Some say it’s better than a Sweet Sixteen birthday on MTV. Some even say it’s better than Christmas. Regardless of what others may say (they’re right), it’s the best flea market on the West Coast, and it’s located right on the east side of LA in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. The Rose Bowl Flea Market occurs on the second Sunday of every month, rain or shine, all year long. It has anything and everything your heart could ever desire or dare to dream of, all in one place – shoes, clothes, furniture, jewelry, sunglasses, crafts, keepsakes, art, fabric, bikes, costumes, music, and vintage anything (only to name a few).
Like many, I moved to LA with nothing more than what I was able to fit into my car. For the first few weeks, I lived with friends and slept on an air mattress. I then found a sublet and lived with someone else’s things for three more months. About a month ago, I finally found my own place. I quickly started researching places around town that sold furniture – whether it was new, used, antique, vintage, or reclaimed. Once I started researching places to shop, I realized everything I wanted was well outside of my price range. Craigslist was good for some of the smaller things, and I was still firmly avoiding IKEA, so I felt like I was running out of options, and fast. Someone I worked with mentioned the Rose Bowl Flea Market and said I should check it out for some great deals. They used words including “amazing” and “unbelievable,” so I thought OK, fine, what could I lose?
Being that I was slightly skeptical, I started researching what people were saying on Yelp about this supposed “magical flea market in a far away land” on the east side. I gathered my notes the following weekend and embarked on my trip. I arrived around 8am and was instantly transported into a place where everything I could have ever imagined materialized right in front of my eyes. I stopped at the ATM one last time before purchasing my ticket and low and behold, four hours later, I had spent every dollar I came with – $1,200 to be exact. What exactly did I get for that much you ask? Let me tell you: a reclaimed wood desk, a large vintage tool chest, a mid century modern kitchen table, a gorgeous mid century modern arm chair, a magazine rack, a night stand, a dresser, a side table, a wool blanket, and a piece of coral for decoration. That’s a total of EIGHT pieces of furniture, plus some “knick knacks” for the price of ONE piece of new furniture from one of those designers stores that are all over LA (and all found in one place, unlike Craigslist).
However, had I not read those tips on Yelp, I may not have been as successful as I was. Here are some great tips to make your Rose Bowl Flea Market visit a success:
1. Get over the price of the tickets to get in (around $8-$15 per person depending on the time). It’s worth it.
2. Dress for the weather and the walking. Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen, a hat, and maybe an umbrella to shield you from the sun.
3. Bring your own water. (water can be almost $10 for a bottle). Also, drink lots of it. You can get dehydrated a lot faster than you think.
4. Have a plan of attack. Are you going for something specific or just rummaging? If you’re looking for something specific, arrive early (8am is perfect) to beat the crowd (which will be at its all time high around noon/1pm) and to have dibs on the best stuff. If you’re just rummaging, go whenever (tickets become a little cheaper after 9am).
5. Where to look. If you’re looking for furniture, enter through the front and go to your left (the farthest left you can take – you’ll see the furniture lining the fence on your way in). If you’re looking for clothes, proceed through the furniture section and find your way to one of the small bridges, and cross it in order to hit the jackpot. Avoid the area right where you walk in and inside the stadium – it’s full of vendors who are selling new/expensive things (which defeats the purpose of a flea market).
6. Take inventory. Make a quick run through when you first get there and scope out the vendors you’d like to spend the most of your time with – you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more in a shorter period of time.
7. Drive something big and bring a tape measure. You’ll need to take away your purchases in something and you’ll need to know how much you can fit in it. Measure the inside of your vehicle and then measure your furniture (or other large purchases) to see if it will fit before you purchase it. If you’re like me and know you’ll be spending an entire day there buying a lot of furniture, consider renting a small U-haul for the day to be able to take everything home in one trip.
8. Bring a small cart. You can rent one there for the same price it costs to buy one and your shoulders will thank you at the end of the day.
9. It’s easy to get overwhelmed (and lost). This place is gigantic, so do what you need to do to remember where your purchases are, so you can pick them up when you leave. Bringing a friend along will definitely help.
10. Know that this flea market closes at 4pm. Vendors will start packing up around 3pm, so plan accordingly.
11. Barter your little butt off. Know that the people who are selling this stuff don’t want to lug it back home at the end of the day.
Set a reminder on your phone. Mark the days on your calendar. Set your alarm clock for early. This is not a flea market to be missed! It is the Godfather of them all; the Flea Market that all other flea markets look up to and wish to be one day. People even drive in from surrounding states to attend this thing. So go forth, be fruitful, and good luck, my friend. For more info: http://www.rgcshows.com/
Other flea markets to check out in LA: The Santa Monica Flea Market (every 4th Sunday, never on the 5th Sunday), The Melrose Trading Post (every Sunday), The Pasadena City College Flea Market (every 1st Sunday), Venice High School Antique and Collectables Market (every 2nd Saturday)