Remember going to Toys ‘R’ Us as a kid, and how amazing it was, because everything you ever dreamed of was all in one store? (You want to bake edible gummy spiders? Sure! Head over to the “science” section. Want a puzzle of Peru? OK! That’s in Aisle 5!) It was like upon entering the store, your heart literally exploded in happiness, and then was glued back together with toys.
Well the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena is kind of like a Toys ‘R’ Us, but for adults. It’s one of the largest and best flea markets on the west coast, and it’s also where I spent this past weekend with E.
We needed a new kitchen table. And a couch. And a coffee table. And THINGS. So, naturally, we decided to try out the flea market, because all of those things do live there. (Even if, in hindsight, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to like the look of them all.)
I had been to the market before, another time with E, when we weren’t looking for anything, but just wanted to poke around. I left with nothing, except a sense of relief at having left. (The crowds at the market are… intense, to say the least.) But that was a long time ago, and we needed THE THINGS, so we decided to try it out again.
Now that I’ve been a second time, I really did learn a lot of what TO DO and NOT TO DO. If you ever plan on attending, here are some things you must know:
- Get to the flea market by 9 a.m. The market is so much less crowded around that time, which means you’ll be able to see everything without getting claustrophobic in the massive crowds that hit around noon.
- Don’t bother paying for the VIP parking, just try to park in Lot K, which is super close to an entrance, and also the location of official “furniture loading.” The VIP parking is a waste of money, and legitimately right next to the free parking.
- Bring water and snacks, all of which are allowed in the market. The prices for any food at the flea market are insane. (Think $10 for water.) I brought PB&J sandwiches, which ended up being a godsend.
- Wear sunblock, even when it’s cold outside. The market is all over asphalt, and the sun gets reflected right back to you.
- Wear the comfiest damn shoes in your closet and you will be the happiest person in the world. The market is ENORMOUS. It’s so large that you’ll never really be able to see the end of it. Because of that, it means you’ll be doing a ton of walking, so be good to your feeties.
- A lot of furniture places deliver, especially if you’re buying a larger item. Eoghan and I rented a U-Haul, because we were convinced we’d fill it up. But the man who sold us a 7-foot kitchen table with benches will be delivering it, free of charge, today. So, really, you probably won’t need to go through the hassle of renting a truck.
- Haggle. Haggle. Haggle. I can’t stress this enough. If you’ve never haggled, or are afraid to, here’s a tip: Look at something, subtract 1/4 of the price, and start from there. So, if you see a table for $400, tell the vendor, “Can I get it for $300?” They will probably say no, but they’ll also probably follow up with a lower price that’s closer to the one you named. Worst case scenario: they say no completely, and then you leave!
- Take out cash beforehand. There are ATMs onsite, but they come with a hefty charge fee.
- Set aside at LEAST 2 hours to explore the flea market. If you’re not looking for anything, and just browsing, you’ll be exhausted by the time that 2 hours rolls around. If you’re a serious shopper, plan on spending 3-4 hours minimum.
- Speaking of serious shopping, if you are in the market, make a list of things you need to buy. The place is overwhelming in so many ways, and you’ll be thankful to have that list come high noon when you’re dehydrated, dripping sweat, and impossibly trapped in the weird collectibles section.