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New Orleans Flea Markets: More Than Parades, Beads And King Cakes

Jefferson Original Flea Market…or Never Judge a Flea by Its Building

While time did not allow us to take in more than a couple of flea markets during this year’s trip to NOLA, we decided to stop into one that we passed going to and from our hotel into the city. I was in need of some clear plastic to protect my Mardi Gras parade regalia and was sure that I would find it here. Certainly, this highway storefront with yellow weathered peeling paint would offer me a fine selection.

Boy, was I surprised! It turned out to be an amazing antique mall, packed to the rafters (literally) with every imaginable antique and collectible you could imagine. And a personality that is truly New Orleans! With only one foot inside the front door, all thoughts of looking for Visqueen vanished and were instantly replaced with a “treasure hunt” mentality! Digger bliss!

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The best flea in NOLA
The best flea in NOLA

Once adjusted to the dim interior, my eyes began darting everywhere, landing only momentarily on any single item before another more succulent find came into focus. Peeking down long and narrow, booth after booth, all I could see was another nook or cranny packed ceiling-high with antiques and collectibles…both regional and international. There really seemed to be no end to each booth.

While it was like a typical antique mall set up, what I LOVED about it was the very obvious New Orleans flavor. Whether it was because of Mardi Gras week or not, everything NOLA was front and center…as well as buried deep within. Purple, green, and gold sparkled at every turn. Jesters jeered from creepy old masks. Old carnival posters, costumes, beads, icon collectibles, crawfish boil pots…you name it. If it hinted of New Orleans, it was here somewhere.

It bears repeating…these booths were PACKED! There was one area of the three floors that we inched our way through, where a vendor was trying to get to a particular item and had his goods lined up out in the narrow hallway just so he could get a ladder in to reach it! Though packed, it never felt junky or dirty. A bit dusty smelling, as you would expect, but never dirty.

I did find a couple of items that I could not live without. M negotiating skills failed me to even a penny lower in price with either of my two buys here, but I wanted the items, so again…paid the price. I respect the deal.

My hands-down favorite booth was the booth of Madam Mel, Mystic Reader, and Spiritual Advisor. Perhaps because I have never encountered such a unique experience in an antique mall, or just because of the unusual display, this booth really fascinated me. Madam Mel sat serenely in her dimly lit booth surrounded by voodoo dolls, gris-gris (talisman), and ju-jus.

Though I initially did not notice her silent presence, once I initiated a conversation, she lifted my spirit and brightened the day. I was intrigued by her spirit. She was extremely friendly and eager to share her story with my husband and me. She explained to us that many of the dolls in her booth were salvaged from Bourbon Street locations when the original Voodoo shops there closed down, others she had made herself and uses in her practice. She is an active practitioner. It was fascinating to listen to her stories. She eagerly offered her contact information for anyone who wishes to reach out to her: [email protected] I still don’t know much about her practice or science, but I do know that Madam Mel has a kind soul and was gracious with our request to hear her story.

The historical influence of voodoo on New Orleans culture is everywhere in this great city, including the flea markets. This is just another example of the rich history and culture that makes up the fabric of NOLA and her diverse retail industries.

The next time you visit New Orleans and travel Airport Drive to get to or from the airport, save some time in your itinerary to stop at the Original Jefferson Flea Market at 2134 Airport Drive, Kenner, LA. You will be glad you did. Friendly people, great finds, and lots of New Orleans history.

I hope you have enjoyed my view of a couple of great flea markets in New Orleans. I hope to add more when we visit next year. If you have any questions or would like more information about our travels to flea markets in the US and Europe, don’t hesitate to drop us a message in the comment section below.

Happy flea travels!

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