From heavily-populated foodie cities like San Francisco, New York City and Chicago to lesser-known hubs like Minnesota and Detroit, this list takes you across the country in search of the very best farmers markets. Grab your eco-friendly bags, your plaid shirt and a whole wad of cash (most of these places don't take cards) and hit the market!
Can we get a YEE-HAW for this four-day Austin Farmers Market? This giant farmers market takes place in three locations around this hipster, artsy city, downtown on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (at 4th and Guadalupe), in Sunset Valley on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (3200 Jones Road) and at the Triangle (46th and Lamar) on Wednesdays from 4 to 8 p.m. They just opened a Tuesday farmers market East (51st and Hwy 183). The market only features vendors and farmers within a 150 mile radius of the city, which ensures all of the food, produce and meat you find is the freshest and most local. The market has a distinct Southwestern and Mexican flair, and you can expect to find regional delicacies like creole pralines; pecans; heirloom zipper, black-eyed and purple peas as well as locally made empanadas and Oaxacan and Cuban food.
This once shattered car-making empire is slowly rebuilding its rep and its city by amping up their foodie profile. The Detroit Eastern market, which is located on Russell Street, is helping repair the city's once tarnished reputation through its national recognition, even a few spots on Travel Channel and Food Network's programming! This giant market has more than 250 local vendors and as many as 40,000 guests a week. You can expect to find just about anything in this market, dubbed an "urban adventure," from fresh-made jams to just-picked blueberries and blackberries to flowers and local grass-fed beef. Even though you come with a purpose, you may find yourself getting lost in the history and culture of the place, which has been around since 1891!
Portland was ranked as one of the top 10 cities for farmers markets in the U.S. by Travel and Leisure magazine, so it's pretty obvious why it made our list. The Portland Farmers Market is held at the Portland State University campus and has more than 130 vendors, farmers and producers. Open from March to December, this rather new market (founded in 1992) is a Saturday hot spot for Portland's foodies and locavores, as well as for some of Portland's finest chefs. During the spring and summer, you can expect to find many regionally grown treats, like raspberries and huckleberries, as well as fresh-caught Dungeness crab and soft sheep's-milk cheeses. In addition, since Portland has a thriving Asian influence, you can expect to find popular Asian greens like bok choy, yu choy and gilan (a Chinese broccoli).
This chilly Minnesota city isn't often seen as a top foodie city. However, after one look at their expansive, 167-stall Saturday farmers market, you'd rethink that observation. The St. Paul Farmers Market has one large market every Saturday, with multiple locations throughout the city every other day of the week (but Monday), so don't fret if you miss Saturday. Every vendor at each of the markets comes from a 75 mile radius to the city's core, which means you only get the freshest food. The top-selling springtime items are the organic asparagus bundles, bright bell peppers, tomatillos and hormone-free poultry. Whatever it is you are looking for, you are sure to find it at this 150-year-old market.
No wonder New York City is dubbed the city that never sleeps. They are too busy prepping their incredible farmers market on the north and west sides of Union Square Park. New Yorkers from all over (including celebrities and James Beard Award-winning chefs) flock to this 35-year-old market every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (the largest market day) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to score some fresh loot from the market's more than 80 vendors. You can find anything from locally grown and milled rye and cornmeal flour, fresh rabbit loin and wild-caught bluefish and squid to more unique items like emu and ostrich eggs, sold from Roaming Acres Farm.
If you find yourself in the Big Easy on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, then you have to check out their nationally recognized market, the Crescent City Farmers Market. The Saturday market is one of the largest and is held in the downtown warehouse district. The more than 30 vendors sell items, like Ponchatoula strawberries, buttercrunch lettuce and creole tomatoes. Plus, you can't go down to the Gulf without picking up some fresh-caught shrimp, wild catfish, and crabmeat. In addition to great food, the market always has live entertainment by local artists and cooking demonstrations put on by some of the city's top chefs.
If you want your food to taste like the amazing fare you eat at some of Los Angeles' top restaurants, go to where those chefs buy their ingredients — the Santa Monica Farmers Market located on Arizona Avenue. The largest day for the market is Wednesday, and that is when you can find local celebrities, chefs and foodies scouring the aisles in search of the best locally grown produce. Some of the top items for purchase are the Rainier cherries, snow peas, nectarines, California avocados and strawberries and organically grown herbs. Travel and Leisure recommends you stop by the Windrose Farms stand to pick up some smoked tomatoes and peppers.
San Francisco was voted the No. 2 food city in the U.S. by Travel and Leisure magazine, so it's clear they know a little something about good eats. Their nationally acclaimed farmers market, the Ferry Plaza Market, is open year-round and offers amazing local fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood and specialty items (like oils and herbs) from more than 85 vendors. The waterfront market is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with the largest crowds (up to 25,000 people) on Saturday. Vendors sell popular California produce, like avocados, strawberries, figs and cactus pears, as well as some other local favorites, like Korean street food and seaweed wrapped short ribs.
The Windy City has more than just Millennium Park and Navy Pier. Their top-quality market, the Green City Market, is one of the best farmers markets in the country. Between May and October, the market (located at the south end of Lincoln Park), features 55 stalls full of local and sustainable goods from Illinois vendors. The market is known for their incredible selection of grass-fed and hormone-free poultry and beef, as well as organic micro-greens and fancy artisanal cheeses. You can go to the indoor or outdoor market on Saturdays (from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) or on Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also have chef demonstrations and large picnics (like last week's Chef's BBQ) to keep you full and occupied during your shopping.
It's hard for the University District Farmers Market not to reign supreme in our lineup, they did win the coveted No. 1 spot in Travel and Leisure's best farmers market survey. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., more than 60 vendors congregate in the University Heights Community Center playground to sell their meats, cheese, produce and herbs, spices and oil. The market, which is open year-round, also has live music, cooking demonstrations, cooking contests and festivals. Chefs, coffee lovers and Seattle natives are often found stocking up on the fresh selection of Alaskan spot prawns, Pacific oysters, pork, berries, zucchini and an array of edible plants from the local wet forests, like morels and truffles. No matter what you buy, every item sold at the market is grown, raised and produced within Washington state.
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