Handmade Arcade is a free independent craft fair held at the David L. Lawrence Convention center every December.
If you're looking to pick up some unique presents, or just want to support independent artists from the region and the country, the Handmade Arcade is the place to be!
Note: Many of the artisans at Handmade Arcade sell their products online via Etsy storefronts. When applicable, we'll feature links to the stores directly within this article as well (may contain affiliate information).
Our Kind of Craft Fair in Pittsburgh
When you hear the words “craft fair,” you might think of a church basement type of situation with grandmas selling their hand-knit hats and scarves. Or you might be thinking of people selling worthless tchotchkes.
We honestly didn't know what to expect going into the Handmade Arcade, but it turned out it couldn't have been farther from either of those scenarios. What we found in the Handmade Arcade was insanely creative artists selling high quality products ranging from ceramics to paintings and more!
The event is held in the convention center in the main exhibit hall on the first floor. There are so many vendors (over 170 in 2017) that it can be a bit overwhelming when you first walk in. Luckily there are maps listing the locations of all the vendors, and these are available both on the event's website and in person at the event.
I told myself I was just going to browse quickly through the aisles but there were so many creative products that I got sucked in to nearly every booth (much to Jeremy's dismay).
There were things like jewelry, handbags, clothing, paintings, photographs, bath and body products, children's toys, home decor, and stationery – all handmade!
A Must if Christmas Shopping for a Favorite Pittsburgher
We picked up some cool earrings made out of concrete (from local artisan Hanover Designs) and a porcelain essential oil diffuser (from local artisan A. Marsden Artwork), which we think will make very thoughtful and unique Christmas gifts.
Another cool feature of this event is that many of the vendors are from the Pittsburgh region. We learned about so many art studios and artists right here in the city that we can't wait to check out in the future! Plus, there were tons of themed products that would be perfect for any Pittsburgher.
If you're bringing kids to the event a great spot to check out in the exhibit hall is the Hands-on Handmade area. This section of the exhibit hall has great demonstrations and arts and crafts activities like leatherworking, print making, embroidery, and card making – all completely free! The type of demos and projects varies every year, but they're always a big hit.
Perhaps the best part of all about the Handmade Arcade is that admission is free. If, however, you like to skip the crowds and peruse at your leisure, there is an early bird pass ($10 in 2017) that allows you to enter from 10AM-11AM before general admission starts at 11AM.
We can't say that it seems totally necessary to pay for the early bird admission unless you really can't deal with crowds or you just want to get in early and get on with your day.
One of the challenges of this event is the parking situation. When we arrived around 1PM most of the closest garages were completely full. We had to circle around the block a few times before finding an one that magically opened from lease only to public parking.
As such, our best recommendation would be to come earlier in the day to secure a spot in one of the closer garages.
We enjoyed the Handmade Arcade more than we ever though we would, and we are definitely going to start putting it into our annual rotation of events. The quality and variety of products is great and enables thoughtful gift-giving, plus you're supporting independent artists.
Handmade Arcade takes place at Pittsburgh's convention center each December (dates may vary). If you are unable to attend the event, you can find many of the products available on Etsy. Click here to head over to Etsy directly or check out Pittsburgh gift guide for more recommendations!