I know that I’ve talked a ton about the Georgetown Flea on the blog already (you can check out some previous posts/smaller guides on it here, here, and here), but given that I got several DMs/questions after sharing a sneak peek of my adventures there this past Sunday, I thought it would be time for me to publish a full-blown guide. This post is mainly for my DC readers or anyone traveling to the area, but hopefully people in other locations can still benefit from some of the more general tips!
First things first: the Georgetown Flea is an outdoor flea market located in Upper Georgetown (in the Hardy Middle School parking lot, which is across the street from the “Social Safeway”). It’s open every Sunday, officially from 8 am to 4 pm, rain or shine. I was fortunate enough that my previous apartment was just down the street from the Flea, making it easy to pop on over as I pleased. And because I have a hard time staying away from any thrift store/outdoor market situation, I obviously ended up going there a ton and now have plenty of tips to share! Even though I live a little further away now, I still make an effort to go at least a few times a season, as the Flea is truly a DC gem!
As for my “insider” tips…
1) Get there early, but not too early. Head over before brunch, not after! While the end time is technically 4:00 pm, vendors start to close up shop closer to noon/1 pm (though I’ve sometimes seen them stay out later in the summer months). Getting to the Flea early obviously means you’ll get first dibs on the items of the day, and some days I really have been there right at 8:30 or 9 am (there’s a Starbucks right nearby, so grab a cup of coffee and stroll around as you wake yourself up!). Not a major morning person? No sweat. I’ve also had luck showing up around 11:30, when vendors are starting to think about all of the merchandise they’ll have to pack up into their trucks in just a few short hours and will be more receptive to bargaining and discounts. Plus, if for some reason you fail to stumble upon any treasures, you can walk down Wisconsin Ave and enjoy the other Georgetown shops that will be open by this time of day.
2) Be mindful of the weather. Before planning your trip over–whether you’re traveling several miles or just a few blocks–take a look at the weather forecast and use your best judgment on whether it’s worth the trip. Would you be standing outside in a booth if there’s snow in the forecast? Yes, vendors will be present rain or shine, but trust me, the selection is much, much better when the weather is nice or at least sunny. I’ve definitely made the mistake of heading over on a misty or chilly day only to want to turn right back around due to the lack of merchandise available.
3) Search, search, search. Look past the junk–unfortunately, there’s a lot of it (think used stuffed animals, old DVDs and books, knockoff designer bags, and other garage sale fare). However, there are plenty of diamonds in the rough. Don’t disregard a seller’s table just because 90 percent of the items set out don’t appeal to you. You’re likely to find something beautiful if you look carefully. This past week, I scored the gorgeous chinoiserie vase above for only $5 after I spotted it on a jewelry table. I don’t even wear much jewelry; I just decided to take a look at the selection prior to heading back home and was presently surprised!
4) Be open minded. Since this is a Flea market, you can’t really go into the experience with a specific shopping list, or you’ll likely end up disappointed. Instead, go in and stumble upon things you didn’t even know you needed (I kid…well, kinda!). But really, you may spot a one-of-a-kind item that wasn’t on your radar but would look just perfect on that neglected shelf/in your guest room/etc. This happened a few weeks ago when I spotted a gorgeous ornate mirror that was gold and stunning. I had no idea where I would end up putting it, but the $35 price tag just couldn’t be beat. When I got home, I thought about it for awhile and then decided it would look perfect in my bathroom, and I now couldn’t be happier about this upgrade!
5) Don’t be afraid to bargain. I’ll let you in on a little secret–most of the time, I’m a little afraid to bargain, especially if I know that something is worth a decent amount. If I spot a perfect item on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace, I never offer less than the asking price (in fact, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ll sometimes offer more if I’m worried it’ll get snatched away by someone else!). If I spot an item I’m on the fence about, I’ll usually try to negotiate the price down about $5 or $10 if the seller is receptive, but I’m not really someone who bargains every chance they get (partly because I understand how frustrating this can be as a seller–Poshmark ladies, do ya hear me?). This all changes at the Flea. Vendors expect people to try to negotiate, so be upfront (and realistic) and you’ll likely score an even better deal. Which brings me to my next point…!
6) Carry cash. You technically don’t need to arrive with a ton of cash as long as you have a debit card on hand, as the Safeway across the street has an ATM and offers cash back at checkout. However, for the purpose of saving time, be mindful that vendors only take cash and the whole experience is much more seamless if you’re carrying larger and smaller bills in your wallet. Even if you don’t think you’ll purchase anything on a given day, showing up with at least a $20 in your wallet makes it easier to make a snap decision.
7) Don’t assume. Don’t assume anything when you’re shopping at the Flea. Some sellers know exactly how much a special item is worth and won’t cut you a deal. It’s not uncommon to spot beautiful chinoiserie jars and then find a whopping $325 price sticker attached. This isn’t your basement tag sale, but that’s not to say you can’t find some great deals (hello, $5 vase that I mentioned above!). Basically, if something doesn’t have a price tag, just ask the seller how much it costs before assuming it’s way out of your budget. After spotting the chinoiserie jars at one booth, I probably would have assumed that the vase I picked up at other booth would be at least $50…and boy, was I wrong! Note also that pricing isn’t stable from one vendor to another–there are a whole range of sellers present.
I hope this guide is helpful to those in or coming to the DC area for some major thrifting! DM me your fave finds, and happy hunting!