The Rose Bowl Flea Market is without a doubt among the best flea markets in the US and a true legend in California. And this is not only because many celebrities like Cameron Diaz or Angelina Joli and interior designers are regulars at this Californian flea market. For over 45 years, this truly huge flea market has been taking place on the second Sunday of every month at the Rose Bowl stadium. The stadium, one of Los Angeles’ landmarks, was home to the 1932/1984 Summer Olympics and the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Which does not detract from the pleasure of discovering this legendary place, quite the contrary!
There are almost a thousand and one reasons to get up early on a Sunday morning to visit this iconic flea market. Whether you’re one of those who get up at the crack of dawn to look for treasures or a late riser who likes to wander casually between the stalls, you will certainly find something you like at the Rose Bowl flea market. We have compiled the best tips for our ultimate guide to this true antique and vintage extravaganza, so you can make the most of vintage shopping there.
Rose Bowl Flea Market: A legend for vintage shoppers
The Rose Bowl Flea Market is a true legend among flea market enthusiasts in California: Trendy Californians, from Los Angeles and beyond, flock to the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena to shop the latest trends and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this colorful vintage market. More than 20,000 flea market enthusiasts and over 2,500 merchants gather each month to attend the Rose Bowl Flea Market.
On market days, the area around the stadium transforms into one huge swap meet, which rightfully claims to be the largest flea market on the West Coast and one of the best flea markets in Los Angeles. Indeed, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is filled with anything and everything the heart of a flea market enthusiast could ever desire or dare to dream of.
There is little you won’t find there, whether it is new, antique, or just secondhand. Vendors attending the Rose Bowl Flea Market sell all kinds of items ranging from antiques and collectibles to vintage clothes & jewelry, shoes, vintage furniture, arts & crafts, ceramics and glassware, fabric, vintage photography, prints and paintings, bikes, costumes, music, and every imaginable type of merchandise are all to be found in one place.
So whether you’re looking to (re)furnish your home, landscape your garden, cook dinner, update your wardrobe or even start an art collection, the Rose Bowl Flea Market has a little bit of everything for everyone. No matter whether you just go to get an authentic idea of life in LA, or whether you are looking for something specific, this massive flea market is a great place to go and check out. After all, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is really full of surprises. And you never know what you might take home with you.
Is the Rose Bowl Flea Market worth visiting?
This flea market is a West Coast staple, along with the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, the Melrose Trading Post, and the Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market. If you can’t find what you’re looking for among the vintage and antique goods sold by its 2,500 vendors, then chances are you won’t find it anywhere else either. In addition, the fact that the Rose Bowl Flea Market is only held once a month allows vendors to continually renew their inventory, and thus arrive with a relatively fresh supply of new items.
Now, this kind of flea market may not be for everyone. And it all depends on what kind of mind you’re in to go there. Just so you don’t get any nasty surprises, here’s a rundown of what to expect.
7 Reasons To Go To The Rose Bowl Flea Market
✓ 2,500 vendors
✓ A fun place to be
✓ A plethora of interesting items.
✓ The number & the variety of vendors inside make the $10 admission per person worth it ($20 for early birds)
✓ Free parking. If you’re lucky
✓ The vintage/antique section has a lot of old and vintage clothing and weird things
✓ Great place for cheap clothes and nice furniture.
7 Reasons Why You Might Be Better Off Elsewhere
✘ 15,000 to 20,000 bargain hunters (on the hunt for a hidden gem, just like you)
✘ Hot, hard to pick up items that you buy. So come prepared
✘ A lot of items are DIY projects already fixed up by the vendors and sold with hefty price tags
✘ Be prepared to bargain. The more organized the stall, the more overpriced items you’ll find
✘ There are plenty of vintage shops already everywhere in LA. So why bother?
✘ Everything (even food) is just a little overpriced
✘ The ATM charges a $5 fee for use
If these last points haven’t discouraged you from trying your luck at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, then don’t hesitate and go for it! Everyone knows that an interior furnished with original vintage pieces doesn’t happen by itself. Unless you have a fat bank account. If you’re one of those people who prefers to hunt for unique pieces without breaking the bank, then all you have to do is make the Rose Bowl Flea Market your monthly Sunday appointment.
Rose Bowl Flea Market: 8 tips to make the most of your vintage shopping experience
#1 The early bird gets the worm!
Arriving early at the Rose Bowl Flea Market (before 9:00 am when regular admission starts) is a good idea. This will allow you to scope the vendors without the crazy number of people creating bottlenecks throughout the grounds. However, keep in mind that many vendors might still be unpacking their stuff by the time you get there. So the choice of merchandise may be a little reduced.
The Early Bird access costs twice as much as standard admission ($20 instead of $10 for the average person), but if you’re in serious shopping mode, it’s worth it! The VIP pass gives you access to the market from 5:30 am. You will have 4 hours more time to shop than other visitors who arrive at 9 am! It’s really a VIP treatment and for “only” $10 more. If you don’t go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market often, don’t hesitate to take the VIP pass for $20. You won’t regret it.
#2 You can haggle, but don’t always expect a real deal
There are finds to be made there, but no real bargains. Vendors are more profit-driven than in other places. And many of them won’t care packing up again all their stuff at the end of the day if they do not manage to sell it at “the right” price. You will quickly notice that they are really those in the driver’s seat.
#3 Not your upscale antique show, but still quality among the junk
The best deals and unique items are located in the back parts of the Rose Bowl Flea Market. The vintage/collectibles area is towards the left after you get through the main gate. There’s also a respectable amount of vintage dealers, with quite a bit of furniture ranging from MCM to re-purposed industrial design furniture.
#4 Pace yourself, don’t rush, take breaks, and set a strategy
You must focus on what you are really looking for, as it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed when strolling this flea market. Before you even notice it, you may end up walking around in a daze like a zombie. So make good use of the color-coded map to navigate your way through the Rose Bowl Flea Market. For instance, if you are into antiques and vintage clothing, you should go to the Orange area straight upon arrival.
#5 Wear layers
The Rose Bowl Flea Market starts off really cold in the morning because it is located a bit down in a canyon. Once the sun is shining the whole place starts heating up pretty fast. And do not forget to bring your own bottled water, as most concessions around the flea market ain’t cheap…
#6 Pack the right gear
A great day at the flea market often starts with getting a few things right. Like the gear, you pack. If you are planning to spend the day there, remember to bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer gel, as your hands will get dirty from all the rummaging through old junk. Also don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses and to use some sunscreen, as the Californian sunburns too. Last but not least, wear a comfortable pair of sneakers.
#7 Practice your poker face
If you find something you like, try and refrain from your excitement. Show your poker face, and start to haggle a bit, as quite a few dealers at the Rose Bowl Flea Market are willing to do so. The best time to haggle undoubtedly is when merchants are packing to leave the flea market’s premises (around 4:00 pm), as some might be reluctant to load their truck with unsold items. And the bigger the item, the more willing they may be to haggle!
# 8 Bring a big pile of cash, with lots of small bills
Some ATM machines are available on-site, but you won’t be the only one looking for cash there! Also, there is a $5 fee for using cash machines.
Where: 1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103 (right on the east side of LA)
When: Second Sunday of each month, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (no admission after 3 p.m.)
VIP Early Admission is 5 am to 9 am and is $20.00 at gate “A”.
General Admission is 9 am to 3 pm and is $10.00 at gate “A”.
Only walk-up admission sales, cash only. The exact admission price only, no change.
You can also find a detailed review of the Rose Bowl Flea Market on our flea market directory online at fleamapket.com
Photo by Eli Duke Los Angeles Rose Bowl Flea Market on Flickr