An Insider's Guide to Los Angeles' Top Flea Markets

Everything you need to know about LA's killer flea market scene.

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As a vintage-obsessed interior designer living in Los Angeles, I've gotten to know the monthly flea market scene very well. Every Sunday, without fail, I like to shop one of LA's amazing fleas. I've learned a lot along the way, and I want to share all of my best insider secrets with you. Ready? Ready.

FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH

You've got two options on the first Sunday of every month: Go west or go east. For the Santa Monica Airport Antique Market, go west. For the Pasadena City College Flea, go east.

Santa Monica Airport Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market

Santa Monica is a decent option if the idea of going to a flea market has you breathing into a paper bag. It's pretty small, not overwhelming and not the best flea in the area, IMHO. There isn't a ton of furniture or home decor there, and I find prices to be inflated in comparison to the other fleas. I can't totally put my finger on it, but I've tried it out three times or so, and it's just not my high on my flea list. However, many love it, and if you’re on the West side of town, it’s definitely worth checking out. Items/vendors definitely tend to be a bit toward the higher end of the spectrum, which means less digging for treasures. But there's still a wide variety of stuff there, from vintage clothing to estate jewelry to antiques.

— LOCATION: 3050 Airport Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90405

— PRICE: All admission on the first Sunday of the month is $4; On the fourth Sunday it's $7 between 6-8 am; $5 after 8 am; Children under 14 are free; Free parking on the first and fourth Sundays

— DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes

— VIBE: Soccer mom chic with some celebrity sightings mixed in; high-end wares, all well curated

— INSIDER TIPS: This is a good one to go to if you want to bring your kids because it's less crowded and there's more room to spread out.  Parking is fairly easy, though food options are scarce (there's one little food area with very limited choices). I would go here first, take a few spins around, then head over to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. The first Sunday of the month is definitely the quieter of the two options for this flea. The fourth Sunday is a much bigger show, with more vendors and a bit more action.

PCC Flea Market

So here's how this one works: The majority of the flea is in a parking garage on several levels. The main floor (and all lower levels) are typical flea fare with loads of home decor, vintage clothing, art, etc. for sale. However, once you start heading up, you're in a music lover's paradise with vintage concert t-shirts, collectibles and more vinyl than you'll know what to do with. There's also an additional space in front of the garage with even more vendors.

Usually, my plan of attack is to park the car, walk over to the front outdoor area and look around there, then head back to the garage for my deep dive. I start on the first floor, then work my way down, but you could also go to the bottom and work your way back up.

I'm not normally a vintage jewelry person, but one of my favorite vendors is there in a giant booth in front of the garage. You must hit her up if you're into big, chunky, vintage necklaces. There's also a metric ton of cool home decor and accessories, with a sprinkling of furniture thrown in here and there. The market itself is a very manageable size, and I can usually do a solid job of hitting it all up in less than three hours.

— LOCATION: 1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91106

— PRICE: Admission is free, but parking is $2 all day. Make sure you buy a ticket from one of the kiosks in the garage and leave it on your dash before your head into the market otherwise you'll get a ticket.

— DOG-FRIENDLY: Yes

— VIBE: Eclectic mixed with the hipster coolness of the music scene. There's a good variety of items for sale, though a bit lighter on vintage fashion. It really shines with vintage home decor/accessories.

— INSIDER TIPS: The majority of this flea market is inside, which is amazing for people like me who forget to put on sunblock. Vendors there are open to bargaining and I've snatched up some of my best flea market finds there, so don't be shy about asking. However, the parking garage is a bit far from the car if you're buying something big, so keep that in mind. 

SECOND SUNDAY OF THE MONTH

Rose Bowl Flea Market

The Rose Bowl Flea is often considered the mack daddy of all LA fleas, and it packs a powerful punch; it's big, it's well-curated and they sell absolutely everything. You could basically furnish an entire house in one day from top to bottom at the Rose Bowl Flea.

