Over a year ago, my husband Greg and I and our dog Oliver moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
For anyone who doesn't live here, you'll often hear stories about "340 days of sunshine" (TRUE), how it never rains (ALSO TRUE), but the thing that everyone needs to be talking about IN LIKE A REALLY BIG WAY, is that if you have any interest in vintage interior design, thrifting, collecting, antiques, or seeing "ebay, the live show," Los Angeles has the most amazing, heart-pounding, so good you need to document every booth on Instagram flea markets every. damn. Sunday.
Here's your insider guide to navigating the Los Angeles flea market scene like you're the thrifting ultimate fighter that I know you are.
1. 1st SUNDAY OF EVERY MONTH:
You've got 2 options the first weekend of every month: go west or go east. I prefer to go east, but everyone's got their own thrifting freak flag to fly.
Santa Monica is a decent option if the idea of going to a flea market generally has you breathing into a paper bag...cause it's pretty small. It's also not that great, in my opinion, and I never really bother with this one anymore. There isn't a ton of furniture or home decor here, and I find prices to be inflated in comparison to the other fleas. I can't totally put my finger on it, but I've tried it out 3 times or so, and it's just generally not my thang. However, many love it like a fat kid loves cake, so you should try it out and see how you feel. Items/vendors definitely tend a bit toward the higher end of the spectrum, which means less digging for you. And there is a wide variety of stuff here from vintage clothing, estate jewelry, antiques, etc.
LOCATION: Santa Monica Airport PRICE: All admission on first Sunday of the month is $4; On the 4th Sunday it's $7 between 6-8am; $5 after 8am; children under 14 are free; also free parking on both 1st and 4th Sundays DOG FRIENDLY: Yes GENERAL VIBE: Soccer mom chic with some celebrity sightings mixed in; high end wares, all very well curated INSIDER TIPS: This is a good one to hit up if you want to bring your kids and your big honkin' strollers, cause it's generally less crowded and there is more room to spread out. Parking is fairly easy, though food options are scarce (there's one little food area which eh choices). I would go here first, take a few spins around and THEN head over to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, which is actually awesome and has some life changing food options. EXTRA CREDIT READING: Official site, Yelp reviews NOTE: The 1st Sunday of the month is definitely the quieter of the two options for this flea. The 4th Sunday is a much bigger show, with more vendors and a bit more action.
The first time I went to the PCC Flea I didn't totally understand how it worked, and so I had a terrible time and left feeling like it sucked more than Santa Monica...but I was ridiculously wrong. It rocks pretty hard, and it's become a "never miss" for me on my monthly flea market circuit. Trust me, ppl...I train hard.
So here's how this one works: the majority of the flea is in a parking garage across several levels. The main floor (and all lower levels) are typical flea fare with loads of home decor, vintage clothing, art, etc type things for sale. However, once you start heading up, you are in a music lover's paradise: old vintage concert t-shirts, collectibles and more vinyl than you'll know what to do with. There's also an additional space in front of the garage, with even more vendors (though not music).
So usually, my plan of attack is: park car, walk over to front outdoor area and look around there, and then head back to the garage for my deep dive. I start on the first floor and then work my way down, but you could also go to the bottom and work your way back up. See, I give you choices!
I'm not even normally a jewelry whore, but my fave vintage jewelry vendor is here in a giant booth out front of the garage. You must hit her up if you're into big, chunky, fun vintage necklaces (I went on a 70's necklace rampage recently, and I loved every second of it). ALSO: there is an amazing vintage magazine vendor on the first floor near the front of the garage that continues to feed my collage obsession. There is also a metric ton of cool vintage home decor and accessories, with a sprinkling of furniture thrown in here and there.
The market itself is a very manageable size, and I can usually do a solid job of hitting it all up in 2-3 hours total.
LOCATION: Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106 PRICE: Admission is free but parking is $2/all day. Make sure you buy a ticket from one of the kiosks in the garage and leave it on your dash before your head into the market...otherwise you will get a ticket. DOG FRIENDLY: Yes GENERAL VIBE: Eclectic mixed with the hipster/nerd coolness of the music scene; good variety of items for sale (though sort of light on vintage fashion). Really shines with vintage home decor/accessories. INSIDER TIPS: The majority of this flea market is inside! Which is amazing for idiots like me who forget to put on sunblock and also typically sweat my ass off. Also, vendors here are way open to bargaining, and I've snatched up some of my best LA flea market finds here, so don't be shy about asking. However, the parking garage is kind of far from the car if you are buying something big and heavy, so keep that in mind. EXTRA CREDIT READING: Official site, Yelp reviews
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is the mack daddy of all LA fleas and it packs a powerful punch: it's big, it's badass, and they sell absolutely e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g there. You could basically furnish an entire house or apartment in one day from top to bottom at the Rose Bowl.
