Round Top: Everything You Need to Know About Shopping the Legendary Texas Antiques Fair

Round Top, Texas, has a population of approximately 91 people. But twice a year, over 100,000 people—including AD100 design icons like Kelly Wearstler, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, and Joanna Gaines—descend upon the tiny town to dig through the treasure troves that await at the Round Top Antiques Fair. The fair, which is located just an hour from both Austin and Houston, happens every March and October and hosts over 2,500 dealers from around the world, featuring everything from collectible tchotchkes to towering sculptures and everything in between. It’s a true feast for the senses guaranteed to make you fall in love with “the hunt.”

The fair started in 1968 with just a few vendors in a single barn focused on classic American antiquities, and though it has grown to stretch across 17 miles of highway in the almost 60 years since, its original essence is still very much alive and well, carried on by antique and vintage lovers who believe in the power of finding unique pieces and bringing them into your space.

“We’re celebrating a creative little country paradise built on the strong foundation of generations of people who were drawn to this land and have poured a lot of love into this place for many years,” Sheila Youngblood says. The designer, curator, and founder of Rancho Pillow is something of a Round Top legend, having attended the fair since she was 19 years old. Now, at the age of 51, Sheila guides her experiential retreat guests through the fair, taking them to her favorite dealers and helping them experience the town like a local.

Obviously, it takes years to acquire Sheila’s wealth of knowledge about Round Top—the fair is home to about 80 venues (or “shows”) that stretch across 17 miles of Texas State Highway 237. It could take a full week to thoroughly examine just one venue, much less the whole lot of them. However, what’s special about Round Top, besides its sheer size, is that the fair doesn’t focus on any specific style or era of decor. In fact, that’s probably its main selling point. You don’t have to be looking for anything in particular to find something you love, and if you’re on the hunt for something specific, you can bet you’ll find it buried amongst the seemingly endless acres of tents, barns, and stalls.

Although Round Top veterans can still find it overwhelming to sort through, especially as dealers change every season and design trends and tastes inevitably shift, the objective always remains the same: Find old things to give a new life. While mistakes can certainly be made, there are no real rules at Round Top. In Sheila’s own words, “everything belongs.”

We tapped industry insiders—including dealers, attendees, venue owners, and more—to share their recommendations on how to do Round Top like a pro and took note of design trends present at a few different vendors this spring 2024, season so you can take a little bit of the fair home with you.

How to Prepare

Rent a car

As mentioned, the fair stretches across 17 miles of a state highway, so it’s imperative that you have a car. It is Texas after all. Unlike other large antique fairs and flea markets, Round Top is spread across multiple venues and is therefore not walkable or bike-friendly.

Pack comfortable shoes

Though you’ll be driving between venues, expect to get your steps in as you wander around each show. You’re going to be walking. A lot. The terrain consists of grass, gravel, mulch, and rock, and many of the pathways aren’t paved, so wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. In true Texas fashion (pun intended), cowboy boots are always acceptable attire, of course.

Research the venues and dealers beforehand

Round Top is so big it’s hard to tackle it all in one trip—even for experienced attendees. Mark Dooley, co-owner of venues Excess I and Excess II (as well as his own antiques business, North Star Antiques), recommends following each of the venues’ Instagram accounts (a few of our faves linked below) so you can start to scope out some of the dealers you might want to visit. The accounts often post updates on who will be joining for the upcoming season and even post sneak peeks of what their dealers might be bringing. If you’re on the hunt for something specific, he also recommends reaching out to dealers directly to get an idea of price points and inventory.

“The more legwork you can do before, the better experience you’ll have,” he explains. “You’re under a major learning curve the first time you come here because there’s just so much to see.” Interior designers, influencers, and other tastemakers often get a first look at Round Top before it opens to the public, so they can also be a resource as you craft your list of shows and dealers to visit.

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