The best thing about flea markets is the unique items one can find: historical relics that contain the traces of a thousand owners and their stories, odd-shaped furniture that would look perfect in the upstairs hall, a statue of a plump and quirky quail to amuse visitors, and even lawn creatures made out of odd bits of old metal. Flea markets are as much for the looking as the shopping. They are literally a treasure hunt, so it's fitting that the largest flea market I've been to occurs monthly on Treasure Island.
Despite renewed concerns about radiation contamination on TI, I love visiting because it's a beautiful place with panoramic views of both spans of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco. The large palms that circle the island and the time-worn and abandoned buildings scattered here and there give TI a mystique that can be found nowhere else in the Bay Area.
Treasure Island Flea is held in and around the World Fair building, and with over 300 vendors, the space still doesn't feel large enough. I was quickly overwhelmed by the amount of merchandise and the size of the crowd. The vendors outside the front of the building form a large market by themselves, but the bottom floor of the building is filled with more vendors. Vendors even fill most of the second floor. I was alarmed to make it through all these vendors and find even more gathered outside the back of the building.
Vendors include craftspeople as well as antique and collectible sellers. We saw old war uniforms, cameras, typewriters, furniture, art, frames of every shape and size, fine and antique jewelry, new and vintage clothing, scarves, shelves made from skateboards, picture hangers made from crates and shutters, and much more.
There were also quite a few of the famous Bay Area food trucks in attendance. We ate pork and chicken sliders and had a scoop of gourmet, preservative-free ice cream. There were also bartenders circulating through the market with carts where one could pick up mimosas, Bloody Mary's, and beer. In the back of the building an excellent DJ kept feet tapping and hips swaying, and trampolines entertained the kids.
This event, like the Jack of All Trades Market that Treasure Island Flea hosts, is dog friendly. We passed many happy pooches enjoying the sunshine, crowd, and each other. The market organizers even had a jar of dog bones at the front entrance that were free for four-legged guests. Another bonus is the free parking, and we had no problem finding a spot.
Even though the views, weather, and atmosphere of the market were beautiful, the crowds were the biggest I've seen at a Bay Area market or festival. It was nearly impossible to look in any depth at vendors inside the building because of the people trying to file past. Trying to make our way through the building felt like being stuck in rush hour traffic before a three-day weekend. The vendors outside the building were easier to shop, but the crowds were still large. If you don't like crowds, this event will probably not be enjoyable for you.
There's also the cost to consider. There is a fee to get into the market (a modest $3). And the prices at the market were higher than I expected, even on the items that were not antique.
Even with the crowds and higher prices, this market is a must. The variety and amount of vendors is unparalleled, the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, and the location is beautiful. You can like Treasure Island Flea on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. The next market dates are February 22nd and 23rd, March 29th and 30th, and April 26th and 27th. Visit www.TreasureIslandFlea.com for more information.
The vendors in front of the building:
The biscuit bowl and a couple dog visitors: