5 Tips: The Rose Bowl Flea

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#1 — Know ticket prices and bring cash

If you’re into thrift shopping and vintage treasure hunting, the Rose Bowl Flea is one to put on your bucket list. Sprawling around the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, this gem of a market is held rain or shine every second Sunday of the month, from 5 am (VIP admission for $20) to 3 pm (box office closes). The entry ticket price goes down as the day goes on, so if you’re planning a visit, read more about the specifics here. In short, this is arguably the best flea market on the west coast. Furniture, jewelry, vintage clothing that borders on fantastical at times, trinkets, glassware, baskets, pottery… if you come with an open mind and a stack of cash (some vendors take cards but definitely not all), you’ll leave with a satisfying haul.

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#2 — Map it out

The market is big, so it’s best to have the lay of the land in mind, particularly if you’re seeking furniture or other hot ticket items. After you pass through the gates, the large area directly left holds all sorts of home goods — furniture, textiles, trinkets, lights, clothing here and there, and a smattering of miscellaneous items. Beyond that section, across the pedestrian bridge, is the main vintage clothing area. As you circle back toward the gates, the booths nearest the entrance are more common “maker” items that aren’t vintage. Check out this map for specifics.

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#3 — Browse quickly and trust your gut

We’ve been quite a few times now, as we live a short 3 miles from the Rose Bowl Stadium. Today was a pretty special visit, as I was gathering stock for TerraSupply — have a peek if you’re in the market for some curated home wares. I’ve found that the best approach to this flea market is to arrive by 9 and browse with pace, utilizing a “walk-and-scan” technique. Things that are special will jump out at you — trust your gut and never force a purchase! If you have to think twice, move on. If that item is still calling to you 10 minutes later, hurry back there and snatch it up!

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#4 — Bargain!

Don’t forget to barter. The sellers expect it, especially on a cloudy day like today that promised rain. One woman dropped $12 from the tagged price before I could even ask for a deal — “rainy day price,” she said with a small smile. While the vendors are often happy to talk price, they aren’t looking to give their stock away for free, so it’s good to be a kind human and respect their business. If it’s too much, you can always walk away. Another good way to get a deal is to offer to buy a few items — you’ll likely get more of a “wholesale” price than if you were to buy just one.

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#5 — Bring the essentials and wear comfortable shoes

Always wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes, and bring water and a snack if you want to avoid overspending on those things at the market. Save your cash for the goods. If it’s a nice day, don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses. Happy hunting!