So many people tell me that they’ve wanted to go out to Round Top for the antiques show, but that they haven’t because it seems overwhelming, easy to do wrong, and generally fraught with peril. That’s silly. Here is a straightforward Antiques Week 101 Overview for beginners, based on the questions I think you might have. I invite you to add others to the list using the form at the bottom and I’ll answer them the best I can.
Q: What is the Round Top Antiques Show? Or should I say what is Antique Week? Or Warrenton? Or Marburger?
A: All of the above essentially refer to the same thing: A huge bunch of antique shows, all happening simultaneously along the country highways and small towns in and around Round Top, TX.
A: Twice a year, Spring and Fall. Each individual “show” has its own dates, so here’s how I like to think about the dates of the complete event: Take the final weekend as a starting point and backtrack three weeks from there.
For Spring 2017 the shows will get going as early as the week of March 13. This earliest week is set-up; it’s the time to go if you want to tromp around the fields by yourself, hunting for wholesale level bargains as the vendors unpack. Lots of high end dealers and savvy retailers shop the late days of this week.
The next week, March 20-26 for Spring 2017, is an ideal time for a newbie to visit, especially during the middle of the week. Plenty of free parking, most every dealer up and ready for business, manageable crowds and traffic, etc. Traffic becomes a serious issue as the show progresses, so go on a weekday during this week if the future forecast looks sunny and you’re at all crowd averse.
The final week or so, March 27-April 1, is when things heat way up. Some of the big shows are open only this week and that draws the serious shoppers & partiers. This is when you’ll get the fun carnival type experience with lots and lots of designers and their clients, couples on the hunt, crazy shopping groups in boots and matching t-shirts, funky after hours champagne bars, book signings, the Prom…
NOTE: One of the best “shows” is known as The Original Round Top Antiques Fair or Big Red Barn. It opens up the very last week: March 27-April 1 for Spring 2017. Folks who Google “Round Top Antiques Show” often land on their show’s webpage and get the wrong impression that the entire Round Top Antiques Show is only those dates and only at that venue. Journalists also make that mistake and print those dates in their publications/blogs/etc. You will definitely find everything up and running those dates, but they are by far the busiest, most traffic-y and most overwhelming. As I described above, the entire event takes place over at least three weeks, with a rolling open of different fields and shows over that time. Antiqueweekend.com has the best calendar I know of for specific venue dates during the show so look there to see what will be open when.
Q: Where do I stay?
A: Ideally in a Bed and Breakfast in Round Top or Carmine or Fayetteville or La Grange. There are so many adorable places. Try the Red and White. Or The Prairie. Or Round Top Inn. BOOK EARLY. If you’ve already missed that moment, try some spots anyway because those early bookers may change their minds. The Round Top Chamber of Commerce has a great page with all of the area lodging options and they can even help you find last minute spots. Another tip: LIKE a few B&B’s on Facebook ’cause they sometimes announce cancellations on their pages. Another strategy is to make backup reservations at a chain hotel in Columbus, Brenham or LaGrange while you search for something closer and quainter. if you end up staying there you’ll have an easy, lovely thirty or forty minute drive in and out every day. Lots of folks make the Round Top a day trip from Austin or Houston, so you can always just stay in the big city if you only have one day. Which I’m sorry to hear.
Q: Where do I park, eat, potty?
A: There is a finely-tuned support infrastructure to make sure all of your needs will be met. I’ll just say that parking the final week will probably cost you a five dollar bill or two unless you’re clever. Food options improve every show. Save room for Kettle Corn, find the Texas Pizza Wagon for their rosemary/green grape/gorgonzola special, or stand in line at Legal Tender or the Methodist Men BBQ. Several venues will host pop-up chef’s dinners, so look for those. I’ve been to wonderful ones at Recycling the Past’s properties and Rancho Pillow. Potty-wise, I’ll just say don’t be too afraid of the port-a-potties if you aren’t near a real one.
Q: Which of the shows are the best ones to go to?
A: OK. First, lots of people also refer to the individual shows as fields, because they’re not much more than grassy fields along the highway. So don’t let that throw you. This question is the toughest because we all have our own taste and each show/field has its own personality. One day’s agenda: Blue Hills & Arbor before lunch, after lunch Excess and North Gate Field. Another agenda: La Bahia then downtown Round Top in the morning, lunch, Warrenton for the afternoon. The Compound is a popular relatively new venue, as is Paul Michael’s Market Hill. I could go on forever. Here’s my advice: If you’ve come down from 290, drive all the way to Warrenton and then turn around and go back up to the shows that have caught your eye, and conversely if you’ve come up from 71, drive all the way up to the Carmine Y and then go back down. That way you’ll have a good sense of the show’s scope and you can pace yourself accordingly.
