sure to visit again?