Every year, more than 100,000 people flock to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas (population less than 100!) for the Original Round Top Antiques Fair. With shows held in spring and fall, the event has miles and miles of markets to shop. As dreamy as that sounds for designers or homeowners shopping to fill their homes with furniture, it can also become very overwhelming.
As a first-time attendee to Round Top Antiques Fair last fall, I learned so much from my visit and left with takeaways on what I’d do differently on a return trip. (I was even interviewed by Veranda about the experience: Check out the article here!) If you’re going to the show for the first time, or you’ve been before and want to navigate the event with a little more strategy this time, here are my top 11 tips for making the most of a trip to Round Top Antiques Fair.
Plan at least a few days to shop.
Unless you’re local to southeast Texas, getting to Round Top can feel a bit like Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Make the trek worth your while by planning to spend at least two or three days going to the markets, and consider bookending your trip with a couple days in a nearby city or even planning downtime at a cute boutique hotel in the area after you’re through shopping.
Rent a car, but not a U-Haul.
The two nearest airports to Round Top are Austin and Houston, each about 1.5 hours away. Rideshare options like Uber and Lyft are not widely available here (if at all), so it’s best to reserve a rental car ahead of time and plan to drive to Round Top from your arrival city. I don’t recommend renting a U-Haul, however. You can find plenty of shippers at the event who will be able to ship your items home for you, no hauling required on your part.
Now is not the time to get all dolled up in your fanciest outfits and jewelry. I highly recommend dressing casually, in layers, as temperatures throughout the day can vary, and wearing comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking a lot.
Be prepared for the scale.
This is not a market you can walk through in a day. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with a map of the event and drive around to the various venues that are part of Round Top. If you see an item you like, you can pay for it and tag it, then find someone to ship it for you when you’re through with the show.
Plan your sustenance.
Be sure to eat breakfast and stash some energy-boosting snacks in your purse or even pack yourself a lunch, as you’ll be too busy to stop to eat mid-day. We did make dinner reservations for each night in advance, which I highly recommend when there’s so many people in town and limited restaurants. Many venues around Round Top will also host events for designers in the evening, such as Bader Ranch.
Know when to negotiate.
While it’s not accepted by all vendors, negotiating is a big part of the shopping process at Round Top. You’ll be able to get a good feel about whether it’s appropriate to negotiate by the booth: Some vendors operate like a store, while others have more of a flea market vibe (the latter are the ones with whom you should try to negotiate). Don’t be afraid to ask about a better price or inquire about a discount if you’re purchasing multiple pieces.
Think through your budget.
Knowing how much you’d ideally be willing to spend ahead of time will come in handy when shopping. You’ll find a wide range of price points at Round Top, from flea market to 1stDibs-level price tags. You can find lots of good deals on items under $1,000, but many purchases will run between the $1,000 – $10,000 range. Keep your eyes peeled for deals, particularly if you’re looking to fill an entire house with furniture. Vendors come to Round Top because they want to move inventory, not take it back home with them, so you never know what you might be able to score.
Shop with purpose.
If you’re a designer going to Round Top, it’s smart to think ahead and go in with a plan of what you think might work for certain clients, while also keeping an eye out for unexpected pieces. If you’re a homeowner, on the other hand, it’s even more important to plan ahead, as the show can get overwhelming fast. Make a list ahead of time of exactly what you want or are hoping to find, and the dimensions you need.
Get a ticket to Marburger.
As the only event within Round Top for which you have to purchase tickets to attend, the Marburger Farm Antique Show (taking place March 28 – April 1 this spring) is worth a look for designers especially. It has the best items in terms of beauty and quality, but also expect to pay more for these pieces than at other shows.
Look beyond Round Top, if you like.
Tiny as Round Top is, the town is home to several cute and upscale boutique hotels, including The Frenchie and Hotel Lulu. They tend to book up quickly, but you can also venture outside Round Top to find charming accommodations. We spent a night at Ant Street Inn in Brenham, another small town about 25 minutes away, and it was lovely.
Consider extending your stay for design inspiration.
During our trip last year, we combined Round Top with a few nights in Austin to maximize the time it took to get there from Chicago. We stayed at Austin Proper Hotel, with fantastic guest rooms designed by Kelly Wearstler. I also highly recommend a trip to Supply Showroom’s fabric house when you’re in town.
Share your best tips for Round Top Antiques Fair.
Have you ever been to Round Top? I’d love to know your favorite discoveries and tips for navigating the antiques fair. Share them with me in the comments below.