Undiscovered New York: Flea market mania

Here at Undiscovered New York, we often find ourselves wondering why our city is so expensive. It’s usually the first question from friends and family who come to visit us here in New York, and truthfully, they’re kind of right. Want a beer? That’ll be $7 (plus tip). Headed to a Broadway show? $60 for the cheap seats. Hotel room? Unless you’re staying at the Hotel Carter, expect to pay at least $100-$200 per night.

But as New Yorkers will tell you, there’s plenty of places to get a bargain if you know where to look. That is especially true when it comes to weekend flea market hunting, the city’s unofficial hobby. Whether it’s vintage clothing or costume jewelry, antique furniture or formica countertops, rare vinyl or a delicious vanilla pastry, New York’s flea markets offer a little something for everyone. And the best part is, New York’s vibrant community of artists and independent craftmakers ensure there’s just as much new merchandise for sale at flea markets as there is old gems.

So forget about blowing your vacation savings at Saks Fifth Avenue or down in SoHo. This week, Undiscovered New York is taking you inside some of New York City’s best flea markets and telling you where to find them. Click below for our picks of the best.
Annex / Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

For the past 15 years, one of New York’s best flea markets was along 24th and 25th street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. That all ended in 2008, when rising rents forced the market to close and move shop. Thankfully, the change has been for the best, combining the fantastic variety of Chelsea’s once thriving vendor scene with the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market on West 39th Street.

The market now combines an enormous range of items, everything from African tribal artifacts to Mid-Century Modern furniture to fine silver. It’s one of the first stops for the city’s bargain hunters and those on the lookout for a truly unique item to decorate their apartment, in New York or beyond.

Brooklyn Flea
True to the quirky and eclectic tastes of its neighborhood’s residents, the Brooklyn Flea is among the newest additions to New York’s wide array of weekend shopping markets. First opened in 2008, this smallish market is held each Saturday in the courtyard of Fort Greene’s Bishop Laughlin Memorial High School and during colder months at two smaller “pop-up” markets in DUMBO. Don’t let the size fool you though – what this market lacks in size it more than makes up in a very well curated selection of items and great food.

In addition to a great selection of vintage records, the market stocks a nice mix of interesting vendors selling home furnishings, jewelry handcrafted by local artisans and some of the best food this side of the East River. Even if you’re not the shopping type, it’s a fun place to spend a weekend afternoon chowing down on a delicious taco and checking out the crowd. If you want a unique New York souvenir, check out the vendor who sells vintage tin ceiling tiles!

The Market (Nolita)
Each weekend, a crowd of visiting trend hunters descends on Nolita, a hip neighborhood “North of Little Italy” that is home to a large number of boutiques and unique businesses. But before they browse Nolita’s sometimes pricey shops, New York City bargain-hunters head straight for The Market, a weekend market for young designers on Manhattan’s Mulberry Street. Unlike the Annex / Hell’s Kitchen market, Nolita’s The Market is all about brand new stuff. It’s also a great place to find unique one-of-a-kind items like clothing and bags you can’t find anywhere else.

How to dress for Mardi Gras in New Orleans

New Orleans, I love ya, but you’re a dirty city — especially in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. In fact, I’ve ruined a couple pairs of pants thanks to the “drunken sludge” on Bourbon street (right). After my first few trips to Mardi Gras, I got smart and went on a shopping spree at the thrift store before heading down, and now it’s a tradition. Here’s my yearly shopping list:

A few pairs of old pants. I like to head for the slacks aisle and pick up a few pieces that look like they’re straight from the set of Three’s Company. The more obnoxious, the better. I’m not shooting strictly for style, however — it’s best to find a few pairs that are built not only for looking like Mr. Furley, but for their durability; you want something that offers a bit of warmth and will cut through the Bourbon street sludge without decomposing.

A jacket. This is perhaps the most important piece of your ensemble. You want something that’s not only going to provide you warmth on the chilly February nights, but also make you look like someone not to be messed with. I learned this trick from a guy named Eddie who wore a trench coat every year. “People never know what you’ve got under there,” he told me. Thing is, he would actually carry a machete under his.

A hat. Shoot for something dapper here — a Borsalino knock-off, perhaps, or maybe even a cowboy hat. It’s often rainy down in New Orleans, so you want something to keep your head warm and dry, while furthering your chaotic wardrobe choices.

Shoes. It’s tough to find a good fitting set of shoes at the thrift store, so usually I pick an old pair of my own from the back of the closet. The key here is comfort, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Keep in mind that anything white below the knees will be a muddy gray color after a few hours on Bourbon, so pick your shoes wisely.

The end result should make you look like a cross between a transient panhandler and Jack Tripper. I saw my efforts come to their ultimate fruition a few years back when I randomly bumped into an old high school pal. “Dude,” he said, checking out my wardrobe, “are you homeless?” At least I was warm.