Rejoice, Houston antique junkies! The most wonderful time of the year is almost here. And by the most wonderful time of the year, we of course mean the Round Top Antiques Show. The fall edition of the fair is throwing down this year from October 24 to October 29 (off-site concurrent festivities run from Oct 15–29 in other spots in Round Top as well as Warrenton), and we’re already clearing out space in our cars in preparation for our hauls.
For the uninitiated, the Round Top Antiques Show, founded over 50 years ago, is one of the largest antique festivals in the U.S. During the festival, which happens twice a year (in the spring and in the fall), the tiny town of Round Top—resident count: 90—sees its population temporarily swell to over 100,000 as antiquers from across the nation pour in so they can peruse the fair’s antique-filled barns, warehouses, and tents, which stretch for 22 miles. It’s like Burning Man for the antiques crowd, except instead of burning art installations, you spend your day burning calories as you weave your way through the never-ending antique city.
Because the festival can be pretty intimidating for first-timers and seasoned veterans alike, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you make the best of your Round Top experience.
Where to Stay in Round Top
If you’re planning on your trip to the festival being an overnight affair, it’s of utmost importance that you book your hotel accommodations early, since the area only has a handful of dedicated inns and hotels.
This luxurious boutique hotel offers 14 rooms spread out between six bungalows on a property that includes a restaurant, a bar, a pool, an herb garden, and a formal garden.
The Wander Inn is an eclectic boutique hotel comprising a duo of two-story houses that have been completely renovated by Amie and Jolie Sikes (of HGTV fame). At the Wander Inn, which sits on the grounds of the Junk Gypsy Headquarters, guests can rent individual rooms, an entire house, or the entire property.
Located in downtown Round Top, this one-acre property features a collection of vintage farmhouses and cottages (13 guest rooms total) that have been decked out in antiques and heaps of country charm.
Flophouze is Round Top’s famous shipping container hotel. The property features six recycled shipping containers that have been upcycled and decked out in eclectic decor.
This elegant hotel near Downtown Round Top is made up of an 1800s-era farmhouse and several additional small buildings that have been completely renovated.
Rancho Pillow, a funky artist compound owned by designer Sheila Youngblood (whose fashion sense gives off strong Hogwarts professor vibes), is one of the most eclectic places you can stay in the entire state. The compound features multiple art-filled buildings perfect for someone who enjoys their hotel accommodations a little on the boho side.
What to Pack for the Round Top Antiques Show
- Comfortable shoes: Although you might look great in a pair of cowboy boots, if you’re going to go full country with your ensemble, make sure your boots are broken in well. Since the festival requires quite a bit of walking, a pair of sneakers are your best bet for a comfortable festival experience.
- Functional clothing: Although you don’t necessarily need to go the activewear route, it’s important to wear clothing that you can really move around in—especially since you’re going to be spending most of your day spelunking through antiques booths. You’re also most likely going to be sweating a lot, so make sure you wear clothing that is breathable.
- Sunscreen: It goes without saying that you should bring sunscreen with you, especially because most of the festival is outside.
- Tape measure: If you’re on the hunt for something for a specific spot in your house, make sure you get all of your measurements before heading out to the festival. Having a tape measure with you while you’re there will make sure the treasures you bring home with you are all in the right dimensions.
- A collapsible wagon or cart: If you’re planning on bringing a lot of little things home with you, it’s essential that you have some sort of cart with you in which to transport them while enjoying the rest of your day at the festival. The festival is quite large, and the last thing you want to do is to be forced to lug something bulky around with you by hand all day, especially because your car will likely be parked quite far away from where you’ve made your purchases.
- Cash: Although you can find some ATMs at the festival, and a lot of the vendors accept cards, cell service issues are quite common at the festival. It’s better to play it safe and have some cash on hand then have to pass up a really great purchase because a vendor is struggling to get a signal for their point-of-sale system.
Can You Negotiate at the Round Top Antiques Show?
Round Top is all about negotiating. Although you don’t want to lowball people, the festival is your opportunity to make some really great deals, especially towards the end of its run when dealers are trying to get rid of as much stuff as they can so they can have lighter trips home. Brush up on your negotiating skills ahead of the festival, and don’t be afraid to play hardball.
It’s important to remember that you’ll never receive a discount if you don’t first ask for one. While negotiating, be polite and make a reasonable first offer. If there are any flaws in the item you’re wanting to purchase, be sure to point those out to the dealer. The festival is full of great deals, so be ready to move on if your offer is rejected—there will be plenty of other sellers around with whom you can strike a good deal.
How to Transport Your Purchases
If you come across a large item that you absolutely can’t pass up, don’t fret. Most dealers at the festival have the capacity to ship large items home to you. However, it’s still important to make sure you have some extra space in your vehicle before heading out to the festival. If you’re planning on attending with a lot of people, it would be smart to take multiple vehicles so there is plenty of room on your way back home for you to transport small- and medium-sized items back with you.
Where to Shop (on Festival Grounds):
Located on Hwy 237, this climate-controlled building has everything from English antiques to authentic turquoise jewelry and fine glass.
At the Continental Tent (also air conditioned), you’ll find heaps of antique furnishings sourced from all across the world.
The Annex is your best bet for Mid Century Modern furniture and collectibles.
Where to Shop (off Festival Grounds):
Blue Hills is a favorite among interior designers and a must-see for lovers of all things vintage and rustic. The 26-acre property includes 100,000 square feet of shopping space and over 60 vendors.
Market Hill is an air-conditioned space that includes a mix of high end antiques and home good from over 25 vendors.
This large collection of tents features enough art, decor, clothing, jewelry, and rugs to keep you entertained all day.
This huge enclave, spread out across several acres of Texas pasture, includes over 300 vendors housed in both historic buildings and tents.
Where to Eat
Owned by Houston restaurateurs Cinda and Armando Palacios, Lulu’s is a refined, European-style fine dining restaurant featuring Italian home cooking and a stellar wine program.
This nano-brewery and taproom features plenty of beer and wine options as well as a surprisingly sophisticated food menu, which includes tempting options like duck confit tacos, a Kobe burger, and pâté.
Open since 1946, and owned by its current family (the third family to run the cafe) since 1987, Royers Round Top Cafe is a funky cafe that serves up dishes like fresh salmon, grilled shrimp, rack of lamb, and handmade pies.
Also owned by the Palacios family, Mandito’s is a casual, cantina-style cousin to its famous Houston-located sister, ARMANDOS. The colorful Tex-Mex spot serves up some outstanding fajitas, fish tacos, and enchiladas.
This farm-to-table concept, open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, has an expansive menu that includes offerings like steaks, pastas, salads, pancakes, and sandwiches.