If you’re planning a trip soon to the US (or if you’re already living there and that driving East to West Coast is no big deal for you…), and if you enjoy touring flea markets to find buried treasures, then you should probably take a moment to read this interesting review by Phoebe Assenza for Shelter Pop to get the most of your next adventure at the flea market!
Enjoy the ride!
Flea markets: Our favorite places for antiquing, thrifting and finding all things vintage.
Those of us with a soft spot for nostalgia or a pirate’s-level enthusiasm for buried antique treasures and antiques roadshows, know there are few greater joys than whiling away a Sunday at an overstuffed flea market. If it weren’t for these indoor and outdoor bazaars brimming with vintage finds, my sister and I would have a lot less to brag about. (Her most recent gem: a collection of 50s-era vintage table lighters found at the Long Beach Antique and Collectibles Flea Market. Mine: A vintage faux-Victorian nightstand made in the 70s, scored at New York City’s Chelsea Flea Market.)
From the coast of California to the borough of Brooklyn, these are the best flea markets to find your new favorite antiques and vintage things.
The Most Famous flea market: The Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, CA
The Rose Bowl Flea Market is a southern California legend: Up to 20,000 bargain hunters every month, including celebrities and interior designers, flock to the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena (located right on the east side of LA) each month to peruse more than 2,500 booths full of anything and everything your heart could ever desire or dare to dream of, all in one place: shoes, vintage clothes, vintage furniture, antique jewelry, vintage sunglasses, crafts, keepsakes, art, fabric, bikes, vintage costumes, music, and every imaginable type of retro merchandise.
There’s little you won’t find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, whether it’s new, antiques, vintage or just old. You’ll find items to furnish your home, landscape your garden, cook dinner, start an art collection, and update your wardrobe (check our list below of the kind of merchandise you can find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market). The Rose Bowl Flea Market is really full of surprises, you never know what you’ll find! Basically, if you don’t mind spending the money and want a fun time walking around this flea market or you have something in mind you want to buy, it’s a great place to go and check out. But if you don’t want to waste money, there’s lots of flea markets to go besides here for your shopping.
Don’t miss your chance to read our special review of the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, Cal. More reviews to come in the upcoming weeks!
The Most Picturesque flea market: Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Fair, Alameda, CA
Because of its stringent vendor rules (all items for sale must be at least twenty years old), and the scarcity of quality antiques shows in the Bay Area, the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Fair draws a regular crowd of high-end antique dealers and serious vintage collectors. The show’s co-founder and organizer, Alan Michaan, even stresses that it shouldn’t be called a mere flea market. But that shouldn’t scare off the casual shopper; there are still plenty of bargains to be made among its 800 booths of vintage stereos, 60s-mod dining room furniture, vintage style dresses, vintage furniture, vintage images, classic Barbie dolls, and of course, much more.
“You can find something for one dollar or one thousand dollars,” says Michaan, who also runs a nearby estate sale and auction in conjunction with the monthly show. The Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Fair is situated on a postcard-perfect stretch of the San Francisco Bay, on a former naval base’s landing strip. The fair and estate sales take place the first Sunday of every month, rain or shine, even on holidays such as Easter, and the auction previews happen the following Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Most Fun flea market: Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Flea Market, Long Beach, CA
Right in the heart of Southern California’s patio-living culture (nearly smack-dab between Los Angeles and Orange County), the Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Flea Market (mentioned earlier) hosts a huge assortment of outdoor furniture, garden ceramics and statuary. Lynn and Donald Moger have managed the show, which takes place once a month at Veterans’ Stadium, since 1982, and they also enforce a 20-year rule, so you know the bounty of Fiestaware and 50s-era Pyrex bowls aren’t recent reproductions.
Lynn is most proud of the creativity her flea market inspires, and she says that she’s seen “an old railroad cart purchased for use as a coffee table and vintage file cabinets converted into a bedroom dresser.” One of its best perks? “Real restrooms!” The Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Flea Market takes place the third Sunday of every month, rain or shine. Because of its sunny beach side location and popular beer vendors, this antiques flea market has a decidedly street fair feel, and locals come by each week just to walk around and soak up the sea breeze.
