Bring On the Outdoor Shopping

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Portland Saturday Market

I’m suffering from fall fever. This time of year — with the trees erupting in gorgeous colors, the faintest nip in the early-morning air, and a welcome drop in humidity — is my favorite. I don’t want to be indoors — I want to be outside doing one of my two favorite things — camping or shopping. Today, the siren call of vintage milk glass and funky, handmade jewelry is calling my name, so shopping wins.

Flea markets are great this time of year. There’s just something about haggling over the price of a carnival glass rooster (an obsessive hobby of mine) on a chilly October morning that makes me smile. Flea markets are popular because they are inexpensive and fun. I like the challenge of fighting through a sea of junk to find that one, amazing treasure I didn’t realize I needed. If you haven’t had the chance to visit a flea market, find one in your area and give it a try. You may end up decorating your entire apartment with your unique discoveries.

Now is also the time to get out and enjoy the autumn fruits and vegetables fresh from local growers. As the weather cools the baking bug is sure to strike, so bring home some beautiful apples and bake an apple crisp, or scoop up some of fall’s finest blackberries and make a blackberry cobbler. You don’t have to be near one of the country’s top-rated farmer’s markets (such as Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco or the popular Boulder Farmer’s Market in Boulder, Colorado) to enjoy local produce – so find the one in your area and enjoy everything from squash to fresh-baked bread.

On a bright, clear day, walking along a brick-paved sidewalk lined with cheery store windows and having lunch at an outdoor café is appealing to more and more people, and cities (along with local businesses) are starting to respond. Some cities don’t have a nice, walkable downtown area such as the one in gorgeous and historic Red Wing, Minnesota – but several are trying to correct that. Fenton, Michigan is a great example, working toward narrower streets, wider sidewalks, and appealing storefronts. Some cities are coming up with innovative solutions to live-work-play communities, such as converting former industrial areas into vibrant shopping districts. Atlanta’s Atlantic Station, formerly a steel mill, is a great example of a once-abandoned area getting new life as a hip, exciting shopping district.

Being pedestrian-friendly is great, but what about dog-friendly? Some outdoor markets allow you to bring your pet and a few even cater to them with pet-friendly areas, such as Otay Ranch Town Center in San Diego, which has a dog park adjacent to the shopping area. Portland Saturday Market in Portland, Oregon has it all – not only is it pet-friendly, but visitors can browse through booths containing everything from food to handmade soap to art objects – all local, of course – and there’s even a stage with live entertainment.

Since I’m happiest when I can combine my two favorite things, I’m looking forward to a trip to Dahlonega, Georgia soon – it’s the perfect time to explore the North Georgia farmer’s markets (it is apple season!) and there’s nothing better than a fall camping trip in the mountains. Take some time to get out and explore your town’s outdoor shopping areas and enjoy autumn’s cornucopia of colors, sights, and sounds.