This past month I decided we had lived here long enough (1.5 months is long enough, right?!) and it was time to tackle the Rose Bowl Flea Market. I had heard about it my whole entire life, how this was the coolest spot to shop for vintage goods, furniture, and even plants, so I thought it would be the perfect way to round out the furnishings for our new place.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market only happens once a month (every second Sunday of the month), so I knew we had to go when we had the chance. We had our friend Tim visiting us that weekend, but I made everyone get up at 7am and drive over to Pasadena. Because from what I had heard, the earlier you got there the better. Well, we got a slow start and didn’t make it til 9:30. Oops.
So, here’s the deal. The earlier you arrive the more expensive the tickets are. Say what?
I guess all the good stuff is the first to go, so they charge more to let you in early. But you can’t go too early because some of the vendors aren’t even set up yet. So I think to really get a feel for this you have to go a few times, get to know your favorite vendors, and figure out what their time schedule is.
What I’m going to tell you is what happens if you arrive at 9:30am…
The price of an entry at 9:30am was $9.00. We bought 3 tickets and they gave us back a $2 bill as part of our change from $30. Apparently giving back a $2 bill is something they’re famous for! So that was fun.
I had studied a map of the place beforehand so I kind of had some idea of where to go. The “plant guy”, who everyone raves about because he sells his plants so cheap, is located directly to the right as you walk in the main entrance. BUT, just as I expected, he was completely sold out by the time we got there. He had a couple of smaller plants, but nothing I was really interested in. I did chat with him a bit though and I asked him what time is the best time to get there and he told me “about 7”.
So yeah, next time gotta set my alarm earlier.
I will say, the prices for his plants were excellent. He had some set aside that were already paid for and reserved for others (he’ll also hold your plants while you walk around, so nice!) and for a large fiddle fig it was only $39. This would cost you well over $100 at a nursery or a plant store, so if you’re looking for plants he is definitely worth visiting. (FYI- he also sells at the Long Beach Flea Market if that’s closer to you. He said to get there by 8am for the best selection.)
After the plant guy, we wandered over to what they call the “Orange Area” which is full of furniture, antiques, and some vintage items. I was a little underwhelmed at the selection of furniture and carpets, if I am being completely honest. Maybe it was because I was browsing with 2 guys (both growing increasingly impatient), or maybe because it had started to drizzle at this point, but nothing was really catching my eye.
I mean, yes, there were a ton of pretty things, but nothing that was on my list of essentials. (Yes, I made a list before I went, I am easily distracted by all.the.things.)
That was another thing…most people talk about how HOT it can get at the Rose Bowl Flea, but we had the opposite experience. It was freezing and we hadn’t even completed a full loop before the drizzle turned into a downpour. All the pillows, textiles, rugs, and furniture upholstery were getting soaking wet, and it made me think: did I really want something that had been soaking wet (and possibly moldy if it wasn’t dried well?!) in my house?
It kinda sketched me out. So maybe it was a good thing I didn’t really see anything I couldn’t live without. You need to think about these things before you buy because, of course, there are no returns!
And although I wasn’t there to buy clothes on this particular occasion, the clothing booths did look pretty cool. I could totally see myself getting lost in some of those vintage racks for hours.
They had anything and everything you could think of: 70’s dresses with wild patterns, cowboy boots, vintage Levi’s jeans & denim, old army fatigues, fashion jewelry galore, hats, accessories, and of course those bins full of $2 vintage scarves! If you saw my IG story, I am STILL kicking myself for not buying some of those. It was when we first got there and I thought there would be more stuff to come so I didn’t want to jump on buying the first thing I saw, but I didn’t see anything else like it the whole day.
Oh well, I guess I have a reason to go back now.
So, by the time we had completed our loop through the “Orange Area” the downpour had turned into a monsoon, and most of the vendors had packed up their goods for the day. There was one more section over a small bridge-thing, called the “White Area” (all the way to the left), that apparently has more of the vintagey good stuff, but we didn’t have time to even make it into that part.
Also, it’s important to note, while I didn’t actually buy anything there (no, not one single thing!), I did bring a big carrying bag with me, just in case. The vendors don’t usually have shopping bags and it can be a pain to carry your goods with you if you don’t have a bag or a cart to put them in. Some people have those rolling grocery cart type things, but unless you’re planning on buying lots of big items, I don’t know if they’re totally necessary. Maybe I would feel differently if the sun was beating down on me and I was sweating from carrying a big, heavy bag, but you get the point. Bring something to put your sh*t in.
So, overall, would I go again? Yes! But, I would want to go on a sunnier day, and I would aim to get there a bit earlier. And maybe bring a girlfriend or 2 who wouldn’t mind walking around aimlessly for hours admiring all the pretty things, and who could help me make decisions between which $2 scarves to get (lol).
So here is a breakdown of my tips if you plan on visiting soon!
How to Shop the Rosebowl Flea Market:
- Arrive early for the best selection (around 7am)
- Dress in layers & bring water (check forecast for rain – and bring an umbrella!)
- Don’t bother paying for VIP parking. The free parking is totally adequate and not a far walking distance from the stadium.
- Bring cash! Some vendors do not accept credit cards, plus it’s a great way to negotiate a killer deal.
- Make a list of exactly what you want/need before you go. It’s VERY easy to get overwhelmed and distracted once you get there (hello, bins full of $2 scarves, come to mama).
- Think about what you’re buying before you hand over cash. There are no returns!
- Bring a lightweight bag or rolling cart to carry your goods in.
So I think that’s it! Have you ever been to the Rose Bowl Flea Market? I would love to hear your experiences and any other tips you have for me on my next trip. Feel free to send me a message here or DM me on Instagram – I can be found @quartzandleisure.
Thanks for reading, friends!