Visiting Southern California’s Famous Rose Bowl Flea Market
Posted On December 6, 2019
The Rose Bowl Flea Market is one of the most popular flea markets in California, if not the entire U.S. and is the largest market in the state. Held on the second Sunday of each month, the Rose Bowl Flea Market attracts over 20,000 shoppers each day! It’s not uncommon to see an A-list celebrity or popular influencer among the multitude of bargain hunters making it not just a great place to shop, but also to people watch. I visited the flea market for the first time last month and it was definitely an experience.
First off, this flea market is not for the faint of heart. Even if you don’t show up before dawn like most of the hardcore shoppers, the market will leave you feeling like you need a full day to recuperate just because of how much you’ll be walking under the blazing sun. There are over 2,500 merchants packed into the space around the stadium and overflowing into the parking lots. Because the entire experience is on blacktop it can get very, very hot, especially in the summer months. I went in November and it still felt like summer.
Avid collectors and flea market enthusiasts show up around 5 am with flashlights and headlamps to score the best items before everyone else arrives. Yes, you read that right. The thrifting trend is real y’all. I just wanted to see what all the hype was about so I arrived right before noon, which was actually not enough time to see everything. I definitely recommend arriving around 9 or 10 am if you’re not planning to do the whole pre-dawn thing just so you can at least see all the vendors before they begin to pack up.
What you can find
It’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of “stuff” to look at. There are tents hawking everything from vintage Levi’s and handmade textiles to antique furniture and one-of-a-kind artwork. The most popular area is definitely the orange antiques and collectables section where you can find old paintings, quirky furniture, rugs, vintage books, antique watches, and lots, lots more. Not many people make it all the way to the back of the stadium, but there you’ll find the purple area for arts and crafts which was actually one of my favorites. I bought an aerial photograph of surfers at Huntington Beach and a really neat print of a hand drawn vintage restaurant menu from 1913. This section also has unique jewelry, gems, handmade wall hangings, and digital art.
If you’re looking for absolute bargain prices, this probably isn’t the market for you. I found most items to be reasonably priced and of course haggling is fine for antiques, though most vendors don’t have much wiggle room. For example, I saw a rack of second-hand denim, flannel, and leather jackets for $10, new sweaters were two for $20, three air plants were $10, and four-foot house plants were $35. If you find something you like, get it on the spot and don’t expect to return later because vendors often pack up early and leave without warning. Even if they’re still there, they may have already sold the item you had your eye on. If you don’t want to hold a large item, see if the vendor can hold it for later or help transport your purchase to your car for a small fee.
Layout and Zones
Make sure to pick up a map right after you enter so you can attempt to navigate the area. I didn’t notice any signs marking the different zones, so even with a map it can still get confusing. Since I spent my time randomly wandering the flea market without a plan, I ended up missing some areas. I didn’t even realize until we left that I didn’t even make it over to the white area at all. This area is only accessible by crossing the canal so it’s the cheapest for vendors, but doesn’t get many shoppers. This means you can find some really cool things that others may have missed and score some sweet deals too.
Here’s a breakdown of the zones:
Orange – Antiques and collectables (most popular section)
White – Vintage and general merchandise (use one of the two bridges to cross the canal via the orange zone)
Blue/Red/Pink – New merchandise
Purple – Arts and crafts (don’t miss this section located in the back of the stadium)
Yellow – New and general merchandise
This is always super important to take into account, especially in Los Angeles. While there is a VIP parking area closer to the entrance, it costs $15 so most people search for a free parking space. The free parking lots fill up quickly and you can expect to walk at least 10 minutes to get to the ticket office and entrance. If the free parking lots are full, you can often find a spot along West Drive, though the walk is quite far. Unfortunately, the Rose Bowl Flea Market has many exits, but just one way to enter, so expect a bit of a hike just to reach the entrance.
If you find yourself in Los Angeles without a car, it is possible to reach the Rose Bowl Flea Market via public transportation though it’s not very convenient. The Metro Gold Line station at Memorial Park is the closest stop, but you will still have to walk around 2.5 miles or take the Rose Bowl shuttle.
Tickets and Money
Like most flea markets, cash is king. That goes for the entrance fee and most food and drink vendors as well. If you choose to purchase the entrance ticket online, there is a one dollar service charge, though you will be able to skip the ticket line, which can be worth it during peak hours. Admission is based on the time that you enter and the last ticket is sold at 3 pm:
VIP(5:00 am- 7:00 am): $25
Early (7:00 am – 8:00 am): $18
Express (8:00 am – 9:00 am): $14
Regular (9:00 am – 3:00 pm): $9
I noticed just a few merchants that accepted Venmo or credit cards. Since you never know if you’ll come across a hidden gem, it’s best to take more cash than you think you’ll need to avoid the stadium’s high ATM fees. Before leaving, make sure to get a hand stamp and save your ticket incase you want to re-enter.
You’ll be walking on blacktop which gets extremely hot, especially in the summer. Don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a water bottle. For the best weather, visit from late fall to spring.
Don’t forget cash!
Get there early or at least before 10 am. Even if you’re not planning to arrive before dawn, remember that many merchants start packing up way before the closing time.
If the free parking lot is full and you don’t want to pay for VIP parking, see if there are any spots on the dirt along West Drive.
Bring a cart or large reusable bag to make carrying all of your purchases easier.
There are food and drinks available inside ($2 hot dogs are the most popular), but you can also bring in your own food or return to your car to drop off your purchases and refuel.
Get a hand stamp at the exit and hold onto your ticket if you plan to re-enter later in the day.
When purchasing larger items like furniture, ask if the vendor (or someone they know) can help you bring it to your car for a small fee.
Been to the Rose Bowl Flea Market already? What was your favorite purchase?