Round Top Antique Festival: Wow (Or: Things We’ve Learned from our First Visit)

25 Mar

Round Top Antiques Festival hoof lampAfter living in Austin for 16 years I still had yet to visit the Round Top Antique Festival (for those in the know, simply “Round Top”).  Given my furniture obsession of late, it seemed like this was the year to remedy that omission.  I naively thought that I could run out there for a few hours, then write a concise and supremely useful story for our loyal followers about the event. What a noob.

Unaware of my folly, I packed up 10 year-old Mr. Enthusiasm (who has a love of all things weird and old) gassed up the car and headed east. I had looked up some information online and was already a bit overwhelmed, so we decided to start at the Blue Hills Show to visit our friend Chotsie of Reworks.  We had a blast wandering through tents housing at least 100 vendors—finding treasures from a 8-foot-long carved and inlaid chest to an (ahem) unique cloven-hoofed lamp. We lost track of time and had to race home after several hours, managing to not have spent a penny!

Round Top Antiques Reworks booth

Reworks’ gorgeous booth.

Well, my friends, apparently we went to the Louvre and only saw the Mona Lisa. The Blue Hills show, with its 100+ vendors, is actually just a tiny fraction of the full event.  By the first week in April there will be literally thousands of vendors, tents and shops, all spread out in somewhat random fashion between Highways 290 and 71.

It’s amazing and oddly charming that, in this day of overproduced and orchestrated events, Round Top still seems to be somewhat organic.  There isn’t one “official” organizer; it’s evolved over 40-some years to be a loosely-collected set of individual shows.  Some venues charge an entrance fee, some don’t. Some have porters, some don’t.  There are no official hours that I can find.

Seven Things to Know about the Round Top Antique Festival

So even after a visit and lots of research I’m still kind of confused, but definitely intrigued.  Here are a few things we’ve figured out so far:

  • “Shows” begin appearing as soon as March 22nd and continue to pop up over the course of the next three weeks
  • The “official” Round Top Antiques Week is April 2nd through 7th , at that point everyone is there; all the food trailers, big dealers, mimes, etc. (OK, no mimes thankfully).
  • There are five big main shows; the original Big Red Barn and Big Red Barn Tent, the Marburger Farm Antiques Show, the Continental Tent and Carmine Dance Hall.
  • Smaller stores, shows and tents stretch from Carmine to south of La Grange.
  • Most shows feature a wide variety of styles, prices and vintages; some are known slightly more for one thing than another, but it’s generally a happy mix of treasures.
  • A few of the shows charge admission, but only $10 or so.
  • A very comprehensive (although also overwhelming) magazine is produced about the show, available as a PDF or to pick up at most of the venues.  There’s a great pull-out map section that will give you a sense of the scope (flip to page 67).

Round Top Antiques Festival magazine

Tips for Enjoying the Round Top Antique Festival

So we’re definitely going back, just like we’re going back to the Louvre. It’s clearly impossible to become an expert after one short trip; I’m guessing it’s almost impossible to become an expert at all…that’s part of the fun.  But based on our limited experience and the advice of some much more seasoned sellers and shoppers, we’ve got a slightly random collection of tips to help you enjoy your trip:

  • Head out as soon as you can, things get bonkers as the weeks go on.  Maybe even plan on two trips.
  • Don’t get caught in a speed trap on your way out there, there are lots of tiny towns between Austin and Round Top with overprotective police forces.
  • Wear comfy shoes, and ones that can handle some dust.  Many of the floors are gravel or dirt.
  • According to our sources, the Blue Hills area has the best bathrooms and the BBQ from the United Methodist Men is not to be missed.
  • Royers Round Top Cafe has great food and takes online reservations, a visit to the JW Steakhouse is also recommended.
  • While there are no official hours for the free shows, most vendors are open from 9-ish to dusk.
  • There are some fun-sounding evening events, check out page 27 of the magazine. Just be careful with the wine, you may come home with the hoof lamp!
  • This is not always the bargain-hunter’s paradise. While there are deals to be had, most amateurs will probably miss them.  Go for the amazing selection and variety, not necessarily the price.
  • Do not carry a large bag.  You will knock something over, probably something expensive that you would not buy normally.

If you decide to go, let us know what you discover! Maybe we’ll see you out there next week. See Pinterest for some more pics of our trip.

A few more helpful links:

Another calendar with slightly different info

Round Top Folk Art Fair (run by the original founder of the Festival)

The “original” Round Top Antique Fair

Local restaurants

3 Responses to “Round Top Antique Festival: Wow (Or: Things We’ve Learned from our First Visit)”

  1. idealORDER Organizing Solutions March 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Great points on shopping Round Top! To add to your tips — If you’re shopping for a specific item, remember to bring a small notepad and tape measure. All those miles and miles of individual vendor isles can get to be a blur! Nearby town Warrenton is my stop for finding unique and reasonably-priced storage pieces for my organizing clients. There’s always something unexpected that perfectly fits the solution I’m hunting!

    • Anita March 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      Great additions, thanks! We’ll be sure to get a tape measure before our next trek out.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Austin Heritage Homes Tour 2013: Coolest Old Stuff in Town | Red Chair Market - April 1, 2013

    […] this upcoming weekend is a cool-old-stuff lollapalooza. Start at Round Top (see our tips from last week) then cap it off Saturday with a visit to some of the homes that may have originally […]

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