Holiday shopping: The mere mention of those two words can bring terrifying flashbacks of claustrophobic malls filled with frantic consumers moving about to a soundtrack of screaming children and wretched seasonal songs. (Really, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," again?)
It doesn't have to be that way. And at some places, it isn't.
These NYC holidays markets seek to turn that shopping frown upside down, offering unique experiences filled with independent-minded vendors selling an eclectic array of goods.
Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar
This is the bazaar's fourth year at the Gowanus location, hosting over 40 vendors for this weekend event. Besides a variety of goods to peruse, food, drinks, a photo booth and craft activities will also be at the market, with music from DJ Supadisco to soundtrack your shopping experience. (501 Union, Brooklyn, Nov. 26 and 27, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., brooklynholidaybazaar.com) (Credit: Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar)
Holiday Shops at Bryant Park
When you finish up showing off your triple axel on The Rink at Bryant Park, acclimate to walking on a nonslippery surface by browsing the shops of the Winter Village. There are more than 125 different shops for your perusing pleasure. (Bryant Park Winter Village, 40th and 42nd streets between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Manhattan, Oct. 29 to Jan. 2, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, wintervillage.org) (Credit: Bryant Park Corp.)
Union Square Holiday Market
With more than 100 merchants, the Union Square Holiday Market provides a plethora of creative gifts for your shopping needs. The possibilities are endless -- from handmade jewelry and leather belts to accessories made from recycled plastic. Take a break from browsing and grab a snack from one of the food vendors, because who doesn't work up an appetite while shopping? (Union Square, Manhattan, Nov. 17 to Dec. 24, Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. urbanspacenyc.com) (Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton )
This weekly market transforms into a holiday haven for three Sundays. Head to Astoria to shop from around 40 vendors, selling an array of handmade wares including jewelry, stained glass, ceramics, knitwear, leather boots and baked goods. (Bohemian Hall, 29-19 24th Ave., Queens, Dec. 4, 11 and 18, noon-6 p.m., astoriamarket.com) (Credit: Astoria Market)
Grand Central Holiday Fair
One major advantage is clear at this market: a historic location with other holiday-spirit-inducing options, including the annual train show. Head to Vanderbilt Hall and peruse around 40 vendors selling wares for him and her, and for kids on two and four legs. (Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall, 89 E. 42nd St., Manhattan, Nov. 14 to Dec. 24 (closed Thanksgiving Day) 10 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays; Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., grandcentralterminal.com) (Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority)
Columbus Circle Holiday Market
If this looks similar to the Union Square version, it is: It's run by the same folks. So expect a similarly eclectic mix of goods, with something for most everyone on your list. Among other items, you will find handmade wooden puzzles, artisan chocolates and clothing for men, women and children. (Columbus Circle, at 59th Street and Central Park West, Nov. 29 to Dec. 24; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and Saturday; until 7 p.m. on Sundays, urbanspacenyc.com) (Credit: Erin Kestenbaum)
BUST Craftacular Holiday Craft Fair
Who knows what handmade gems you'll find at the indie-minded market from your favorite femme-minded magazine? The Craftacular will take over the giant indoor Brooklyn Expo Center, where you can browse the wares of more than 200 crafty sellers of knitwear, food, vintage goods, art and more. Activities include make-your-own flower crowns, an ugly sweater photo booth, holiday manicures and a curated cocktail bar. Head to this fair early: The first 300 attendees will get a free swag bag of products. (Brooklyn Expo Center, 79 Franklin St., Brooklyn, Dec. 10 to 11, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., $3 at the door, bust.com (Credit: BUST Craftacular)