Five Great American Flea Markets

March 22, 2013

Buckle up and turn your next road trip into a veritable treasure hunt

If the words “flea market” bring to mind a few dozen people rummaging through boxes full of dusty knickknacks, prepare to be surprised. Thanks to television shows like Antiques Roadshow and American Pickers, flea markets have become attractive destination spots. Each year in America, more than 150 million customers head to the country’s 1,100-plus flea markets, which conduct more than $30 billion in sales. So if you’re looking to plan a great road trip, consider one of our nation’s most popular flea markets—just make sure you bring comfy shoes and an eye for bargains. You may find yourself walking a couple of miles in a day, wandering in amazement from booth to booth, striking deals on old comic books, movie posters, eye-catching jewelry, fine furniture and anything else you can imagine. Here are five of the biggest markets out there, and what you can expect when you get there:

The Rose Bowl Flea Market
Pasadena, Calif.
When: Second Sunday of each month
Why: California’s largest flea market has been held each month for the past 45-plus years, making it a West Coast institution. Held at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Stadium, the flea market attracts everyone from local college students looking for cool finds to high-end clothing designers seeking fashion inspirations. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington filmed The Great Big American Auction here, and celebrities such as Taylor Swift have been spotted among the stalls. With more than 2,500 vendors selling everything from food to furniture, there is absolutely something for everyone.

Brimfield Antique Shows
Brimfield, Mass. (1 hour west of Boston)
When: May 14–19; July 9–14; September 3–8
Why: This rural New England town’s population is normally around 3,000, but during this event, that number explodes to more than 250,000. Launched in the 1950s, this show now takes up a half-mile of space on both sides of the state’s Rt. 20, with more than 5,000 dealers selling fine antiques and irresistible “yard junk.” There are 23 fields total, so be prepared for lots of walking.

Canton First Monday Trade Days
Canton, Texas
When: Thursday–Sunday before the first Monday of each month
Why: For more than 150 years, this market has lived up to its Big Texas reputation, with 7,500 vendors spread over 34,000 square feet of open space. It got its name in the 1850s, referencing the schedule of the local circuit court judge, who came to the county seat here at the Van Zandt County Courthouse on the first Monday of every month. The market offers pottery, Texas-styled Western wear, collectables, candles and other items both fancy and shabby-chic. The grounds are considered very RV-friendly, as well. The website advises visitors to come on Thursdays, if just to avoid huge crowds.

Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market
Springfield, Ohio
When: The third full weekend of every month except June, July and December
Why: Dealers, decorators and fashion trendsetters from as far away as Tokyo arrive here to come up with their next great breakthroughs. Shoppers sort through the wares of the 2,500 dealers who set up shop in Springfield. Every month, a promoter hosts a specialty show, highlighting themes such as country antiques, folk art and special holidays. Arrive hungry, too, because Crazy Uncle Larry’s one-pound pork chop remains a local favorite.

Portland Expo Antique and Collectible Show
Portland, Ore.
When: July 13–14; October 26–27; November 9–10
Why: Now nearly 40 years old, this show hosts as many as 1,300 booths but remains more selective than other venues—fine antiques and collectibles must be as old as the show itself. That said, items include vintage trunks, movie memorabilia, old radios, slot machines, paintings and toys. “In a nutshell,” the official site explains, “attractive things that haven’t been made since the 1970s.”

Someone’s junk is another person’s jackpot. When you score a valuable treasure at a flea market, call on Nationwide to protect your newfound investment with scheduled personal property insurance.

  • Travel & Outdoors