Home Cultural Exploration Discover An Old World Christmas Market In Wisconsin

Discover An Old World Christmas Market In Wisconsin

written by Penny Sadler

I have a confession to make: I’ve felt a bit like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas lately, when it comes to the holidays. I still go to friend and family dinners, and I exchange a few gifts, but I haven’t decorated in a long while. It all seems like a lot of work to be enjoyed for such a short time. And the older I’ve grown, the more my friends and I have gotten away from exchanging gifts. Maybe it’s shallow of me, but I always felt part of the fun of Christmas, or any time really, was finding something to gift someone, something especially for them. This year, I was saved from my Grinch-y self by an invitation to visit the Osthoff Resort on Elkhart Lake, which boasts a Christmas market in Wisconsin.

I’d never heard of Elkhart Lake, but via a quick Google search, I learned that it was the perfect place to find some Christmas spirit. There’s something about a small town all dressed up in tinsel, street lamps glowing, and a heavy sky promising snow that pulls you in and makes you feel like Christmas is the best time of the year. Plus the big draw: The Osthoff Resort’s annual Christmas market.

If you have ever wanted to visit a European Christmas market but haven’t, for logistical or financial reasons, at Osthoff’s Old World Market (now in its nineteenth year), European traditions and the spirit of Christmas are alive and well. Vendors from Germany, as well as other international and regional vendors, return year after year for this market.

For a totally different Christmas experience, check out these beaches around the world.

A European Christmas in the USA?

From the moment I stepped inside, the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas greeted me: pine trees and pastries, friends and family mingling and greeting each other over a cup of cocoa, the cold wind howling outside, lights and garland decked the halls. I felt as though I’d been transported across the ocean.

Forget going to Europe for nutcrackers or other traditional German Christmas gifts – you only need to travel to Wisconsin!

I discovered birdhouses and wonderful arrangements made from local birch wood, hand-blown glass ornaments, sturdy knives carved from antlers that were works of art, tapestries and scarves from India, carved Santa Claus figures, even treats for your favorite pet. Old Saint Nick strolled the market, lending his jolly laugh to the atmosphere. And there was a beautiful setting among the Christmas trees for taking photos with the kiddos.

There were regional desserts, pastries, and other tasty treats, like Gluhwein and schnitzel, served with red cabbage and spaetzle. Of course, there were local cheeses, too! After all, Wisconsin is known for cheese and no Christmas Market in Wisconsin would be complete without at least some cheese curds.

Follow me on a walk around the market.

You’ll meet a few vendors, eat some German food, and even buy an ornament or two. Honestly, the moment I set foot inside, all Grinch-y-ness just evaporated. I may even put up a tree this year. I found the spirit of Christmas at the Osthoff’s Old World Christmas Market in Wisconsin.


pinterest image, christmas market in wisconsin

You too can Discover an Old World Christmas Market


entrance to the wisconsin christmas market

The entrance to the Christmas Market. Nothing says Christmas more than a beautiful lighted pine tree – or three.


Osthoff Resort in winter

Even the dining area had its own tree.


birch wood holiday arrangements

This booth had all sorts of beautiful fresh arrangements and decor carved from birch wood.


Gerhard Lipman, christmas market vendor

Gerhard Lipman, he’s a regular at the market with his wonderful nutcrackers.


Christmas trees at Osthoff Resort

I’m a sucker for a good Christmas tree. They were everywhere throughout the market. So festive!

Fun holiday ornaments at Osthoff Resort

These quirky ornaments caught my attention. I couldn’t leave without one. All hand made by a local artist.


Discover an Old World Christmas Market in Wisconsin

Something for the oenophile in your life.


birch tree ornaments at the Osthoff Resort christmas market

I loved these birch candle holders. Birch trees are native to Wisconsin.


The German Gift Store, Osthoff Resort Christmas

This booth was called The German Gift Store. These guys were having a great timing chatting with customers who come to visit them at the market every year, not only to buy their cool German Christmas decor, but to chat in German.


Osthoff Resort's Old World Christmas Market

Who doesn’t want to give their dog pork retriever rolls wrapped in duck?


Osthoff Resort christmas market. @PennySadler 2016

Pretty arrangement with fresh greenery.


Santa Claus is at the Osthoff Christmas Market @PennySadler

These Santa Claus figures were actually paper mache. How could you chose just one?


Wolfgang's savory nuremberg sausages, christmas market

No visit to the Osthoff Christmas Market would be complete without trying some of Wolfgang’s savory Nuremberg sausages. He won’t give you the recipe, so you’ll have to eat them there.

scarves imported from india, christmas market vendors

Loved these colorful scarves imported from India.


St. Nicolas at the Osthoff Christmas Market

What’s a Christmas Market without St. Nick?


There were about 100 vendors at the market — obviously this is a very small representation. I spent four hours there and it wasn’t enough. I really wished I’d had another four hours. Would I go back? You betcha I would. Europe’s got nothing on Wisconsin. Have you been? Where is your favorite Christmas market?


If you go:

The closest airport is Milwaukee. From there, drive approximately one hour north to Elkhart Lake.


Osthoff Resort Elkhart Lake, WI

Of course I had to tell St. Nick what I wanted for Christmas.

See how the Osthoff’s Old World Market compares to 16 Of the Best Christmas Markets in Europe.


This delightful visit to the Osthoff Resort Christmas Market was sponsored by Osthoff Resort.




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Kaye March 9, 2017 at 8:14 am

Interesting! We may have to check this out! Wisconsin is the only state we haven’t been to!

Penny Sadler March 9, 2017 at 11:37 am

Good on you. Wish I could say the same.

SusanManfull December 19, 2016 at 12:45 am

I really enjoyed learning about this market! I would love to go!

Penny Sadler December 19, 2016 at 9:58 am

Thanks Susan! I plan to be a regular. I’ve never experienced anything like it – haven’t been to the markets in Europe either.

Annita December 17, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Great article Penny! It brought back great memories. Osthoff Old World Christmas Market next year? Yes, for me!

Penny Sadler December 17, 2016 at 6:39 pm

I think it’s going to be a tradition now.

Marcy December 14, 2016 at 1:51 am

My first step was about two years ago. I used to buy a fresh green tree. Then the next year I bought an excellent fake tree. This year it did not get taken out of the box. Sort of sad that the kids are grown up and have moved out of California.

Penny Sadler December 14, 2016 at 9:17 am

Marcy, I understand. Seriously, is there a market nearby you can visit?


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