Although Brooklyn and Manhattan were once pegged against each other, it is high time that we see there's great value in both districts. Extremely hip and fashionable, the streets of Williamsburg have an impressive array of street murals and art. Hipsters congregate here, whether they are composing a song in a trendy cafe or scouring flea markets and food bazaars. For vintage clothing or local independent stores, even Manhattanites have to admit that it is worth making it over to Brooklyn. Ignore the chains and try something different, like Desert Island, a must for any comic book nerd, or catbird, a boutique shop featuring local jewelers and designers.
Chelsea Market is a little bit of everything packing into a seriously awesome space. Though the higher floors hold offices (and lucky office workers), the ground level is part farmer's market/food hall, part shopping destination. From places like Anthropologie and Bowery Kitchen Supply (where you can snag cheap wares without trekking all the way to Bowery), to Buddakan and Chelsea Wine Vault, it's true that there actually is something here for everyone. The space also holds events on a regular basis, so you could stumble upon everything from a Rag & Bone sample sale to a Birchbox pop-up. Rain or shine, Chelsea Market should be bookmarked in your travel plans as a must-visit, even if you only stop in for lunch.
More novelty than anything else, New York's Chinatown is often overwhelming, especially around the holidays. Tourists clog the sidewalks and Asian hawkers whisper about good deals in back rooms. Be aware that authorities have cracked down hard on counterfeit bags and watches, so don't expect to find your next Fendi behind the noodle shop. Still, it's a unique destination, and one that has to be experienced at least once in your lifetime. Rather than spend all your time on Canal, try walking down Grand Street where you'll find more of an authentic Chinatown with produce shops, herbalists and butchers. Though it's technically Little Italy, try to squeeze into 200 Grand, where DiPalo's serves up delicious homemade mozzarella.
Usually home of the city's largest green market, radishes and rhubarb are replaced during the holidays with a bevy of gifts made by local artisans and foodies. Helmed by Urbanspace, coordinators of the popular summer pop-up Madison Square Eats, the market features everything from hand-crafted jewelry to brew-your-own beer kits. As you weave your way through the stalls, strike up conversations with the artists and get an inside peek at that their process. That way, when your sister-in-law thanks you for her dog's new couture collar and leash, you'll be able to tell her all about the woman who made it.
Over 100 vendors and a pop-up restaurant called Celsius set up stalls at The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park this year. Surrounding the center ice skating rink, the shops are reminiscent of a European open-air market. Unlike the Union Square markets, these slightly sturdier structures are designed to look like jewel boxes, and do a much better job of blocking the wind. You'll still have to venture outside to bounce between stalls housing artisan jewelry and unique apparel, but the momentary reprieve from the biting cold is quite a welcome change. This market also runs past New Year's Day, so if your Christmas shopping procrastination has hit an all-time high, stop off here on the way to Aunt Linda's.
SoHo is synonymous with shopping, which is why New Yorkers do a good job of steering clear on the weekends. It gets packed--and for good reason. Along with a Bloomingdale's outpost, you'll find name brands like J. Crew, Adidas, Hollister and Victoria's Secret. But don't fret if the big guys aren't up your alley. Take a few turns off the main drag (Broadway), and you'll be rewarded with a number of smaller stores and fantastic designer wares. Still, you'd be wise to bring a charge card with a high limit. SoHo's not cheap, and even lunch or a cocktail will set you back a pretty penny.
NoLita was once the tenement-filled home base to thousands of immigrants who came to New York for a better life. Now, chic, trendy boutiques dot these downtown streets. Head up Elizabeth from Broome to Houston and you'll find cool vintage shops, high-end retailers like Vince, and the eclectic jewelry and home goods store, Love Adorned. The adjacent avenues feature more of the same, making this the perfect area to get lost for a few hours. If you're lucky, you might run into an impromptu market, or catch a glimpse of a big-name celeb doing some holiday shopping of their own.
Right next door to Nolita is the Lower East Side. A formerly down-and-out part of town, it's seen rise to a smattering of boutiques featuring up-and-coming, local designers. That said, you'll still find a few old glimpses of a time gone by, as old-school leather sellers and rug salesmen are holding on strong. If you're looking for new and shiny, this probably isn't the spot to head, but if you're on the hunt for something unusual, or a second-hand masterpiece, the LES is calling your name. One tip: don't go here expecting to pull something off the shelf and walk out. This is a shopping neighborhood that takes patience, a good eye and a bit of luck.
Media outlets around the country have called the Brooklyn Flea the best summer market in the US. Thankfully, after the summer has ended, the Brooklyn Flea combines with Smorgasburg (think delicious, delicious food) and moves indoors to a new location every winter. This year, the Flea sets up shop in Sunset Park's Industry City starting October 17. Though it's a bit of a hike from Manhattan, the second busiest Costco in the country is right next door, so you'll have the opportunity to knock out some bargain buying after sifting through the Flea's salvaged furniture, handmade jewelry and vintage clothes.
Every year, millions of New Yorkers and visitors walk down Fifth Avenue to peruse the windows of Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Saks, Barneys and countless others that pull out all the stops for their annual displays. But what's inside these shops is equally as exciting, which is why Fifth Avenue is number one on our list of holiday shops. Along with these high-end retailers, Fifth Avenue is also home to world-class jewelers, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, DeBeers, and Tiffany's. Plus, (as if you needed another reason to visit), iconic sites like St. Patrick's Cathedral make grand appearances alongside the finest goods in the land.