Round Top, Texas
This was our first time exploring Round Top, and it by far exceeded our expectations. It is a giant flea market halfway between Houston and Austin in a rural stretch of Texas. Twice a year for Texas antique week fields and barns are filled to the brim with fine antiques, vintage finds, and junk.
We flew into Houston, and rented a car for the hour and a half drive to Round Top. We have a long history with rental car mishaps including door handles that wouldn’t stay on, an unlicensed driver who came to a dead stop and then decided to reverse into us, and a few stories we promised we’d take to our grave. This year we were given a Prius and could not figure out how to put it into park. Turns out you can find anything on YouTube!
While we thought we were arriving in time for Day 1 of the flea market, what we actually learned once we got there is “Round Top” is a city and represents one section of fields.
Each field has its own show dates, and may of the vendors had been there for up to two weeks before we arrived. While at first we were disappointed that we didn’t get first pick, we ended up finding three times more than we had budgeted for. Also, being there towards the end of the show gave us a bit more bargaining power since a lot of vendors don’t want to have to pack up what they don’t sell.
We spent three and a half days buying and walked away with everything from industrial consoles and architectural salvage, to European antiques and contemporary art. Marburger Farm is by far the most famous field with its rows and rows of white tents, with a few small farm houses scattered among them. You will find some beautifully curated booths with price tags to match. We were still able to find some great deals, and in our opinion not to be missed. Out of the other fields (mainly located in Warrenton) Excess 1, and Excess 2 were our favorite.
By far our best meal of the trip was at Lulu’s. We recommend making a reservation as we stumbled onto it on our first night, but weren’t actually able to get in until our last. The food is Italian and delicious, and the setting is equally wonderfully. It opened a year ago and while we were there Armando the owner walked around and greeted every table. For lunches almost every field had stalls or food trucks and there’s a large variety of options.
We have perused many a flea market in our day and we find these strategies helpful in sifting through and finding that needle in a haystack.
1. If there is something you’re considering but hesitant to pull the trigger on, take a picture, and continue browsing the booth or area. If you are still thinking about it, you know it’s not an impulse buy and go back for it.
2. A common adage is that you should never pay the first price, and bargaining is definitely part of the experience but can sometimes feel intimidating or uncomfortable (at least it was for me in the beginning). A good way to open up the conversation is to ask what their best price would be on a specific item or if there is room on their prices.
3. Due to the one of a kind nature of the items even though some booths may have multiples of the same thing, they are often never exactly identical. When possible we like to group all of the like items together, so that we can truly compare them and pick our favorite.
4. Flea markets are often filled with everything you could imagine, and it’s sometimes hard to tell the provenance of an item just by looking at it. We always try and ask the dealer if they have any other information about it including age, where they found it, etc. We find that for the most part people are knowledgeable, love to share their information, and oftentimes helps us make the decision about whether we are interested in purchasing it or not.
5. Flea markets are one of our favorite sources for finding original art. We usually try to stick to pieces that we like their original framing, since reframing can often be extremely expensive. Also there is something to be said for the patina and interest of the original frame, that can be hard to reproduce