Each year, a few weeks before Christmas, the North Florida Fairgrounds is transformed into a bustling shopping market of handmade wares, from candles and Christmas ornaments to fudge; Florida-esque art; and clothing. Called “Market Days,” this two-weekend shopping extravaganza is definitely the sort of thing worth visiting at least once. It is a little pricey – I had to pay $9 just for admission and parking. My honest impression of the wares for purchase is that they just aren’t my style or in my price range. I’m not into corny signs that hang in the kitchen, tacky Christmas sweaters or photographs/art of Florida landscapes. After wandering in and out of several “markets,” I wondered if I had just wasted $9. But then I stumbled upon a booth where sturdy wooden kitchen utensils were being sold. They were beautifully crafted and unlike anything you can buy at a Wal-Mart or Target. I bought a “mixing paddle” that I was assured would work really well with dough. Then I was lured into tasting fudge samples at another booth and bought $6 worth of different fudge flavors. I probably could have done more damage to my wallet if I had more cash with me. And that reminds me – definitely hit up the ATM and bring lots of cash. The food vendors at Market Days are also better than average. There is the typical festival food of corn dogs, french fries and kettle corn, but there was also a great smattering of local restaurants represented, including local sushi/Chinese food restaurant Azu. All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Address: North Florida Fairgrounds at 441 Paul Russell Road (entrance is off Monroe)