Worlds Best Flea Markets
If the words rummage, swap, bargain, bric-a-brac or collectable excite you, then you might have an itch for a flea market. Nothing quite beats the thrill of coming home with a one-of-a-kind, rare or unusual souvenir retrieved from a bin and bought for a bargain. The allure of junk and valuable antiques thrown together and in need of sorting is aphrodisiac enough to some treasure hunters, but the added appeal of this happening only once a week, month or even a year makes some flea markets more coveted than others. The sheer mega-size of these events can send a shopper to heaven. Luckily, there are enough of these mammoth monster markets to keep you "scratching for fleas" virtually all year.
Constance Van Flandern
1. Brimfield Outdoor Antiques Show, Brimfield, Massachusetts
Brimfield is the Mecca of New England outdoor flea markets. This week-long flea market extravaganza is revered by shoppers and dealers alike for its size and content. Three times a year, 4,000 dealers peddle wares that range from paperbacks to fine European antiques. For scheduled listings of exhibitors, send $5 to Quaboag Valley Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 269, Palmer, MA, 01069.
Location: Brimfield, Massachusetts
What's Cool: Giant flea caters to antique-hungry New Englanders
Where: West of Sturbridge on Route 20
Phone: (413) 283-6149
When to Go: May, July and September (call for exact dates)
2. Rose Bowl Flea Market, Pasadena, California
Imagine the UCLA Bruins football stadium filled to capacity with people and things — used surf boards, record collections, lawn statuaries and every kind of dish ever made. Officially called the "Rose Bowl Swap Meet" and open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second Sunday of every month, this huge market unofficially pre-opens its doors to savvy hunters at 6 a.m. But these early birds pay $10 to $15 admission as opposed to the usual $5.
Location: Pasadena, California
What's Cool: The granddaddy of West Coast fleas
Where: Rosemont Ave.
Phone: (626) 577-3100
When to Go: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., second Sunday of every month
3. The Maxwell Street Market, Chicago, Illinois
Billed as "one of the greatest outdoor urban bazaars ever," the historical Maxwell Street Market is the best way to get a true sense of the Windy City. Once a bustling 19th-century Jewish market, Maxwell Street has morphed into a cultural meeting place where all races and nationalities gather for the music, merchandise and cheap eats. Widely famous for impromptu jam sessions, this flea "turns the beat around" with a mix of jazz, blues and Latino sounds filtering through the stalls. Today's flavor is distinctly Mexican, especially with the many roaming food carts. There's also plenty to sift through, from tires, autoparts, and old televisions to art and some antiques.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
What's Cool: Pure urban cultural experience
Where: South Side on Maxwell Street
Phone: (312) 922-3100
When to Go: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sundays
4. 127 Corridor, Jamestown, Tennessee
Technically the world's largest yard sale, the flea market known as the 127 Corridor is certainly the LONGEST outdoor market. Beginning on a highway in Jamestown, Tennessee, this flea stretches hundreds of miles through North Covington, Kentucky, and continues all the way to Gadsden, Alabama. There are more than 2,000 vendors along this tour who clear their schedules for three weeks every August. One can imagine the caravan of Winnabagos that make this annual pilgrimage. Countless treasures and and billions of collectibles hide among bric-a-brac and junk, but the people-watching and Southern hospitality alone are worth the trip.
Location: Jamestown, Tennessee
What's Cool: A flea market and road trip rolled into one
Where: 450 Mile Highway
When to Go: Mid-August
5. The All Night Flea Market, Wheaton, Illinois
Once a year as the sun sets and shadows stretch across the plains, thousands of bargain hunters descend upon Wheaton, Illinois, to scour the stalls of hundreds of dealers throughout the night.
On the third Sunday of August, shoppers only have until the morning, so the music has to be good and the coffee must be strong! Some say this is the most fun you'll ever have at any flea market in the world. Shoppers arrive like giddy kids to a slumber party, and the air remains electrified all through the wee hours.
