I wanted to be an explorer and uncover hidden treasures. I wanted to meet different cultures. I wanted to get my money’s worth. I wanted entertainment…
… and I did it all without leaving Tampa Bay.
I visited its flea markets. Three of them.
Tampa Bay boasts more than a dozen flea markets- most only open on weekends. Gone are the days of flea markets as gathering places for used furniture with mouse holes and formerly fashionable clothes. Well, you’ll still see piles of used goods for sale, but most of the stands I saw contained new, cheap items as well as fresh, local edibles. The spider-shaped Big Top Flea Market will appeal to the country fans who enjoy southern comforts and has the most stands selling used items- showing hobbyists some love. The fully indoor Tampa Flea Market has plenty of urban swag with blingy jewelry and items to pimp your Chevy. Wagon Wheel was my favorite– besides being the largest, there were barely any empty stalls. Every table was covered with items that appealed to each cross-section of Tampa’s cultures.
I stayed away from the herbal supplements, tattoo parlors and smoke shops but my gaze drifted to hundreds of good-looking, cheap jewelry (75% cheaper than going to Claire’s), local produce and many hunting knives and Asian-inspired weapons. Wagon Wheel’s maze of shops even contained a beer garden, live entertainment, and a free shuttle for transportation through the massive parking area (but it’s the only market that charges for parking; $1.)
Perhaps my most memorable experience came within three minutes of entering Wagon Wheel. An elderly gentleman (he said he was 70-something and Italian) struck up a conversation with me. This little talk led to Mr. Sebastian/Benny giving an hour-plus tour of the market where he seemed to know everyone– both vendors and browsers alike. I was introduced to others as a 16-year-old, a celebrity, a niece and a future bride to a friend. Plus if I ever visited New York, his extended family would house and feed me. Although I had wished to shop for bargains solo, it’s encounters with local characters like Mr. Sebastian/Benny that are priceless.
Do you prefer shopping in locations where you could do surgery on the floor while stocking your closet with authentic hand bags and jewelry? (You know most of the world doesn’t care what brand you’re wearing right?) Then merely walking through a flea market may cause you to itch. But if you’re open to this awesome experience of communities and bargains– then the flea markets are waiting.
Click on my pictures to view some flea market treasures
Big Top Flea Market
9250East Fowler Avenue
Tampa, FL 33592
Sat & Sun 9-4:30pm
Tampa Flea Market
11612 North Nebraska Avenue
Open everyday except Tuesday
Wagon Wheel Flea Market
7801 Park Blvd
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
Sat & Sun 8 – 4pm