No doubt your first trip to the famous twice-yearly antique festival in Round Top can be intimidating. Just look at the numbers: Two weeks. Sixty shows. Roughly 22 miles. Approximately 2,000 dealers. Close to 100,000 shoppers. We give you a place to start with our 48 hours in Round Top guide. We tell you where to go, eat, stay, and refuel. (Hint: It’s in a VW Beetle.)
How to get there:
It took us three hours and 15 minutes (no stops, no traffic) taking 35 to Waco and veering off to highway 77 straight into Round Top. For those who aren’t Texas natives, it’s easy to fly to the Austin (77 miles) or Houston (95 miles) airports and navigate from there.
What to pack:
Sunscreen. Yes, most of the venues have covered tents, but we promise your skin will see more of the sun than you probably think. We saw lots of floppy hats and straw fedoras, too. (We recently spotted some cute $12 hats at Target!) We also suggest comfortable shoes with a covered toe. After all, you are traipsing in the dirt, ya’ll. We dressed in layers and carried cross-body bags that left us hands-free while digging through the goods. (We won’t judge you if you don a fanny pack, either.) Don’t forget a rain coat. The storms blow in almost as fast as they blow out. Cash is king for negotiating, so keep that in mind. Bring a checkbook, too. Not all dealers/restaurants take a credit card.
Where to eat:
If you haven’t done so yet, make a reservation at Royers Cafe. Famous for the country cookin’ and pie, the place is packed and there’s no way you’re getting in without a res. Our group of eight each ordered a different type of pie and traded bites. The winner? A chocolate, caramel, and sea salt combo aptly named the Sweet ‘N Salty. Order it. There’s also a Royers location at Zapp Hall in Warrenton that served up to-go items like a shrimp po’boy and a smoked sausage plate (and pie, of course) complete with a beer garden and live music. The adjacent Champagne Bubble Bar was enticing, but we decided on a Summer Shandy beer to wash down our second round of pie. Don’t worry if you’re more focused on the shopping than the eating because each venue has their own food set-up, ranging from Cajun food trucks, BBQ, burgers, and good ol’ fashioned “fair food” like corn dogs and sausage on a stick.
Where to stay:
If you are planning to go this weekend, but you haven’t secured a place to say, to that we say, “good luck.” It may be worth a shot to email the Round Top Chamber of Commerce and request the nights you want to stay. That’s where we started about four months ago and the emails poured in. We had our fair share of lodging options. My shopping partner and I settled on a cute little antique store-turned-guest cottage at the Umland Street Sunday Haus in Carmine, which is run by the sweet Emily Sellers. She and her husband live next door and are on call to help with any of their guests’ needs. At $140 a night, the one-bedroom (complete with two queen beds and two twin beds) was charming, clean, ten minutes away from the venues, and fully stocked with OJ, coffee, waters, and snacks. We loved the fire pit and rocking chairs on the front porch — a perfect spot to relax and strategize the next day’s plan. Only negative: there’s no standing shower, only a tub.
An alternate lodging option: Queen of shabby chic Rachel Ashwell restored an 1800s farm into a charming B&B called The Prairie. There are five properties to choose from ranging in price from $185-$500 a night.
Where to shop:
Now for the main event. Where do you start? This was our first time, so we relied on the expertise of our interior designer gal pal from San Antonio to guide us. (This was her eighth show.) We didn’t even begin to see all there was to offer, but these are the highlights.
Blue Hills: This 26-acre venue opened six years ago when Dr. Milton Grin and Michael Peters bought the property. It’s smaller, the bathrooms are indoors and clean, and the BBQ is delicious. This is a great place to start because it’s manageable. We spent about two hours walking through the tents, and half of that time was flipping through the hundreds of prints, maps, and art work offerings at Antique Maps and Works from Santa Fe. I scored two butterfly prints at $35 a pop, a few fly-fishing drawings for my husband, and two equestrian prints for $25 each. The prints and drawings come with a white mat and a certificate on the back of the work.
Don’t miss the tent with the French antique reproductions. We spotted several sideboards under $1,000, light fixtures in the $500 range, and table after table after table. The goods ranged from European antiques, mid-century modern finds, kitschy yard signs, and decor. Blue Hills runs through April 5.
Arbors International Antiques: After warming up at Blue Hills and stuffing our faces with BBQ, we headed south on 237 to the Arbors show. The vendors range in price points, product, and era. We spent time scouting the French antiques, gallery-quality contemporary and fine art, and oriental rugs. Our fabric-loving group’s favorite find was Sheila’s. We obsessed over her designer fabrics (and even more so over the low, low prices). One shopper in our group scored a Ralph Lauren fabric that normally retails for about $200 a yard for $50 a yard. Sheila is a tough negotiator, but come with cash. She will cut the bolts in the size you need, but her already-cut pallets of fabric are sold as is. (If you find something you like and there’s a three-yard piece, you’re going home with three yards.)
An unexpected surprise is the Ole San Miguel shop. The darling couple sources hand-embroidered adult and children’s clothing from indigenous women in Mexico. The little girl’s dresses and blouses were the stand-outs. Runs through April 5.
Warrenton: Thank goodness we had the two “smaller” venues to warm up, because this was the main event. The stretch of tents and shows can be overwhelming,so we suggest taking it one row at a time. We pulled in at Granny McCormick’s Yard around 11:00am, paid $5 to park, and didn’t go back to the car all day. We suggest getting there before noon because the one-lane traffic really picks up in the afternoon. We made a quick stop at the Coffee Bug for lattes to fuel for the afternoon ahead of us. Brad Frank makes delicious caffeinated drinks and smoothies out of his vintage VW Beetle.
Tip: consider buying a small wagon, cart, or other pushable/drag-able device that you can tote along all of your new finds. As mentioned above, we didn’t venture back to the car after we started on our afternoon at Warrenton. It’s just that big. If you’re planning on loading up, a cart is a must. (And everyone else has one – you won’t look out of place. Promise.)
This is where the real “finds” happen – you may have to dig through the junk, but hey, it could be someone’s treasure. These are the people who made “junking” a “thing.” At one point, we happened upon a tent of baby dolls with misplaced limbs. For sale. And people were looking at them with serious intent. See? You just never know what another fellow hunter will find as treasure. Our biggest piece of advice to manage the large venue is to find a booklet with vendor information and a map and take notes of things you see and where you want to go back.
After six hours of walking up and down the rows of treasures, we scored some adorable Eddie Borgo-style turquoise bracelets, potted succulent plants, marble obelisks, and hand-made kolaches at an old-fashioned bake sale. We spotted a vintage Gucci traveler, rows and rows of vintage cowboy boots, and dozens of booths of re-furbished furniture a la Again and Again.
Expert tip: Visit the website of each vendor to download their vendor guides, maps, and other pertinent information. That way you won’t miss out on a vendor that peeks your interest. Runs through April 5.
Have you been to Round Top? Where are your favorite spots to shop?