I wanted to write y’all a perfect All You Need to Know Guide to Canton, but the place is huge so I’m probably missing something. So here’s the Almost All You Need to Know Guide to First Monday Trade Days in Canton. Think of the Trade Days as a giant crafting, shopping, deal making, fried food palooza and you’ll pretty much have an idea of what to expect. And since it’s only about an hour east of Dallas, you just have to try it at least once.
The next market date is March 31 – April 3, so make your plans now, ladies. And get there early, since once a month, the little town of Canton becomes the 7th largest city in Texas as hundreds of thousands of shoppers come from everywhere to get in on the fun.
We made the trip a family affair. Here’s what I took away from our family’s experience….
April, May, September, October and November bring the best weather for the market and lord, I wish I had considered that before I went. So, first and largest tip of the day… don’t go when it’s 102 degrees outside. Because I did and I regret it still to this day. There are a few air conditioned barns/buildings, but I found the best stuff in the hotter, non-air-conditioned places.
First Monday is considered the largest flea market in the country, covering hundreds of acres at both the original trade center grounds and throughout the town. This place is giant so you could easily spend all weekend going from booth to booth and still not see it all.
Definitely wear comfortable shoes because you’ll walk for miles… unless you’ve already given up on yourself from the start and rent one of the scooters that I saw several people using. I was a bit judgmental about that at first… then after about an hour in the heat, I was totally price checking scooter rentals myself. So, please forgive my thoughtless assumptions if you were a scooter rider out there in the 12th circle of Hell and I gave you mean looks. You can now comment on how sweaty my hair was and how much cooler I would’ve been in the passenger seat of a motorized vehicle.
And dress for walking a 10K at the minimum. I wore a mini dress with long sleeves for the sun protection. It’s really a lightweight t-shirt dress that looks great when done right with tall boots and snappy accessories. However, for the flea market I chose to wear it with my black New Balance running shoes which didn’t do it any favors. So I kept hoping not to run into any old boyfriends out there and having to explain when and why I became so frumpy.
You also need to know that there are about 5 million vendors out there… so be prepared to see lots of stuff you’re not interested in at all. Vendors ranged from high end home decor and boutique fashions to garage sale finds. It looked to me like the air conditioned buildings housed the more permanent vendors, mostly glass and antiques. But there was truly a little bit of everything once we figured out where to look.
And if you’ve been on the hunt for a car tire planter painted in vibrant colors, or maybe a giant Elvis blanket, I think you’ll find the perfect ones in Canton. My boys went right for each tent selling knives, machetes and/or pepper spray. Kid 2 came home with 2 more weapons to add to his collection. I found him cutting watermelon with what may or may not be a switchblade. I’m not that well versed in weaponry.
Bring water. Bring water. Bring water. Bring a giant purse loaded with lots of bottled water. You’ll need it. At one point when I got separated in the desert lands from the family and when we finally found each other in front of the jumbo corn dog and lemonade stand, I called out desperately to them something along the lines of, If I don’t get water soon – these may indeed be my last words. So… for the love of not having a heat stroke, bring water. (We did, after my dramatic dehydration scene, find a food booth selling bottled water for $1. But I could’ve died before then. So take my advice and bring your own.)
I found the stuff I really liked in a section of the park called The Arbors. Also in an area called Row 46 which was pretty much a next-door neighbor to the Arbors. These are permanent store front structures of mostly home decorator items and ladies clothing boutiques. This is the area of the market that if I were to have a heat related dehydration health issue, I would rather it happen here than the corn dog stand. These shops are that classy, y’all. However, I did almost kill myself falling down in a drainage ditch in front of the most darling little boutique on Row 46. Y’all need to watch out for that. But it was worth it because I found the cutest poncho in that shop and have worn the heck out of it.
Some more experienced First Monday Trade Days ladies gave me really good advice about the best dates to shop the market…. October is the busiest time of year. And it is recommended that you shop on the Thursday of the market if at all possible during this month. They say that traffic is even stopped on the freeway not allowing any more guests to enter until others leave on the busiest days of the sale in October. And lines at cash registers are forever long. Oh… and most vendors were cash only, though the larger ones on Row 46 were set up for credit card purchases.
So… here’s what I want you to take away from my experience:
The market is open Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of every month. Sun up till sundown, rain or shine.
Canton would make a great girls day or quick weekend trip. But I took my school age kids and they did fine. If yours are still little, and you choose to drag bring them along for the fun, definitely bring a stroller or wagon. I saw lots of kids. Many were crying. So you have to decide how much stroller shopping your little one can stand. My teen boys had fun running around free and I actually think tween and teen girls would have a ball out there shopping the clothing boutiques.
There are plenty of fair style food choices, corn dogs, and the like. I didn’t see a single vegetable offering in the park so don’t go planning on a healthy meal kind of day. We actually went into town and enjoyed the little Mexican food restaurant on the square. I think we made a wise decision.
Dress for success. Meaning dress to walk and shop and be weather appropriate. There was very little shade out there so a hat is probably a good idea. And only some of the park is paved, so take that into consideration when choosing your shoes. Fancy and/or high heeled is not Trade Days appropriate.
Y’all, study the map. Trust me on this. Have a plan and a general idea of how you want to spend your time. It can be overwhelming if you don’t.
Cash talks. But most of my favorite vendors were credit/debit card equipped.
Restrooms. They have them. Think public park style rest areas. But they weren’t porta-potties which makes them lean toward fancy. I didn’t use them. But they didn’t smell and I saw lots of folks going in and out. So they must be okay.
I had no trouble using my cell phone out there, but I’ve heard it can be a problem for some. Have a landmark place to meet if you get separated from your loved ones. You don’t really want to camp out there overnight.
Parking was $5 and entrance to the park is free. So if you have to cut the day short because of exhaustion, hunger or violent kid tantrums, you can call it a day without a lot of investment. There are several parking lots to choose from. Check the map to decide which area of the park you plan to focus on and find the closest parking lot to that. We lost our car and I was starving by the time we made it out of the badlands.
Bottom line… I’ll go back. But not in August.
post script… yes my sons own pocket knives and I make darn sure they don’t accidentally travel to school with them in a backpack. We don’t want to forever be labeled as THAT family that brought a deadly weapon to school. And rest in confidence that my boys are well trained, knife carrying boy scouts and use them only for the good of mankind. (Moms of tween and teen boys? You can now laugh at that inside joke.)