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The L.A. TACO Guide to the Best Swap Meets and Flea Markets for Holiday Shopping

10:39 AM PST on December 8, 2021

    Alameda Swap Meet

    Swap meets are a reflection of their communities. I’ve been around them all my life, and now more than ever, as Los Angeles continues to develop quickly, I appreciate and value them for the cultural treasures that they are. Whether I’m looking for something specific or looking to spend a weekend morning walking around to see what I can find, the swap meet is always there. 

    Some salt of the earth kind of shit, you know? Except with discount tube socks and all the customized car decals you can handle.  

    Like every other business impacted by the pandemic, swap meets, and flea markets have struggled to survive. A few of them didn’t make it and had to shut down permanently, but those still around are finding new life and thriving as people have been cleaning and digging through their stuff since we’ve been at home. And what better time to visit your favorite local pulga than in December, when the societal pressure to express your love for others through consumption is at its highest. Shopping at a swap meet this holiday season will have a more significant impact because you’ll be supporting people hustling to get by, you won’t be contributing to the backlog of cargo ships polluting the air at the ports, and you’ll find unique gifts that you can gently haggle for. 

    So here are some tips to help you plan ahead to make the best of your next thrifting adventure. Start by planning and consider making a day or half-day of it. 

    You’ll be getting your steps in walking those aisles, so grab an early big breakfast before making your way. You should be dressing for comfort and the weather. Stay hydrated by bringing your own water bottle, snacks, and of course, plenty of small bills cause cash rules everything around me. 

    While almost all the swap meets and markets in this list offer free and or convenient parking, there are a few that are public transportation friendly if you’re trying to avoid the hassle of driving. Above all else, have patience and respect the space. That means wearing a mask, showing your proof of vaccination if required, and respecting the vendors hustling.       

    Rose Bowl Flea Market

    For more than 50 years, the Rose Bowl pulga has held it down and become one of the biggest flea markets in L.A. The market host vendors of all kinds, but those selling vintage and antique items are where you will find what you didn’t know you were looking for. Vendors selling clothes, furniture, jewelry, home goods, and everything in between can be found here. The price of admission is more than worth it and if you’re looking to beat the crowds, check out their V.I.P hours. Should you get parched while making the rounds, there are vendors selling drinks and beer at various sites around the stadium and street vendors outside should you want to get something before heading home.  

    The Rose Bowl flea market takes place every second Sunday of the month. Check their website and social media for any schedule changes and updates. Like most pulgas, cash is king, so avoid ATM fees by bringing an uncomfortable amount of cash. Some vendors take mobile payments apps but don’t rely on them. Attendees will need to show a photo I.D., proof of vaccination, or a negative Covid test within 72 hrs of the event to purchase tickets. 

    1001 Rose Bowl Dr. Pasadena, CA 91103

     

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    Alameda Swap Meet 

    The Alameda swap meet is a classic L.A. indoor swap meet that caters to working-class Latinx communities. It has a special place in my heart because it is one of the swap meets my family would visit on Sundays growing up. Various vendors sell everything from clothing, quinceañera dresses, jewelry, car accessories, and self-imported items from Mexico. Many food vendors are located inside and outside the swap meet selling everything from tacos, pupusas, street dogs, churros, and raspados. The Alameda swap meet is closed Tuesdays and is open from 10 AM to 7 PM. 

    4501 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90058    

     

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    LACC Swap Meet

    The L.A. City College swap meet has been holding it down in East Hollywood for more than 20 years. Having to shut down for months once the pandemic hit, it seemed like the LACC swap meet would have to close down permanently, but it’s now gaining a second life under new management. While there are unresolved issues at the moment between the new operators and people vending outside the swap meet, there’s no better way to show your support than by supporting both. Read Janette Villafana’s breakdown of the situation here. Vendors inside the swap meet vary between selling clothing (new/vintage), second-hand items, fresh produce, housewares, vintage toys, etc. If you get hungry, you can stop by the food trucks inside the swap meet or grab something from a vendor on your way out. The LACC swap meet is held every Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM - 3:30 PM. Admission is $1. 

    4133 Marathon St. Los Angeles, CA 90029  

    Del Amo Swap Meet  

    For years, the Del Amo indoor swap meet has been a community meeeting ground in Compton. You can find the quintessential line of swap meet vendors here selling clothes, electronics, shoes, jewelry, etc. A food court inside offers a few options from Mexican to snack foods like nachos. But one of the best reasons to visit Del Amo is to see the murals surrounding the building. L.A. TACO’s senior photographer, Erwin Recinos, wrote about them earlier this year when they were going up. The Del Amo swap meet is open six days a week from 10 AM to 7 PM and is closed on Tuesdays. 

