5 Tips for Finding Vintage in a Modern World

Find the flea markets! Home to interesting china, toys, and plenty of vintage buttons to jazz up any outfit.

While a Vintage Traveler might ideally seek out travel destinations with ancient histories, occasionally budget or time constraints land you in a place that seems younger than your own parents.

It’s incredibly easy to find history, vintage attractions, and ancient cultural artifacts and architecture if you’re in one of the ‘capitals of the world’ or a city that’s been around for several millennium. But finding it in a city or country that’s still in its infancy? That can be a more challenging task. However, it’s completely possible! If you keep these five handy tips in mind:

Old Strathcona in Edmonton, Alberta is its own individual town. It’s now the eclectic home of Edmonton’s oldest buildings, the city’s independent music and theater scenes, and a haven of food and antique shops.

 

1. Seek out the oldest parts of town

This is the easiest solution. Ask locals or your guidebook what parts of town were first settled or where the historical monuments are. Presto! Instant historical cultural immersion.

Expert Tip:  Before you map out a complicated hike, bus journey, or expensive cab fare, find out if there are any original buildings still there or if it’s a ‘historical park’. Nothing’s worse than discovering your ancient ruins are now a bunch of ultra-modern condos or a pioneer-themed Disneyland.

2. Head to the most culturally rich part of town

A little more risky than the above option, but if you ask where the ‘cool people’ or where the artists hang out, chances are you’re also going to find some interesting architecture, brilliant music,  great food options, and unique shops to wile away the afternoon. These may not all be historical or vintage, but flea markets, vintage shops, and blues joints tend to flourish in these eclectic pockets. And even if they don’t, you’re guaranteed some interesting people watching.

Expert Tip: The type of advice you will get depends on who you ask. Everyone  has a different definition of cool, so you may need to ask multiple people before finding somewhere that sounds great to you.

3. Find the weekly flea market

No matter where I’ve gone so far in the world, and no matter how new, old, large, or small a city is, there’s always been a weekend flea market SOMEWHERE in town. Ask the locals, look for posters, and then head down there to pick up some unique souvenirs, enjoy some people watching, and possibly find vintage-lovers just like you!

Expert Tip: Keep your eyes open for flea markets with an antique bent, stalls selling memorabilia or old jewelery vs. junk, and patrons that look like they stepped out of ‘Grease’.

4. Try to visit during a cultural festival

This isn’t fool-proof, and can certainly be more expensive than visiting during other parts of the year, but there’s a good chance you’ll get a more comprehensive experience of a city’s cultural history than you would visiting it at other points in the year. It’s also a good chance to see top bands, theater, and specific cultural shows that you might never otherwise see there.

The Calgary Stampede celebrates the cowboy past with lots of inauthentic clothing, food, and shopping. However, it is a terrific opportunity to catch incredible cheap concerts and the modern versions of rodeos and chuckwagon races.

 

Expert Tip: Not every city has the same definition of ‘historical’. Some places offer a more immersive experience, while others just use their historical event to throw an extremely modern party. Do your research first!

5. Find live jazz music

ALWAYS find the live jazz music. Or blues music. Find these, and you’ll often find people who are interested in other cultural elements that were predominate in the first half of the 20th century. Look for people partner dancing or in vintage garb. If you find them, you’ve probably found the local swing or blues scene, and the gatekeepers of all the city’s vintage secrets – which they’ll be more than happy to share.

Expert Tip: This works best on weekdays; you’re more likely to find die-hard fans of these genres than people looking for a good time at the bar. Not sure which bars have blues or jazz? Look for event posters with an image or photograph of someone playing a trumpet or saxophone. They seem to be almost universal signifiers for jazz music.

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