The vendors begin setting up around 4am and I've always heard stories about how the most dedicated show up then to grab all the most coveted pieces then, however, I typically show up around 7am or so and there is still PLENTY of awesome vintage furniture, antiques, home decor, fabric, jewelry, vintage clothing, toys, collectibles and basically anything else you could ever dream of to buy just ripe for the picking. Truth time: it's still *pretty* darn empty at even 7am, so while I wouldn't discourage you from coming early, it's definitely not a tragedy if you don't roll up until a bit later. I try to be done by 10am because that's when I find the crowds swelling to uncomfortable levels.
Along the entire front area of the flea are vendors selling new stuff (i.e crap): socks, 9000 thread count sheets for $14, and some plants thrown in (ok, the plants aren't crappy). However, once you pass the new stuff, take a hard left and then you will be in downtown vintage furniture and home accessories heaven. This section is huge (i.e. you might not even be able to get through the entire thing once you see how big it is), but this is generally where I spend most of my time.
Now the word is officially out about the Rose Bowl, so the days of mind blowing deals are mostly long gone. However, you can *still* get bargains here, and reminder: you're definitely still paying waaaay less than retail. Speaking of bargains, HERE is a post from Emily Henderson offering up the BEST advice I've ever seen online on how to respectfully haggle with a vendor. Learn her script and copy her...it totally works.
I would never show up to the Rose Bowl without my granny cart, but I go hard (if you don't have one, you can even by them there). I just don't like to carry shit, and so it's nice to have someplace to put my embroidered unicorn art and leather jaguar, amirite? Yes, I'm right.
One last thing: yes, tickets to the Rose Bowl flea are expensive in comparison to other fleas...just deal. It's worth it, I promise, all your vintage dreams will come true there.
LOCATION: Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena PRICE: 5-7am = $20; 7-8am = $15; 8-9am = $10; after 9am = $8; children under 12 admitted free. There is plenty of free parking available, however, if you'd like to be closer, there is a $15 parking available as well. DOG FRIENDLY: No...you can't bring your dog, which sucks but the crowds are just too big. GENERAL VIBE: Kind of all over the map, but you will definitely see your gaggle of girls who look like they are dressed for a night out on the town on town going clubbing. DO NOT DO THIS OTHERWISE I MIGHT PUNCH YOU IF I SEE YOU WALKING BY. INSIDER TIPS: Along the first aisle (along the fence) is a killer spot for breakfast burritos and flavored lemonade around half-way down. Get your cash BEFORE coming to the Rose Bowl flea....their ATM charges like a $10 or $15 service fee...it's insane in the membrane. Also, you might want to splurge for paid parking ($15) if you will be buying lots of stuff. It is an extra expense, but I find it's almost always worth it to have easier access to your car. Most furniture vendors will work with someone who will be on site that offers fairly cheap delivery of any larger pieces (usually $50 - $75 depending on the size of the piece). Wear sunblock and/or a hat...shit gets H-O-T. IMPORTANT: Do not, I repeat, do not bring anyone here who is "not really so into" flea markets. They will be overwhelmed, and miserable and will want to leave after 15 minutes. Which will make you feel murder-y and never want to speak to them again. EXTRA CREDIT READING: Official Site, Yelp Reviews, 11 Things You Should Know About the Rose Bowl Flea Market
3. 3rd SUNDAY OF EVERY MONTH:
It took me a while to venture out to Long Beach for their flea, and p.s.: I was an idiot for waiting so long...cause this flea rocks the casbah. While not as giganto as the Rose Bowl, it's a much more manageable size while still offering up some killer, well curated vintage bargains.
I find that the vendors at Long Beach are also a bit more open to bargaining than RB vendors, and so in a way it's like training wheels for the Rose Bowl. Keep in mind that if you are purchasing larger pieces of furniture, you might need to get them delivered a bit further (if you are in LA and your vendor is not), so don't forget to factor in that cost to your purchase prices.
LOCATION: Long Beach Veterans Stadium, 4901 E Conant Street, Long Beach, CA 90808 PRICE: 5:30-6:30am = $12; After 6:30am = $6; Children under 12 are free; Parking = Free DOG FRIENDLY: Nope GENERAL VIBE: Pretty laid back, and chill. Vendors are a lot more chatty here. INSIDER TIPS: There are really no good food options here to speak of, so don't come hungry. Also, sun is intense, so wear a hat and lots of sunblock. EXTRA CREDIT READING: Official Site, Yelp Reviews
4. 4th SUNDAY OF EVERY MONTH: SANTA MONICA AIRPORT ANTIQUE MARKET
Yes it bums me out that my least favorite flea market is the only one that is repeated every month, but whaddyagonnado? Also, keep in mind that the 4th Sunday is the bigger/badder version of the market on the 1st Sunday, so you might dig it more. And if you don't feel like hitting up Santa Monica, maybe you can check out The Melrose Trading Post mini flea this weekend. Or just stay home, eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream and watch a marathon of Below Deck on Bravo. Just me?