The Rose Bowl Flea Market: Prepare to Get (Gloriously) Lost

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What do you need? A mid-century coffee table? A pair of cowboy boots? An antique sewing machine? A bacon-wrapped hot dog? You can find them at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Actually, the question isn’t whether you’ll find something — it’s whether you can deal with a sprawling, 2,500-vendor extravaganza without getting thoroughly distracted.

The market happens on the second Sunday of every month, and you can play it however you want: As an amusing chance to browse the stalls around Rose Bowl stadium — or as a highly strategized, mission-focused shopping trip. The first option means you’ll get to gawk at the insane amount of goods, maybe let something fun catch your eye; the second means you’ll leave with a car full of treasures, found at amazingly cheap prices, that you never could have picked up elsewhere.

Regardless of your intention, grab a map when you hit the gates, and make sure everybody in the family has their cell phone (or a pre-designated meeting spot). With so much great stuff here to grab your wandering attention, getting separated from the group is inevitable. According to that map, it’s vintage stuff to the left, new stuff to the right, art stuff on the other side of the stadium, and furniture stuff beyond that. You tuck your map into your bag and just tuck into the heart of things. The stuff, you decide, will find you.

You spot some CorningWare – wonderfully retro white ceramic casserole dishes with glass lids – identical to the set neatly stacked in your grandmother’s kitchen in 1980. And then — shoes. So many shoes, old and new, of every variety, in a pile or lined up neatly on racks. By the time you look up, your family members have already scattered, disappearing into the throngs.

You’re looking for furniture and housewares, though, so you press on, examining hand-painted benches, repurposed furniture, stained glass lamps. You note the ones you want to buy and then send out a mass text to summon family — you’ll need their opinions on this. While you wait for them to arrive, you see it: an antique medical mortar-and-pestle set. It’s perfect for a little window sill or shelf; it’s exactly what you wanted, even though you didn’t know it. A long look, a quick chat, an exchange of money, and the cool brass curio is yours. When you re-convene with your family, they’re towing a faded red tin sign advertising Fender guitars. It’d add a fun rocker vibe to the breakfast nook, no? Everybody is pretty psyched about the find, and your mortar and pestle is going over well, too. The Rose Bowl Flea Market has already been a success, and you aren’t even nearly finished yet.

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The Rose Bowl

1001 Rose Bowl Drive Pasadena CA 91103

(626) 577-3100

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