The vendors begin setting up around 4 am, and I've always heard stories about how the most dedicated show up at dawn to grab the most coveted pieces; however, I typically show up around 7 am or so and there's still plenty of awesome vintage furniture, antiques, home decor, fabric, jewelry, clothing, toys, collectibles and more ripe for the picking. Truth time: It's still pretty empty at 7 am, so while I wouldn't discourage you from coming early, it's definitely not a tragedy if you don't roll up until later. I try to be done by 10 am because that's when I find the crowds swelling to uncomfortable levels.

Along the entire front area of the flea are vendors selling new stuff: loads of socks, 9000 thread count sheets for $14 and plants. However, once you pass the new stuff, take a hard left and you'll be thrown into vintage furniture and home decor heaven. This section is huge (and you might not even be able to get through the entire thing).

Now that the word is officially out about the Rose Bowl, the days of mind-blowing deals are long gone. However, you can still get bargains there, and you're still paying way less than retail. Here's a post from designer Emily Henderson offering advice on how to respectfully haggle with a vendor. Learn her script and copy her — it totally works.

One last thing: Tickets to the Rose Bowl Flea are expensive in comparison to other fleas, but it's worth it. All of your vintage dreams will come true.

— LOCATION: 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103 

— PRICE: 5-7 am is $20; 7-8 am is $15; 8-9 am is $10; after 9am is $8; Children under 12 are free. There's plenty of free parking available; however, if you'd like to be closer, there's $15 parking available.

— DOG-FRIENDLY: No

— VIBE: It's kind of all over the map, but you will definitely see your gaggle of women who look like they're dressed for a night out on the town.

— INSIDER TIPS: Get your cash before coming to the flea; their ATM charges a pricey service fee. Also, you might want to splurge for paid parking if you'll be buying lots of stuff. It's an extra expense, but I find it's almost always worth it to have easier access to your car. Most furniture vendors will work with someone who will be on site that offers fairly cheap delivery of any larger pieces (usually $50 to $75 depending on the size of the piece). On the first aisle along the fence is a killer spot for breakfast burritos and flavored lemonade.

— IMPORTANT: Do not, I repeat, do not bring anyone here who is not really into flea markets. They will be overwhelmed and miserable and will want to leave after 15 minutes.

THIRD SUNDAY OF THE MONTH

Long Beach Antique Market

It took me a while to venture out to Long Beach for their flea, but now I almost never miss it. While not as gigantic as the Rose Bowl, it's a much more manageable size while still offering up some well-curated vintage bargains. I find that the vendors at Long Beach are also a bit more open to bargaining than the Rose Bowl vendors, so it's kind of like training wheels for the Rose Bowl.

Keep in mind that if you're purchasing larger pieces of furniture, you might need to get them delivered a bit further (if you are in LA proper and your vendor is not), so don't forget to factor in that cost to your purchase prices.

Because it's smaller, it can make for a fun morning activity for the whole family. I’ve found some amazing vintage pieces here. They have a great mix of furniture, decor, collectibles and everything in between.

— LOCATION: 4901 E Conant Street, Long Beach, CA 90808

— PRICE: 5:30-6:30 am is $12; After 6:30 am is $6; Children under 12 are free; Parking is Free 

— DOG-FRIENDLY: No 

— VIBE: It's pretty laid back, and vendors are a lot more chatty.

— INSIDER TIPS: There aren't many great food options so don't come hungry. Also, the sun is intense at this flea, so wear a hat and lots of sunblock.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF THE MONTH

Santa Monica Airport Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market

Yes, it bums me out that my least favorite flea market is the only one that's repeated every month, but such is life. Keep in mind, though, that the fourth Sunday is the bigger/badder version of the market on the first Sunday, so you might dig it more.

MORE FLEAS

This San Fernando Valley market also happens on the fourth Sunday of the month. And while it's definitely much smaller than the others, you can still find some incredible vintage finds.

This mini flea takes place every weekend at a local LA high school. It's not my favorite, but you can sometimes find some good scores. It's definitely on the "low-key flea" list, in case you're looking for a fun weekend distraction.

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