Forget neighborhood swap meets and small-time rummage sales; these four famous flea markets dwarf the rest.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
From April through mid-October, vendors set up shop outdoors in Fort Greene on Saturdays and Williamsburg on Sundays. Mid-October through March, the Brooklyn Flea moves to a single, indoor location. This winter, Sunset Park’s Industry City, one of Brooklyn’s oldest manufacturing hubs, plays host to the market’s 100 vendors.
Unique Treasures: Mostly known for its wide array of antiques and vintage clothing from every era and for every budget, the Brooklyn Flea embraces the rustic look of wooden milk crates and time-worn glass seltzer bottles. “Repurposing vintage items to make bygone looks feel classic put us on the map,” says co-founder Eric Demby.
Famous Findings: You’ll likely find a brush with fame at the market The New York Times hailed as “one of the great urban experiences in New York.” Michelle Williams, Tyra Banks and Thurston Moore are just a few recent celeb sightings.
Around the corner: For the cherry atop the Brooklyn Flea, wander over to Smorgasburg, the adjacent food market launched in 2011 where more than 40 regional food venors dish up their mouthwatering specialties. If shopping for your sweet tooth, we recommend the Gooey Maple Carrot Cake at Gooey & Co.’s booth.
Renninger’s Twin Markets
Location: Mount Dora, Florida
Every weekend, bargain-hunters’ footsteps crisscross the 117 acres that house Renninger’s Twin Markets — a farmer’s market and a flea market — in Central Florida.
Unique Treasures: Like other flea markets, shoppers sort through rows of vintage furniture, clothing and accessories, antiques and other jewelry. What sets this market apart is its seemingly endless list of services. You can get your locket engraved, vacuum repaired, paintings framed, shoes resoled, and new couch reupholstered. “There’s even a guy who cuts rugs to any size you need,” says market co-owner Terre Renninger.
Famous Findings: Renninger tells the story of a vendor at the market who was perusing the booths and came across a landscape painting for $7.50. “He was hoping to sell it and make a hundred bucks or so, but then he found out it was a Hermann Herzog original, and he ended up selling it for $48,000!”
Around the corner: If the Spanish moss-laden oak trees leave you wanting more, take off on a bike down the West Orange Trail, a 22-mile-long paved tail that will take you through scenic rural landscapes and historic towns, like Orlando’s Winter Garden. Ready for a bite to eat? Stop at mile marker five for ice cream, dinner or a night at the bike-friendly Historic Edgewater Hotel.
Austin Country Flea Market
Location: Austin, Texas
Austin’s covered and paved open-air market stands just five miles east of IH35 and opens its doors to shoppers rain or shine.
Unique Treasures: While serenaded by live performers each weekend, you’ll spot just about anything in the more than 350 booths, says Rosie Young, the market’s general manager. “You could buy your wedding dress out here and probably find a husband,” she says. “Then you could get everything you need for your baby’s baptism.”
Famous Findings: American film producer and director Robert Rodriguez may not have found a lucky painting, but he did hit upon the perfect set for his From Dawn Till Dusk vampire series. “He turned our front gates into the border,” laughs Young.
Around the corner: If the annual rodeo is in town at the Expo Center, your next stop is a no-brainer. Otherwise, head downtown to 6th Street, the heart of Austin’s entertainment scene. Live music streams from open windows; art galleries beckon; and cafes as well as upscale restaurants serve world-class cuisine.
Alameda Point Antiques Faire
Location: Alameda, California
Officially called the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, the largest antiques show in northern California couldn’t ask for a better backdrop. Vendors sell their antiques along the San Francisco Bay — on a former naval base’s landing strip — the first Sunday of the month.
Unique Treasures: History buffs stumble upon a slice of heaven at this collectibles fair; every item for sale is at least 20 years old. From war memorabilia to rare furniture to vintage door knobs — one dealer sells nothing but unique knobs, handles and hinges — shoppers embark on a true treasure hunt.
Famous Findings: An eagle-eyed buyer once stumbled upon a Winslow Homer original for less than a thousand dollars, says owner Allen Michaan. “When you bring together nearly 1,000 booths of antiques, things lost to the art world come to life.”
Around the corner: Famous for its role in WWII and the Apollo 11 space mission, climb aboard the nearby USS Hornet aircraft carrier, now a museum. Step inside the ship’s Flight Simulator for a rockin’ five-minute ride. Arrive before 2 p.m. to join a docent-led tour.
Take in the city and come home with treasures! Call 1-800-750-5386 or visit your AAA office to speak with a AAA Travel Specialist and we'll give you all the tools for finding the best spots in the city.
(Winter 2016 issue of Traveler)