Q: But you didn’t mention Marburger Farm.
A: This is the Queen Mama of the shows! This show is open March 27-October 1 for Spring 2017, with the not-to-be-missed special preview day that Tuesday. Marburger is the most “retail” of all the shows, with very carefully curated and merchandised booths, a huge range of mid to high end antiques (no new items or reproductions allowed), happy crowds, good food, clean facilities, and special events and appearances. This is the place to go if you want to check out Round Top but you think you might be happier at the Galleria Mall back home. It is fantastic.
Q: What are the hours?
A: I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to the fields before things are open, but I’d say that 9:30 or so is as early as I’ve ever arrived. It’s more than likely a longish drive for you, and you’ll want to do your provisions stop, so if you’re in Round Top before 9:00 am you’ll probably need a quick car nap anyway before you start shopping. On the back side, I’d highly recommend planning to stay for some of the live music and entertainment that’s becoming more and more popular every year. Most booths close up around 6 or 7 during the early days, then stay open ’til dark when things get busier at the end.
Q: What if I actually buy something? How do I get it home?
A: If you’re driving home, dealers will hold an item until you have a chance to go back to your car, drive to the field, load up and hit the road. If your treasure won’t fit in your car or if you’d like something sent far away you can either use onsite shippers at some of the bigger shows or you can use one of shippers in the area. Ask your dealer for a name. Again, the supporting infrastructure out there is great.
Q: And most importantly, what should I wear?
A: The cute gals uniform is sundress and cowboy boots. In fact, that signature look adds to the overall wonder of the place, so please do wear it if it sounds like you. If not, I suggest natural fibers, layers, hats, sunscreen, big earrings, a little backpack type bag and PRACTICAL shoes. My own style is a low key version of the above (I think I get better prices that way but then again I’ve never tried a flirty sundress). Men, a t-shirt and cargo shorts are perfect — that way you can stash the water bottles for yourself and your date!
Q: But I don’t really like antiques.
A: Ooh, good one. The Show has evolved into so much more than an antique festival. Manufacturers for stores like Restoration Hardware can be found selling brand new furniture in many of the fields. There are endless booths selling new clothes and jewelry. And almost every field includes booths selling other new merchandise like modern art (encaustics are big right now), fabric, mirrors, rugs, bed linens, garden decor… And if you are a complete non-shopper who’s been dragged along by your pushy sister-in-law, you can always sit in one place all day drinking frozen lemonade and watching the alpacas graze.
Q: How do you like to get there?
A: If you’re driving from Austin to Round Top, there’s a back route you should probably know about.
To get to downtown Round Top, follow this:
From 71, when you get to La Grange go north on 77. Just after the Hospital on your right, turn right onto Hwy 2145. Stay on that for a while until you see Hwy 2981. Turn right. You go a short bit until after a big rightwards bend you see Laird Road on your left. Turn onto it. It’ll take you north in a joggy kind of way. When you get to the intersection at Schuster, turn right. Go another short bit and then turn left onto Frenzel. That’ll take you even further north until it dead ends at 1291. Turn right for another jog over and turn left onto Weyand Road. This is a pretty one. It intersects with Round Top Road, so turn right at that intersection and it will take you right to S White Road and the Round Top Inn which is behind Prost.
If you’re wanting to avoid the traffic to Marburger, follow this version:
From 71, when you get to La Grange go north on 77. Just after the Hospital on your right, turn right onto Hwy 2145. Stay on that for a while until you see Hwy 2981. Turn right. You go a short bit until after a big rightwards bend you see Laird Road on your left. Turn onto it. It’ll take you north in a joggy kind of way. When you get to the intersection at Schuster, turn right. Go another short bit and then turn left onto Frenzel. That’ll take you even further north until it dead ends at 1291. Turn right and go a little while until you see Hartfield Road. Turn left. Then just follow Hartfield – it’ll bash right into Highway 237! Now you’re just above Marburger, just below the Junk Gypsies and downtown Round Top. So turn right, get in the line of traffic and feel proud.
And if you want to get to Ex-Cess and the fields of Warrenton, this is the way:
From 71, when you get to La Grange go north on 77. Just after the Hospital on your right, turn right onto Hwy 2145. Stay on that for a while until you see Hwy 2981. Turn right. You go a short bit until after a big rightwards bend you see Laird Road on your left. Turn onto it. It’ll take you north in a joggy kind of way. When you get to the intersection at Schuster, turn right. Go another short bit and then turn left onto Frenzel. It’ll take you up to 1291. Go right all the way to 237 right in the heart of things.