Since this happens only once a year, you mustn't hesitate in making your deals. Promptly at 9 a.m., this flea market turns into a pumpkin.
Location: Wheaton, Illinois
What's Cool: Wheeling and dealing until the wee hours
Where: Dupage County Fairgrounds, Roosevelt Rd. W. to Cty. Farm Rd., turn N. to Manchester, E. on Manchester 1/2 mi. to Fairgrounds.
Admission: $4 (free parking)
When to Go: Third Sunday of August
Phone: (715) 526-9769
Web Site: www.zurkoantiquetours.com
6. Daytona Flea Market, Daytona, Florida
Florida is literally covered with fleas (markets, that is). There are at least four huge markets statewide, but the Daytona Flea Market is probably the largest one not attached to an amusement park. Year-round, this flea boasts 1,000 covered outdoor booths plus 100 antique dealers in an air conditioned building. For the dedicated flea market shopper, this is a great deal to see. Those wanting kitsch and entertainment should check out Fleamasters in Fort Meyers, the enormous sideshow flea at the Ft. Lauderdale known as Swap Shop, or the petting zoo at B&A Flea Market in Stuart, Florida.
Location: Daytona, Florida
What's Cool: A great escape from spring break and/or spring breakers
Where: Tomoka Farms Rd. at junction of I-95 and U.S. 92
Phone: (904) 252-1999
When to Go: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday
7. San Jose Flea Market, San Jose, California
The San Jose Flea Market is one of the world's largest. More than 2,000 booths fill 40 acres with everything one's heart could desire. Eight miles of colorful, treasure-laden alleys and corridors display arts and crafts, comic books, jewelry, shoes, tools, furniture and antiques. Expect lots of food carts and snack bars. There are also rides for the kids, live music (Mariachi bands and crooners) and other entertainment.
Location: San Jose, California
What's Cool: A market for the whole family
Where: 12000 Berryessa Road
Phone: (408) 289-1550
Rates: Parking is $5
When to Go: Dawn until dusk, Wednesday through Sunday
8. Austin County Flea Market, Austin, Texas
The largest flea market in the state of Texas, the Austin County Flea Market includes a stage show, display and entertainment areas. In this market's 130 acres of 550 covered spaces, one can peruse fresh produce, antiques, electronics, herbs and spices, new and used clothes and even pets (giving new meaning to "flea" market). Expect to see and hear live music.
Location: Austin, Texas
What's Cool: Hey, it's Texas!
Where: 9500 U.S. 290 East, 5 miles east of IH-35
Phone: (512) 928-2795
When to Go: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends
9. New Caladonian Market, London, England
It's cooler than Camden and has better prices than Portobello Road. Early on Fridays, the New Caladonian Antiques and Flea Market (also known as the Bermondsey Market) is the hottest spot in London. In fact, the deals are so good and the market so busy, one needs to arrive by the 5 a.m. start time, equipped with a flashlight (torch) and a good sweater (jumper), to get ahead of other bargain hunters. Many dealers set up stalls here and the antiques are outstanding, but all the good stuff is gone before 9 a.m.
Location: London, England
What's Cool: Finding the elusive "great deal" in London
Where: Tower Bridge Road near Bermondsey Street
When to Go: 5 a.m. to noon, Fridays
10. Marche Aux Puces De Clignancourt, Paris, France
What flea market list would be complete without the mother of all flea markets in Paris? Marche aux Puces means "Market of the Fleas," from which we Americans derive the term. This one at the north fringe of Paris is very old and large, actually incorporating 12 separate markets that grew together over time. Each day, there are between 2,500 and 3,000 stalls and shops selling finds that range from antiques to cool French junk. There's stuff like old buttons, wonderful new and used French pots and pans, vintage and new clothes, as well as housewares and furniture. Of course, the better your French, the better your deals.
Location: Paris, France
What's Cool: Wandering bustling Parisian streets in search of something fabulous and distinctly French
Where: Avenue De la Porte de Clignancourt, 18e
When to Go: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily