The Smell of Commerce in the Morning
LOCATION: Exit 8 off the Mass. Pike; open 7/8–7/13 and 9/2–9/7; $5 entry for some areas, free for most; brimfieldshow.com.
STRATEGY: Arrive by 7 a.m. The parking lots are filled by 8, but locals open their driveways for a flat fee. Prospect Hill Road is the best alternative for free parking.
SCENE: Equal parts carnival, circus, and Antiques Roadshow, Brimfield is the granddaddy of New England flea markets, hosting up to 5,000 vendors across 21 fields.
SWEET BOOTHS: New England Motel Antique Market for Danish modern wares; Heart-o-the-Mart for obscure bargains like retro gas station glassware.
CROWD: Includes creative teams from Martha Stewart (recognizable by their swinging ponytails and walkie-talkies) and Ralph Lauren.
LOCATION: On Route 70; open Sundays year round; $2 entry (children admitted free); lancasterfleamarket.com.
STRATEGY: Persistence is more important than early arrival (start time is 8 a.m.). Sift for a couple of hours, and you’re sure to hit the jackpot. For a quick refueling, stop in at the Lady Lancaster Diner concession stand.
SCENE: Requiring Brimfield stamina and Costco strategizing, this indoor marketplace houses 60,000 square feet of both junk and gems, like Fortuny dresses and Chippendale antiques.
SWEET BOOTHS: Maria Sobol’s for vintage clothes, buttons, and jewelry.
CROWD: As motley as the merch. Many of the shoppers and vendors are refugees from the now-defunct Salem and Reading markets.
LOCATION: On Route 1A in Rowley; open Sundays, April through November; free entry; toddfarm.com.
STRATEGY: Go early or don’t go at all. Officially open from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., this one’s consistently ravaged by 11 a.m. The best approach is to arrive around 4 a.m. with the vendors, who sell as they unload their vans.
SCENE: Over 200 top-notch vendors offer antiques and home goods. Expect Colonial-style knickknacks, midcentury furniture, clothing, and ephemera.
SWEET BOOTHS: Ferguson & D’Arruda for garden accessories and architectural scraps; Erich Heinze’s for linens, china, and antique fishing gear.
CROWD: Brimfield regulars, families, Wallace Nutting fans.
LOCATION: At the Wellfleet Drive-In; open weekends through fall, plus Wednesdays and Thursdays in summer; wellfleetdrivein.com.
STRATEGY: Arrive no later than 7:30 a.m. Wear a wide brim and pack extra sunscreen—all the pavement underfoot makes hot feel boiling. And while the per-carload entry fee is a few bucks, those on foot or bicycle get in gratis.
SCENE: The Cape’s largest market is packed with 300 vendors hawking the good, the bad, and the ugly. Quirky finds include everything from movie memorabilia to Romanian wooden toys.
SWEET BOOTHS: Jack Lowney’s for a mind-boggling 40,000-deep stash of old postcards; KEM Designs for handcrafted beach stone jewelry.
CROWD: Vacationing literary types, gay couples, pets, kids in bathing suits, Manhattanites mourning the loss of the 26th Street Flea Market.
Go on to the next page to learn expert bartering advice for the novice negotiator…