Southern California’s best flea markets

There are plenty of the things to do in Southern California, and most visitors run out of time before they run out of attractions. Most travelers don’t know that there are fantastic flea markets in the Los Angeles area every weekend. And in addition to finding the perfect old poster, antique lamp, or vintage handbag, you may also see a celebrity.

L.A.’s flea markets are huge, varied, and fun. Some, such as the Rose Bowl, are all-day affairs, while others are a pleasant way to pass a few hours. Most have a few food trucks, so there’s something to tide you over if you get hungry.

Take cash, wear plenty of sunscreen and/or bring a hat.

On the 3rd Sunday of each month, the Long Beach Outdoor Antique Market is held at the Veterans Stadium. It’s been in business since 1982. With about 800 dealers spread over 20 acres, this is one of the biggest antique markets on the west coast. There’s usually lots of old furniture and other home furnishings, decorator items, and vintage clothing.

The Big Daddy of L.A. flea markets, the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena is held on the 2nd Sunday of the month. When the weather’s nice, 20,000 people will make a day of it, searching for treasures among the 2,500 vendors. There’s literally something for every one here, whether you’re a serious collector or just looking for something kitschy to take home to a friend.

Admission prices are tiered, based on when you arrive. Fanatics who are willing to pay $20, can show up as early as 5AM, though not all of the vendors will be set up by then. The price descends until 9AM, when general admission runs $8.00. But remember, the early bird definitely gets the worm here. The box office is open until 3PM when things start to wind down.

Many of the vendors here specialize in a specific kind of antique or collectible. It you collect anything, chances are there’s a vendor here who sells it. You’ll see assortments of lunch boxes, vintage hats, clocks, action figures, jewelry, rugs, fine art, crafts, musical instruments, and retro-cool items from the 1960s. There’s even an appraisal service available.

Prices are higher here than at your average swap meet, but you can still find some steals. We found a beautiful Art Deco floor lamp for $35. So be prepared to do a little bargaining.

If you find something exceptional, the seller probably knows exactly what it’s worth. But since the price of a space here is much less than they’d pay for a storefront, you should be able to save quite a bit.

There are several food vendors, and even a place that sells beer – which is very welcome on a hot, summer day. So plan to spend some time.

Located on the south side of the Santa Monica Airport, the Santa Monica Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market is held on both the 1st and 4th Sundays of the month. The latter is more popular with about 175 dealers and an early-bird entrance of 6AM. This market has better quality antiques, carpets, furniture, paintings, textiles, jewelry, lighting, and vintage clothes.

Set designers and decorators often come here looking for one-of-a-kind pieces, because there’s always something interesting and out of the ordinary. Santa Monica is not as much of a commitment as the Rose Bowl, and when you’re through, you can visit Santa Monica Beach.

The trendiest of the L.A. flea markets is the Melrose Trading Post in the Fairfax High School parking lot. Plenty of young celebrities have been seen here looking for the latest trend-defying duds. Most of what you’ll find here is pretty hip and of good quality. There are usually some musician providing a sound track, and there are some trucks too.

The favorite flea market of many California bargain hunters is the Pasadena City College Flea Market, held the 1st Sunday of the month. Usually, there are about 500 vendors, selling all sorts of stuff. Admission here is free.

Read more shopping tips here.

1) Long Beach Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market
2) Rose Bowl Flea Market
3) Santa Monica Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market
4) Melrose Trading Post
5) Pasadena City College Flea Market

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