Everything’s bigger in Texas. And last week I found out that antiques shows are no exception.
I flew to Austin to visit a dear friend Allie of VerbHouse Creative and take a roadtrip to the twice-a-year blowout show, The Round Top Antiques & Design Show. Allie’s a local—she grew up near Round Top—and was happy to serve as my personal tour guide, giving me advice on where to stop and where to skip.
If you’re on the East Coast, you’ve probably never heard of Round Top. Why would you? The town, halfway between Houston and Austin, has a population that hovers around 90 people. During show weeks it surges to over 100,000.
What is the Round Top Antiques Show?
The Round Top Antiques Show is the largest of its kind in the country. High-end designers attend, it’s common to have a celeb sighting, and, of course, you’ll have your pick from some of the best decor, accessories, and small batch and vintage fashion.
But if you Google “Round Top Antiques Show” you’ll probably land on a site describing the Big Red Barn and Blue Hills. This can be a bit deceiving to a first-timer, as these venues are just two of ~80 set up during these two weeks in the fall and spring.
There are over 11 miles of vendors set up on either side of Texas Highway 237. Many are tented, but some are set up in warehouses and buildings year round.
Each area has its own personality. Blue Hills, in my opinion, exuded a more see and be seen vibe, while Marburger presents rare mid-century modern and European antique furniture. Entry is ticketed at Marburger, with a premium pass costing upwards of $125. Other venues are free—you’ll find everything in between.
If you’re overwhelmed already, I’m happy to pass on the advice my friend generously imparted on me: No matter how much you want to prepare, you just have to see it to understand it.
While I consider myself to have quite the appetite and fortitude for digging through stalls and tents, there’s no way I could get through everything, even if I had a week. And while it’s tempting to want to see and do it all, like most trips you have to prioritize.
What to Buy at the Round Top Antiques Show
Part of the reason I was so excited to visit Round Top was because international trips aren’t possible for us right now. The cost of travel has risen and with the holidays coming up we just couldn’t leave for a week or more. At Round Top there are plenty of global vendors whose inventory we could shop without an itinerary.
We started at the southern end of the show, in Warrenton. This is where most of the West African vendors were set up—I was looking specifically for glass beads, mud cloth, and woven baskets. Fair warning here: you will have to pick through items. It’s more like a regular antiques market, where sometimes you find trash and sometimes you stumble upon treasures.
In this area we also headed over to Zapp Hall where I picked up a great vintage studded leather/pleather jacket, a sweatshirt for my daughter (Have a Holly Dolly Christmas adorned with a photo of Dolly Parton) and enjoyed an amazing mid-morning sangria.
Unfortunately we didn’t get as early of a start to the day as we wanted, so we zipped right through town and onto The Arbors Round Top. Here we saw rug vendors, fashion brands like the Austin favorite Good Company, and art. I walked away with a few pieces of clothing, but there wasn’t as much decor that fit the Range vibe.
Our last stop was Blue Hills at the north end of the show route. This felt like the most curated stop of our day. The tents were curated well and had more of a modern feel to them.
We ended with dinner at Market Hill. There’s an amazing buffet where you can linger with other exhausted/excited shoppers and vendors and shop Paul Michael Company late night. It was just what we needed before attempting the drive back to Austin in the dark.
Advice for Visiting Round Top for the First Time
You don’t really go to Round Top to browse. This is the Super Bowl of antiques, artisan made, and handcrafted items—you must go with a goal in mind.
I overheard a girl on the phone at the end of the day saying, “I really wanted to buy something but I just haven’t found anything.” That right there is a sign of decision fatigue.
At first I thought I’d be flying in, renting a truck, and driving my haul back to Virginia. Turns out I overestimated how much time and energy I’d have coming off the heels of Lucketts. And you know, if you’ve visited the store, we don’t exactly have a lot of room for storage. So I switched up my plans and decided instead to focus sourcing on items for our holiday gift baskets.
As important as it is to have a clear picture of what you’re looking for, you also need to set a budget.
I found many vendors are open to negotiation. Just as I’ve found on our international trips, the more you buy, the better discount you’ll get. So knowing what your max budget is can help if you’re like me and get great deals that allow you to stock up on more.
Round Top only has a population of 87 people, so during these two weeks hotels and Airbnbs are slim pickings. I recommend booking at least 3-6 months in advance if you want to be able to completely immerse yourself in the experience. Austin is a 90-minute drive and, I can tell you, doing that at the end of a day on your feet is a lot.
I can’t say I’m an expert after visiting one time, so if you’re looking for recommendations for staying, shopping, and eating in town, check out roundtoptexasantiques.com.
How to Get Your Purchases Home
Before you even think about how to get items back home, you’ll need to figure out how to get them to your car. My best suggestion is to bring a cart or wagon you can wheel with you as you explore. There aren’t delivery guys working throughout the fields like there are at Lucketts, so if you see it and want it you’ll need to carry it away.
Parking is generally free, though in some surface lots you’ll need to pay $5, so keep some cash on you.
Some of the higher end, furniture-focused vendors will coordinate shipping for you. At Market Hill there are also more permanent shops who are used to shipping for clients. But if you’re shopping tent by tent or smaller items in bulk, you’ll need to transport them on your own.
If you can make it a road trip, it would make for a fantastic experience.
If not, definitely pack an extra bag to check on your return flight. I purchased an additional duffel bag in town for $60 that I was able to fill up and check for $40. The way shipping rates are, this is a much better option than boxing up and sending all your finds.
While logistics are the least glamorous part of this job, being able to bring the majority back with me in checked luggage was a major benefit. In case you’re wondering what shipping rates look like right now, here’s what it cost us:
I decided to ship most of our large Rwandan baskets. They are sturdy and because of that they weigh a lot (and were weighing me down when I tried to pack them in my bag). For a box weighing 35 pounds, the cheapest option to ship through USPS — cheaper than UPS or FedEx —was $135. In total, we purchased somewhere around 300 pounds of items and the difference between one weight class and the next jumps big, so it would have probably have been well over $500 to mail it all.
If you go, please believe me (and Allie): you will underestimate how much there is to explore.
We shopped the show in one day and were dead exhausted at the end, with no time to even stop in the actual town of Round Top. Other places we missed that I’m eager to explore in the spring: Excess I & II and The Compound.
I’m excited to return for their Spring Market which will hit right before the Leesburg Garden Show and our own Lucketts Spring Market. We plan on doing it right this time with a stay at The Frenchie and a truck for the return trip 😉