Guide to Holiday Shopping in Madison, Wisconsin: Markets and Events

Although Madison, Wisconsin, isn't known as a popular Christmas vacation destination, there are plenty of opportunities for tourists and locals alike to finish off their holiday shopping in the metro area this year. From festive arts and crafts shows to holiday markets and vendor's fairs, there's no shortage of events and attractions in Madison where you can find one-of-a-kind gifts for loved ones of all ages.

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    Aerial shot of the booths at Art Fair off the Square

     Art Fair Off the Square

    Each year, members of the Wisconsin Alliance of Artists and Craftspeople sell elegant to functional artwork at their annual Winter Art Fair Off the Square event. Featuring 135 vendors at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, this annual event is the perfect destination to find a one-of-a-kind gift for that person on your shopping list that already has everything.

    In addition to the regular vendor booths, the event will also have a Young Collector's Corner that features art at inexpensive prices and activities for kids and families. There will also be musical entertainment throughout the event, including performances by Johnny Chimes, the Madison Area Ukelele Initiative, and students from local music schools.

    The 29th Annual Winter Art Fair Off the Square (formerly known as the Winter Art Festival) will take place on Saturday, November 10, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday, November 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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    A booth at the MMOCA Air and Gift Fair

     Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

    The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) and the Overture Center for the Arts hosts a gourmet food, fine art, and holiday shopping event each year in preparation for the Christmas season. Known as the MMoCA Art & Gift Fair, this annual event features nearly 100 vendor booths, two cash bars, live music, dance performances, and a variety of activities appropriate for the whole family.

    The MMoCA Art & Gift Fair will take place on November 17 and 18, 2018, and will officially kick off the Shine on Madison Festival, a six-week celebration of the holidays in the city that includes a holiday market, festive lighting displays, and plenty of seasonal concerts to enjoy. 

    The fair does require tickets to attend, but children 12 and under get in free. Additionally, you can pay a premium to attend the preview luncheon on November 17, which grants you access to a champagne brunch as well as the first opportunity to shop at this special holiday market.

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    Aerial shot of the booths at One of a Kind Rubber Stamp and Scrapbook Show

     One of a Kind Rubber Stamp and Scrapbook Show

    If you enjoy crafting and scrapbooking at home and need to restock on supplies, the best place to do that in Madison is the annual One of a Kind Rubber Stamp and Scrapbook Show, which returns to the city on the weekend before Thanksgiving this year (November 16 to 18, 2018).

    During this three-day event, you can discover the newest tricks in rubber stamping and scrapbooking at workshops, get creative during Create-n-Keep classes, or build your own holiday gift at the Make-n-Take Market. Additionally, the Madison Bead Society will present their annual show and sale as part of the One of a Kind event, and there will also be a scavenger hunt event on Saturday with a $400 gift basket as the grand prize. 

    The Show will take place at the Alliant Energy Center in downtown Madison. Doors open at 10 a.m. daily, and admission is required to attend.

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    Olbrich Botanical Gardens

    Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison has routinely been rated as one of the top 10 most inspiring gardens in North America by Horticulture Magazine, and each year they host a variety of festival concerts, events, and attractions in honor of the holiday season, starting with Olbrich's Holiday Express.

    This festive flower and model train show features large-scale model trains winding through holiday scenes painstakingly created by horticulturists and garden staff from plants grown inside Olbrich's greenhouses.

    After you're done browsing the display, you can stop by the Olbrich Garden Shop to pick up garden-themed books and other gifts including art created with plants, tools for gardening, and even live plants you can take home to your own garden.

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    Dozens of local artists fill the Metting House of the First Unitarian Society (FUS), a Frank Lloyd Wright structure and National Historic Landmark, to sell everything from origami cranes to photography during the annual Art in the Wright Place event.

    From 7 a.m. to noon in the Landmark Auditorium on November 17 and 18, 2018, you can browse dozens of handmade goods, home-grown produce, and even an old-fashioned bake sale. Proceeds go to support FUS ministry services as well as local non-profit and charity organizations.

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    Many churches present holiday craft sales, but this one long ago was dubbed the queen of all church bazaars. Every year since 1922, the Catholic Parish Community of Blessed Sacrament of Madison has hosted a Christmas gift market to ring in the holiday season.

    This year, the Christmas Market will be set up in the friary's assembly hall from November 16 to 18, 2018, with doors opening daily at 9 a.m. In addition to the holiday market, you'll also have access to a country kitchen bakery, a Scholastic Books fair, raffle drawings, multiple luncheons, and a few extra booths from the local farmer's market on Friday and Saturday only.