As we enter December, many people have already started shopping to get through their Christmas gift lists.

As much as many people enjoy the tradition of presenting gifts to family and friends, many of us don’t love facing those clogged shopping-mall parking lots and the huge crowds making their way through the stores at this time of year.

It can also be a challenge to find gifts at the big-box store that are truly distinctive and memorable.

As a realtor with more than 30 years of experience helping clients buy and find homes in the Ottawa area, I know that one of the attractions of our region is that we have a thriving arts and artisan scene. You can see proof of that in the many lovely Christmas markets presented in and around Ottawa.

At these markets, you will find unique and lovingly made arts, crafts and gourmet food items that you won’t find at the chain big-box store. Many people who go to these markets love the delightful items they find there, and they also like knowing they are supporting talented artists and craftspeople who are based in our region.

If you are looking for a little inspiration for your own gift list, here are four great market areas worth checking out in the 2017 Christmas season:

 Originals Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale

When and Where: Dec 7-17, EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr.

An annual tradition for many Ottawa-area residents, the Originals Christmas Craft Sale presents more than 200 artists, artisans, designers and cooks from Ottawa and across Canada, selling handcrafted arts and crafts and gourmet food items.

This event features many lovely pieces, including pottery, glassware, sculpture, lighting, leather goods, scarves, gloves, purses, soaps, candles, paintings, photographs, jams, chutneys, cookies, salsas and marinades. With so many vendors and such a wide range of items, many visitors find they’re able to complete their entire holiday shopping lists here, even if they didn’t have specific items in mind in advance.

At many of the booths, you can chat directly with the craftspeople who made the items. Many artists will give you their card, which you can include with the gift to let the recipient read about the person who created it.

For details, including ticket prices, hours and a gallery of the work of some of the artisans for 2017, visit:


The Shops and Galleries of Merrickville

When and Where: Ongoing, in the village of Merrickville, about 80 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, following a scenic rural drive. Take Hwy. 416 South to County Road 43 (Exit 34) and follow Road 43 to Merrickville.

If you’ve never visited the historic village, situated between Ottawa and Kingston, you’re in for a treat. After one visit, many people make a point of visiting again throughout the year.

This village is a picture-postcard perfect retreat from the city, and it’s a beautiful place to explore in all seasons.

To stroll along St. Lawrence Street, the main commercial street, with its 19th-century brick and stone buildings and shops, is to feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, and it’s refreshingly far away from the crowded shopping mall experience.

The village is home to many artists and craftspeople, and the is known for its many galleries, antique shops, art studios, restaurants and coffee/tea/dessert shops.

Some of the best-known longtime local establishments include Mrs. McGarrigle’s Fine Food Shop (311 St. Lawrence St.), where you’ll find items that include mustards, chutneys and salad dressings; Gray Art Glass (635 St. Lawrence), where you’ll find stunningly beautiful hand-blown glass items and demonstrations of glass-blowing; and Rowland Leather (159 St. Lawrence St.), offering strikingly designed purses, bags and other items by designer and craftsman Michael Rowland.

For more information, including links to some of the shops and galleries of Merrickville, visit the website of the Merrickville-Wolford Chamber of Commerce, at


Ottawa Guild of Potters Holiday Sale

When and Where: Dec. 8 to 10; Horticulture Building, Lansdowne Park. Free Admission. Hours are Dec 8 from Noon to 9 p.m.; Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At this sale, the Ottawa Guild of Potters presents works by many of its members, who work in clay and create a wide range of pieces, including bowls, mugs, vases and oil and vinegar bottles. While clay is the common element, you’ll be impressed by the diversity of personal styles, colours and designs, as each item reflects the individual artisan’s style and approach to working with clay.

Admission is free to the show, and on the opening day, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., the show includes a meet-the-artisans event.

For more information, including a gallery of photos of work by member artisans, visit


Lansdowne Christmas Market

Where and When: Saturdays and Sundays in December. This event will be presented at Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park Dec. 2 and 3; Dec. 9 and 10 and Dec. 23. Hours are 9 am. To 3 p.m.

On Dec. 16 and 17 only, the vendors will move to the EY Centre, at 4899 Uplands Dr., because of the NHL Winter Classic event presented at Lansdowne Park that weekend.

One of the pleasures of Ottawa’s revitalized Lansdowne Park site has been the farmers’ market presented there, with fresh food and crafts sold by many local farmers and artisans. The market has become a popular attraction for Ottawa residents and visitors alike, much like the city’s long-popular ByWard Market and Parkdale Market, both of which are also great sites to visit for gift and food items.

On weekends in December, the Lansdowne Farmers’ Market becomes the Lansdowne Christmas market.

Organizers say more than 120 vendors will be in the Aberdeen Pavilion, selling food, crafts and gift items. Admission to the Lansdowne Market is free, and it includes live music and horse-and-wagon rides. While there, visitors can check out Lansdowne Park’s beautiful Christmas tree.

For more information, visit:

If you’re considering buying or selling property in the Ottawa area, I’d love to meet with you to chat about the local market and tell you about the services we offer at Nancy Benson and Associates, based on my more than three decades of experience as a realtor in the region. You can reach me through my website, at, or give me a call at 613-747-4747.