America's Best Flea Markets
Sure, you can learn a lot about a destination by touring its museums and visiting its landmarks. But to find the heart of a place, spend a few hours at one of its flea markets. We picked the top five spots in the U.S. to get in on the action.
THE ALAMEDA POINT ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES FAIRE
Where & when: Alameda, Calif.; first Sunday of each month.
What: The San Francisco skyline and the hills of Marin County serve as a cinematic backdrop for this 800-plus-vendor market on the main runway of a decommissioned naval base on San Francisco Bay. Organizers enforce a 20-year-minimum age rule for sale items, which guarantees you'll be shopping for real-deal relics (like French travel posters, Hollywood movie memorabilia, and early-20th-century Japanese pottery), not tables of tube socks and cheap electronics. The layout is clear and intuitive, with long, evenly spaced rows arranged in a grid; thoughtful touches like pushcarts for hauling heavy purchases, a porcelain-repair kiosk, and free parking with a shuttle service add to the appeal. There's even a handy printable map on the market's website. antiquesbybay.com.
Best shot at a bargain: Fewer sellers turn out from January through March, but those who do are often more eager to negotiate.
Gigi's find: "I grew up in Texas, where learning to play dominoes is a rite of passage. I've been collecting vintage sets from various flea markets over the years, including this one from Alameda Point."