    2787 East Del Amo Blvd. Rancho Dominguez California 90221    

    Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet

    Starting as a drive-in theater in the late 40s and transitioning into a swap meet years later, Santa Fe Springs has built a dedicated following in the 50 plus years it has been around. From cover bands to timeless acts like Ramon Ayala, weekends at Santa Fe Springs are constantly bumping. The swap meet itself features the tried and true lineup of vendors that sell everything from clothing to croc charms. A few food vendors are selling Mexican food, street dogs, and various snack foods like churros. Beer is available for purchase here, which makes rocking out to your favorite cover band that much more fun. Be sure to check their website and Instagram to see who will be playing next. Santa Fe Springs is closed on Mondays and opened Tuesday through Sunday. 

    13963 Alondra Blvd. Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670     

    Paramount Swap Meet

    The Paramount Swap Meet is another drive-in theater-turned swap meet going as far back as the late 40s. Generations of families have been able to come through this space partly because ownership of the swap meet has stayed within the same family for three generations. Joseph Bianchi was the originator, and from there, his son and grandson have taken the responsibility for managing their family’s businesses. If you’ve never been to the Paramount swap meet, it can be a bit overwhelming because of how expansive it is, but making your way through the aisles of booths is part of the fun of going to the swap meet. You can expect to find vendors selling a mix of personal items to clothing, plants, electronics, toys, etc. There are food vendors on site selling Mexican food, micheladas, and various snack foods. You can catch live music on Sundays as well. The Paramount Swap Meet is open seven days a week. Visit their website and Instagram for more details on live music and schedule changes. 

    7900 All America City Way, Paramount, CA 90723

    El Mercadito

    Built in the late 60s and still operating today, El Mercado de Los Angeles has become a cultural institution for Boyle Heights and the Latinx community. El Mercadito’s longevity can be attributed to specialty shops, such as repairing religious figures, importing hard-to-find ingredients essential for Mexican cooking, and candied fruits. In the last two years, it has had to adapt with a combination of vendors setting up booths outside and others still selling inside the building, following health and safety guidelines. The third-floor restaurant, famous for its mariachi performances, has been shut down, and it is unknown when or if it’ll open again, but there are other eateries on the first and second floor should you get hungry on your visit. El Mercadito is open seven days a week. 

    3425 E 1st St. Los Angeles, CA 90063 

    Long Beach Antique Market

    The Long Beach pulga has become one of my favorite spots to visit these last few months. Hundreds of vendors sell great vintage wares such as clothing, art, jewelry, furniture,, and more. Many of the same vendors that frequent the Rose Bowl pulga also set up here, which is a great convenience for those that can’t make the trip to Pasadena. The market sets up every third Sunday of the month, with admission being $8. Their hours are from 6:30 AM - 2:00 PM. 

    The Queer Mercado

    While this list features a few legacy markets and swap meets, it’s exciting to see new spaces form to meet the needs of the communities they serve. TACO contributor Jireh Den wrote about the Queer Mercado thriving in East L.A. and creating a safe space for L.A.’s diverse LGBTQ community. The Mercado features music, drag performances, vendors selling art, homemade goods, clothing, and community-based organizations doing outreach. The Queer Mercado takes place every third Saturday of the month from 10 AM to 4 PM. 

    319 N. Humphreys Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90222

    Torrance Antique Street Fair

    The Torrance pulga has become another one of my go-to spots for thrifting. In my last few visits, I’ve come up on some great finds, and with hundreds of vendors specializing in antique wares, there is something for everyone here. List most flea markets. You’ll find a mix of people selling everything from old school kitchenware, jewelry, clothes, furniture, art, military memorabilia, and more. The fair just celebrated 23 years, and I can’t wait to see what the next 23 brings. The Torrance Antique Street Fair takes place on the 4th Sunday of every month (not the last Sunday) from 8 AM to 3 PM. 

    1317 Sartori Ave, Torrance, CA 90501

    Alpine Village Swap Meet

    In all my travels visiting different swap meets and flea markets for this list, the Alpine Village swap meet was the only place that has a specialty: power tools. Whether you are looking for tools for home or industrial use, Alpine Village is the place to go. There are other people selling things like discounted clothes, home goods, and second-hand items, but most sell power tools and related items. Not in the market for power tools? Then why not pay a visit to the Alpine market and cafe next to the swap meet. The smell of fresh baked goods hits ya’ upside your head as soon as you step in through the door as you browse the aisles. From their deli to their bakery and excellent selection of German beers and wines, you’ll probably end up leaving with more stuff from the market than the swap meet. I know I do. The Alpine Village Swap Meet is open six days a week from 7 AM to 3 PM and closed on Mondays. The Alpine Village market is open seven days a week. Check their website for hours and holiday closures.  

    20613-20669 Hamilton Ave, Torrance, CA 90502

     

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    Harbor City College Swap Meet

    Holding it down for the Wilmington area, the Harbor City College shares the same vibes as the LACC swap meet. You’ll find similar kind of vendors at both, those selling discounted home goods, second-hand items, clothing, plants, toys, and more. Moreover, you never know when you’ll run into gems, spend 10 minutes trying to justify buying what you found, and ultimately decide not to buy it because you don’t have room for it at your pad. Such is the swap meet life. The Harbor City College swap meet is open every Sunday from 6 AM to 4 PM. 

    1111 Figueroa Pl Wilmington, CA 90744

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