The Rose Bowl Flea Market has been known as America's most unusual shopping experience for 45 years, featuring over 2,500 vendors monthly. It all takes back on the second Sunday of each month in super sunny Pasadena, California. Going there has been a dreamy little dream of mine since I lived in the Midwest. Life achievement unlocked! My boyfriend actually asked if I took any drugs a few times this weekend becuase I was so giddy with excitement.
While I am happy to report treasures were found and good times were had, this is not a day trip I would recommend anyone jump into blindly. You must prepare for battle. Seven miles of booths all with densely packed piles. Here are a few of my tips for making it out of the Rose Bowl alive during the LA Heat.
Get your adventure pack ready.
Pack enough water to get you through a hike in the desert. Water bottles are around $6 at the flea. Bring small snacks to make it through, the carnival snack smells are strong. I did cave on a lemon ice near the end of our day. Yeah, I gladly forked over $5 for some shaved ice a girl scooped out of her black waste bin. No regrets. You will be tested here so bonus points if you include some energy packed consumables. Carry everything in a comfortable backpack with easy access to your cash. You don't want to deal with handheld bags all day.
Cash. I said CA$H.
Credit? Debit? What the is that? Not here, kid. Have change on hand to make things easier for everyone. If you're purchasing from a resale merchant, try to negotiate their origional asking price.
Use a collapsible shopping cart.
You do not want to carry all the stuff you will be buying. Holding while hunting is the worst and will seriously test your wits. It's even more annoying when someone keeps asking you to hold their stuff, too.
Bring emotional support or just go alone.
Do not go here with a Tinder date. Go with a friend who knows how to help you through an excessive amount of breakdowns and vise-versa. Expect "I feel sick"s, "I'm so sore"s, "I'm dying"s, "this is amazing"s, "did you just see that"s, "would you help me carry large heavy object"s, "I think I lost my ______"s, so on and so forth.... Basically you just need a friend would would dive into a sea of used t-shirts for you. Bonus points if you know each other's style well.
Know what you're looking for.
This is so important if you're on a mission. Know what you are looking for before you walk through that gate! Be specific with key details like measurements. Bring photos of where the item will be used. If you're looking for a list of items, know the style and color pallet well. Making a mood board a few days prior will help fine tune your eye and make the search easier.
The sun is your enemy.
Sure, you love the sun! You love to lay out at the beach! Whatever. NOT TODAY, BABE. Wear loose and light clothing. Wear your weight in sunblock. Reapply like your life depends on it. Bring an umbrella. Wear a hat. Wear sunglasses. Pretend you're on the run from the law. They also rent umbrellas at the ticket booth. I promise you will be sore, dirty and crabby at the end of the day. You don't want to throw a nasty farmer's sunbrun into the mix.
Get there early.
The flea starts at 5 AM before the sun is up. Think that's rough? Try being a vendor. Everything is easier the earlier you go: parking, walking, bartering! Oh, and the temperature is cooler. For this reason, ticket prices are more expensive earlier in the day. Suck it up. You will recoup that cost when you score the first gem before all the other suckers still in bed. I ended up getting there at 7 am, but plan to go earlier next time.
There is so much to see! The Rose Bowl Flea Market isn't just a destination, it's an experience. Since this was my first time, I hardly spent any time behind a camera. I could make a whole trip of that alone because the people watching is top notch! I also loved seeing the variety of vans and pick-ups hiding behind every booth. How vendors transport and organize their goods is endlessly intriguing to me. AND THE DOGS! Oh, the dogs. Lastly, I would recommend snapping a photo of the sign in any artisan booths you like. Many artists also have their items on Etsy or a webstore as well.
Chill out by starting your adventure at the Information Booth. They have easy to carry maps that outline where to find what you're looking for; antiques, collectibles, vintage, arts + crafts, new merchandise, etcetera. You can also grab a handful of free neon colored Rose Bowl matchbooks for the taking. Have Fun!
One of the best parts about visiting the Rose Bowl was feeling immersed in possibility; the idea that the most obscure items you've been hunting for were there waiting to be found. I loved overhearing couples and friends talk about what they wanted and all their plans for what they had found. It was so hard not to buy anything for myself on this trip, but I really tried to just stock up on inspiration and get a better grasp on resale prices for my thrift hunts. However, I did sneak out with this tiny Jeep for my Megora and her giant ice cream cone... she's pretty stoked.