11.07.2012

Crash Course on Nutcracker

I've been going to the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market for almost 20 years!  It is one of the highlights of the year for me, right up there with Christmas and birthdays!  Six years ago we started a tradition for "Nutcracker".  Our family from Dallas comes in town, we go to breakfast, we shop all day and then head home for pizza, wine and show and tell.  We present to the guys and they come up with awards like Best Negotiating, Best Presentation, Best Purchase, Worst Purchase and a bunch of other silly awards.  It is crazy dorky fun!  They present us our certificates in these mugs:


Friends who've never been ask about Nutcracker Market and usually think it's arts and crafts.  It's not and this is the best way to describe it:  Imagine the best stores from the best town squares across America and put them all under one roof, that's it!  Most of them are celebrating Christmas along with their regular merchandise.  Add delicious food vendors, a few inventors and you've got a giant Nutcracker Market!

2009 at Le Peep before Nutcracker.
My friend Laura was going for the first time a couple years ago so I sent her my secrets for a successful Nutcracker.  I do believe I'm an expert by now.  The subject of the email was "Crash Course on Nutcracker" and I found the hysterically serious email.  This is an updated version of it:


Laura,

Here are my secrets for a successful Nutcracker event:

#1.  First and foremost, lower your expectations, I'm trying hard to do this too.  But I'm still crazy excited!  (This is a psychological strategy.  I've built it up to be the greatest shopping wonderland and I don't want anyone, including myself, to be disappointed.)
#2.  Buy your ticket at Randall's, you can save $1 and avoid the looooooong ticket lines at the door (more time to shop).
#3.  Wear a cross-body bag and bring Advil for when your feet start to hurt.
#4.  Bring cash and a budget, not that the vendors won't accept credit cards (they do), but you can negotiate with cash.  Allow yourself to spend up to a certain amount, no buyer's remorse here and no guilt!   
#5.  Use your HLSR parking permit and get free parking (this is if you are a Houston Rodeo Volunteer, we can use our permits all year to get into Reliant) also avoid the traffic and park on the Kirby Drive side of Reliant at Gate 10 or 11 and get into the HLSR, Permit or Pass line (usually to the right). 


#6.  Find a RICKSHAW, save your energy for shopping, they'll take you straight to the entrance.  Have cash for this too.

This is my daughter on the rickshaw, so much fun!
#7.  Take the bag and program from the volunteers when you go in, you'll use both.
#8.  Negotiate.  For example, I'll ask if they can take $5 off something that is $40 because i have cash and they'll agree to it!  Most booths have set prices but the mom and pop booths will negotiate.  Sometimes I will offer to buy two items from their booth instead of just one and ask for a lower combo price.  My proudest negotiating moment was when I bought a necklace for $90 and it was originally priced $140!  I only had $90 cash left and the designer agreed to it.
#9.  Package Check and Pick Up- don't carry your heavy stuff around.  I think it costs $5 and the pick up is always fast.  Located on the furthest right aisle and at the very back.
#10.  Take a break.  Have lunch at the Cafe, the tea is so refreshing. (I'm having trouble locating this on the 2012 map so maybe it is gone.  I will be very sad.)
#11.  My favorite booths. (I have so many more but this is all I can remember.) Use this map, it now has shop names, thank you!!!
  • Sandstone Gardens
  • Two Bar West
  • Leftovers Antiques
  • Cherry Republic
  • Gourmet Apples
  • Flirt by Kid at Heart (I like to take my daughter here)
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes
  • Write Designs
  • cloud mine
  • Beyond Baroque
  • Annette's Touch of Class
  • Paul Michael
  • Round Top Collection (not my style anymore but I always like to check it out)
Sandstone Gardens, I took this pic because I liked the b&w bow, sorry bad pic.

Paul Michael

I can't get enough of the Gourmet Apples, worth the wait in line.

#12.  Show and Tell to anyone willing to play, this makes for a better Nutcracker experience!  Even if it's to a two year old or texting pictures to a friend.
Have fun and leave when you've had enough!
Erica (the end)
For the first time ever I bought a 4 day pass!  With the pass my sister and I get to shop an hour before it's open to the public on Thursday and/or Friday!!  I'm pretty sure I'll be going all four days because I also started a tradition with my daughter.  I take her 3 hours before close on Sunday, she's under 6 and free and I'd be half price if I didn't have the pass.  I can't wait!!!!  To keep track of things, I'll be adding to my nutcracker Pinterest board in real time, ha!  I'm nuts for Nutcracker!!!  The Preview Party is starting in 30 minutes, someday...

6 comments:

  1. love that you love it so much! and totally remember your necklace negotiation. also funny how our styles have changed over the years. Still have my ***** birds....don't like them anymore but can't seem to throw them away. :)

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  2. I'm going for the first time this year...soooo excited!! Thanks for the tips!

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  3. Love, love, love!!! I'll be there on Friday. Hope to see you!

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  4. A four day shopping pass? I'd be in so much trouble. Maybe I'll run into you on Friday!

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  5. I know this is an older post, but I just came across it. Is it still true that you can use your HLSR volunteer parking permit all year for events? My mother in law and sister in law have been volunteers for several years and are both unaware of that handy bit of info. That is an awesome piece of information if that is still true!

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    1. I used it last year after this post so I think it's still true. I think I've done this for parking for the past 6 nutcrackers and each year I visit about 3 times! I've saved a lot on parking! Have fun and good luck with the pass!

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