The recent cult fandom surrounding the flea market is really the product of a perfect confluence of trends: a young peoples' lust for Old New York and community, the resurgence of vintage, food-truck mania, and the recession. The flea plays to a generation nostalgic for the alt-weeklies and swap-consignment shops of the 90s, while also providing an excuse for the brunch-and-sip crowd to venture outdoors and still fulfill its social requirements.
Saturdays at 176 Lafayette Avenue, Sundays at One Hanson Place; 10-5.
The Brooklyn Flea may not have started the movement, but it's become the poster child, from a Martha Stewart cameo to a New Yorker writeup. And yes, it lives up to the hype. The curated flea offers 100-plus vendors#&8212;from hodgepodge antiques and Dulcinee vintage to Claudia Pearson-illustrated calendars and Lillian Crowe jewelry#&8212;as well as a mouth-watering array of food including oven-fired pizza and lobster rolls from the Red Hook Lobster Pound. This year the Flea added a new location to its roster: the luminous old Williamsburg Savings Bank at One Hanson, where vendors fill old teller windows and visitors gaze up at the mosaics and wrought-iron screens.
Hester Street Fair
Saturdays and Sundays at Hester and Essex Streets; 10-6.
Once home to one of the city's oldest pushcart markets, Hester Street Fair has enjoyed a revival this summer thanks in part to charming MTV correspondent SuChin Pak and a group called The Big Social: architect Ron Castellano, digital wiz Adam Zeller, and Pak's brother, Suhyun. In a few short weeks, the smaller, equally curated market has become Manhattan's stylish set's answer to the Brooklyn Flea, with its own brand of slick vendors#&8212;vintage from Wanderlust and jewelry from Erica Weiner#&8212;and its own lobster rolls, courtesy of Luke's. If the "stylist tent" is in effect, make the trip: One weekend, there was vintage Betsey Johnson and Gaultier.
Artists and Fleas
Saturdays and Sundays at 129 North 6th Street; 12-8.
While the Brooklyn and Hester markets make nods at history, Artists and Fleas gets props for actually being one of the older of the "new breed" of flea. First opened in 2003, Artist and Fleas transforms an empty warehouse on North 6th Street every weekend into a vibrant shopping destination featuring quirky vintage, punky Astali jewelry, and one-of-a-kind clothing pieces from A Strange Truth. The market may not have the street cart bonus that others have, but Bedford's nearby restaurants provide more than worthy competition for a weekend outing.