On every Saturday and Sunday of December until Christmas, my routine for five years was as follows:

– Arrive at the Lane County Fairgrounds before 10 a.m.

– Enter the Eugene Holiday Market festivities from the east end

– Listen to the woman on stage singing nursery rhymes in French and English for all the jumping kids

– Wish I had as much energy as those kids did in the morning

– Grab a coffee from Dana’s Cheesecake Bakery to gain said energy

– Get to work at the Afghani Cuisine food booth

The Eugene Holiday and Saturday Markets were the first places I had ever worked, as was the case for so many other high schoolers in and around Eugene. Once I started college, I decided to free up my weekends and take a break from the seasonal traditions.

I find myself visiting the Markets from time to time but never more than once or twice a year. When I do get the chance to go, I never regret it. The Eugene Holiday and Saturday Markets are places you can count on for authentic Eugene. The dance floors never dull. The vendors continue to celebrate eclectic foods. The artisans impress new and old crowds every season. And specifically with the Holiday Market, the routes that lead from one booth to the next never fail to lead you to something new.

I’ve discovered some of the best foods and crafts with all the hours I’ve spent winding and wandering through the Holiday Market paths. The area of the space is large and easy to get lost in, but fear not – I’ve done years of field research for you.

Here’s how to enjoy a day at the Holiday Market from a local:

Morning:

– Wake up! Market opens to the public at 10 a.m. The coffee is good at both Dana’s Cheesecake Bakery and Edible Improvs. I’d pick the former if I were looking to pair it with one of Dana’s specialty cakes or cream puffs. I’d go for the latter if I want my morning to consist of the gooiest cookie ever or the crêpiest crêpe.

– Start snaking. Maneuvering the craft booths should be done slowly and carefully. Many sellers have been at Market for decades and still return year after year, but there are a number of new faces and products to keep an eye out for.

– The morning is also a good time visit the Farmer’s Market in the separate Holiday Hall. Get that fresh produce ASAP.

Midday:

– Take a break – you deserve it. One of the above-mentioned sweets makes a great midday snack if you missed out in the morning, but for something a little different, and not to be bias, the Afghani Cuisine makes a mad bolani that’s both easy finger-food and freakishly flavorful once you add some chutney.

– On the other end of the food court (and the world), Ritta’s Burrito and Saritza’s Mexican Food offer up some of the best quesadillas I’ve ever had, which are also fun to walk around with and share with friends.

– Get lost among the crafts once again. Cross those people off your holiday list.

– Lunchtime! Eating at Bangkok Grill is a must for anyone who visits the Holiday Market. As a Market and Faire (of Oregon Country Faire) baby, I have never seen a booth need its customer lines roped off as much as this Thai food mecca does.

Evening:

– Shake it off. The music gets increasingly upbeat (and all-around better) as the day goes on. Jump onto the dance floor to experience a little Eugene rhythm.

– Take a breather with an ice-cold mix from The Lemonade Gourmet. Guaranteed, this is not your typical lemonade.

– Market closes at 6 p.m., so there is a little time to fit in a final meal. You can also get some dishes to go – for instance another plate of Pad Thai.

– Renaissance Pizza at the west-end of the food court also sells full pies. Go home with an entire pizza with some of the best tomato sauce you’ve ever had on it.

And two of my biggest points for last: Make sure you enter the Events Center with an open-mind and that you leave with a full stomach and a load of unique goodies.

The Eugene Markets are one in a million – little changes, but people’s passions for being where they are continue to grow. Don’t be shy to be a part of the celebrations.

Happy holidays.