The Coolest Newcomer: Brooklyn Flea, Brooklyn, NY
As the borough continues to rival and perhaps surpass Manhattan as a real estate hotbed and cultural epicenter, Brooklynites need a quality flea market of their own. After opening in 2008, the Brooklyn Flea has become the preeminent spot to score unique vintage furniture, vintage style clothing, décor, clothing, vintage products and handmade goods. Last winter, the flea market expanded to include two weekly events: one is outdoors flea market in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, the other is inside a former Brooklyn bank built in the 1920s. The historic landmark, known as One Hanson, has limestone and marble interiors, intricate mosaics and is a marvel in itself.
“This flea market has these beautiful, vast aisles you can get lost in. You might even forget where you are,” says Brooklyn Flea’s co-founder and organizer, Eric Demby. If you don’t walk away with the perfect art deco vanity, vintage clothing or vintage furniture, you will leave with a full stomach. Food is a major focal point of the Brooklyn Flea, and you’ll find one of the best smattering of tacos, cupcakes, lobster rolls, cannoli and Asian-inspired hot dogs in the country.
The Biggest flea market: Texas Antique Weekend, from Fayetteville to Carmine, TX
Texas Antique Weekend. Photo: Stan Williams / elegantthrifter.blogspot.com
Everything is bigger in Texas, and its premiere flea market is no exception. Texas Antique Weekend is a twice-yearly chain of shows that spans over 30 acres along Highway 237, at a midpoint between Houston and Austin. In April and October of every year, vendors from all over the country meet at this flea market to showcase items like Majolica ceramics, mid-century holiday decorations, vintage furniture, small Victorian items, antique archaeology, antique bottles, ranch oak furniture and basically everything else in between.
Stan Williams, author of The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details (Clarkson Potter; 2009) puts Texas Antique Weekend at the top of his personal list and described it this way: “If you want big, expensive items, they’re there. If you want junk, it’s there. This flea market really has everything.” Because of its massive size, diverse spread, and semi-annual schedule, there is no such thing as a casual visit to the Texas Antique Weekend and flea market. Whether you’re a devout or amateur thrifter, make a shopping holiday out of it. Check the show’s website for maps, events, dealer list, restaurants and lodging info.
Honorable Mention: Treasure Mart flea market, Ann Arbor, MI
Rather than wait until the region is sufficiently thawed-out to hold an outdoor flea market, the Ann Arbor-Detroit area is home to a year-round, three-story emporium of vintage goods. Not technically a flea market by design but thoroughly so in spirit, the Treasure Mart flea market contains 8,500 square feet of delightfully curated and highly organized mid-century home furnishings, vintage clothing, costume jewelry, vintage images, ceramics, dishware, and loads of small, inexpensive kitsch. Housed in a historic building that was once a mid-19th century planing mill, the Treasure Mart flea market also has an outdoor area full of vintage patio furniture spanning a few decades. Visit TreasureMart.Wordpress.com for more details.
Still have flea markets on the brain?
Some other worth visiting flea markets
# Englishtown, NJ: The granddaddy of flea markets for decades. Visitors come in from all over, not just neighboring states. # Brimfield, MA: About 30 minutes East of Springfield, MA. They hold it in May, July and September. This years market will start on September 7 and run through the 12th. Should be 6,000+ vendors.
# Scott Antique Market in Atlanta, GA: The second weekend of every month. You can buy just about anything you want there. It’s got a great mix of stuff, bargains and biggies!!
# Hillsville, VA: Every Labor Day weekend 500,000 people take over the entire town. Every field, parking lot and lawn is turned into a vendor spot.
# San Jose flea market: It is said to be one of the biggest in the US
# Trader’s World in Cincinnati, Ohio
# Daytona Beach, FL flea market
# Bloomington, Illinois
# Seven Mile Fair, Milwaukee
Recommended Travel Guide: The Official Directory to U.S. Flea Markets Eighth Edition by Kitty Werner. This Official Directory to U.S. Flea Markets lists more than a thousand flea markets nationwide, plus selected Canadian and international markets.
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