When they say everything is bigger and better in Texas, they could have just been referring to the Round Top Antiques + Design Show. The shows (there are three each year) currently span more than 11 miles on both sides of Highway 237 and grow larger with every passing season. Thousands of vendors and hundreds of thousands of attendees participate in the shows each spring and fall, with the latest more laid-back Winter Show starting this Thursday, January 18.

It all can be daunting for first-timers planning a Round Top visit.

This is The Beginner’s Guide to the Round Top Antiques Shows, packed with tips, tricks and simple best practices for navigating the largest antiques shows in the United States. 

PREPARE

— Check the forecast before heading out, but be prepared for the weather to change on a dime. Weather in Round Top can range from unseasonably warm to freezing temperatures (in the heart of the winter), and from bright sunshine to rain. All in the same day. High, gusty winds are also common in the Round Top countryside. Your hairdo likely will not survive it.

— Wear sunscreen and/or a hat, and dress in layers that can easily be removed (and put back on). Choose comfortable shoes that are mud, gravel and pasture proof for shopping. Don’t be a hero. Save your fancy kicks for those special antiques show dinners and cocktails.

— There will be plenty of opportunities to wet your whistle at both the venues and local restaurants and bars, but carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

— If you are hydrating properly, chances are you’ll need to use the bathroom at a few stops. Most of the Round Top antique venues have permanent bathrooms with proper hand washing stations, but port-a-potties are a reality in the fields. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer just to be safe. 

— Permanent public restrooms are also available in Round Top’s town square and at Henkel Square Market.

— Be sure you gas up or fully charge your vehicle before you hit town. On busy days you may be sitting in a little traffic on Highway 237. Round Top Mercantile Company has the only gas station in town. Also known as The Merc, it is very busy during the shows and closes early in the evenings.

Currently, the closest EV charging station to Round Top is in the town of La Grange (about 16 miles away).

Round Top Texas site of Antiques Show and traffic
Tents and traffic are a reality at Spring and Fall Round Top Antiques + Design Shows.

PARKING

— Parking surfaces vary in Round Top. Many are pastures paved with gravel, uneven grass, or dirt. If it rains, be careful where you park or you might get stuck. If you do get stuck, don’t worry too much. This is Texas and there is always a friendly person with a big truck and tow cables nearby who has been waiting for this moment.

— Most parking is free and ample, but some venues charge. Rates vary from $5 to $15, cash only. The Original Round Top Antiques Fair (aka Big Red Barn) and Marburger Farm Antiques Show are two venues that always charge for parking. Both are totally worth the price of admission.

— Don’t park in borrow ditches. You will be towed.

— Be courteous. Don’t block dumpsters, private driveways, or gates.

— The antiques fields at Warrenton can blend together easily. Pay attention to landmarks, take a photo of where you park or drop a GPS pin to ensure you can find your way back. Or can at least describe the location so someone can give you directions.

FOOD, DRINKS AND LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

— There are plenty of places to find sustenance, both at the venues and the year-round squares (The 550 Market, Henkel Square Market, Rolland Square, Minden Square). Unless you have your heart set on eating at popular restaurants like Royers Cafe (reservations required) or Mandito’s (there might be a wait), stop and eat where you are when you are hungry. Don’t overthink it. The food at the venues is generally great.

— Many restaurants, bars and venues will offer live entertainment throughout the antiques shows. Most entertainment is free, but some events including special dinner experiences are ticketed. Check the calendar inside the seasonal Round Top Antiques + Design Show Guide to find out where the live acts and special events will be held and whether or not you will need a reservation.

image-14
Toasting the sunset at the Bader Ranch venue with William Beckmann (Photo by Ashlee Newman Photography)

BABIES, CHILDREN & PETS

— Round Top is family friendly, but bringing very young children and infants to the shows can be a challenge. There is a lot of car riding and walking involved on all kinds of terrain, in all kinds of weather. Changing tables are scarce, and venues are not baby-proofed. There are often sharp, heavy and very delicate, and/or expensive items on display. A lot of it is precariously placed. 

— Consider visiting Round Top on a non-show weekend if you have very young family members. Traffic is non-existent and strolling the year-round shopping squares is manageable for most kids. Henkel Square Market is particularly well-suited for young kids and pets as there is plenty of outdoor room to roam. Bonus: all the shops on the squares have climate control. 

— Many of the outdoor venues are pet friendly, but you will need to bring supplies to clean up after your best friend and they will need to be leashed at all times. There is a constant stream of traffic entering and exiting the venues during show times, and many venues are located close to the highway so keep a close watch on your four-legged friend. 

SHOP LIKE A PRO

Dashing through the tents at Marburger Farm Antiques Show ois one Round Top event to treasure, Marburger opening day is coming this fall.
Dashing through the tents at Marburger Farm Antique Show is one Round Top event to treasure. (Photo by Mike Turner)

— Bring a shopping list with measurements of your home and a tape measure, but be prepared to go off script. Round Top has a way of introducing one to things one never knew one wanted.

— Set your budget. Then double it and withdraw cash to bring with you. Most dealers accept credit cards, but cash is still the best bargaining tool. 

— See something you like, but want to shop around for a better deal? Take a photo of the item and get the vendor’s contact information. Also take a photo of the outside of the tent or building where you saw the item. Then cross your fingers and hope it will still be there when you return. Chances are it won’t.

— Want to buy a large item, but don’t have room for it in your ride? Now you know why everyone brings a truck or full-size SUV to the Round Top Antiques Shows, but it’s OK if you didn’t. Ask the venue if they offer shipping services. Several of them do, or can provide a delivery contact.

— If you overspent and are carrying so many items that you need to leave a purchase with a vendor to pick up later, take a picture of the merchandise and keep the receipt to show the dealer when you return. Vendors meet a lot of people during the shows, and you may not be as memorable as you think.

— Consider bringing a foldable rolling cart or wagon. That way you can carry more items and avoid leaving things behind, or having to backtrack.

THE ROUND TOP WINTER SHOW

— If the fall and spring shows seem overwhelming, consider attending the The Round Top Winter Antiques + Design Show. Held in mid-January — this Thursday, January 18 through Sunday, January 21 this year — the weather at the Winter Show is still unpredictable. However, the scale of the show is much smaller, less busy and generally much more manageable. 

— A mini winter Show Guide is published in the December issue of Round Top Magazine each year to help navigate this more intimate, laid-back affair. Read RoundTop.com’s Guide here.

The final tip is to pick up a Round Top Antiques + Design Show Guide as soon as you arrive on the scene. Show Guides are available at many in-town lodging options, stores and vendors. The guide includes detailed maps, schedules and descriptions of the major venues and what they offer. In addition, there are restaurant, bar and lodging lists if you need recommendations on where to shop, stay, eat and grab a cocktail. A year-round guide is also available online right here.