12 Fun Farmers Markets for Travelers
Find local flavor and tasty souveniers at destinations around the U.S.
by Christopher Hall, AARP, June 23, 2021
En español | America's farmers markets are more than colorful destinations where you can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables and local honey and jam. “For travelers, they're great places to sense a community's unique character,” says Ben Feldman, executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition, a national advocacy and support group. Plan a stop at one of these top open-air food fests — or any of the country's 8,000-plus markets — during your summer travels.
COVID-19 update: Before visiting a market, check its website, in case there are any pandemic-related restrictions, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current safe travel guidelines.
- 1 of
PHOTO BY: Gary Yost/CUESA
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (San Francisco, California)
This weekly market, a chefs’ favorite, includes about 100 vendors showcasing the region's prodigious variety of victuals — from summer treats like juicy peaches, Santa Rosa plums (Frog Hollow's are legendary) and heirloom tomatoes (Dirty Girl's are dry-farmed and intense) to citrus, avocados and olive oil. The market draws both shoppers and hungry diners in search of a porchetta sandwich from the Roli Roti food truck or a dozen oysters from Hog Island, and it all comes with sweeping views of the bay.
Where: Ferry Building
When: Saturdays, year-round; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (there are also smaller markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays)
- 2 of
PHOTO BY: PSU Farmers Market
PSU Farmers Market (Portland, Oregon)
The downtown, tree-shaded campus of Portland State University is home to this popular market with 120 high-season vendors. Berries are summertime stars: Oregon's own marionberries (a blackberry hybrid), blueberries, raspberries and a raft of strawberry varieties that begin in June with the state's beloved Hood strawberries. Money Bowl's Chinese-style rice balls with seasonal fillings and Verde Cocina's huevos rancheros are among the popular hot-food options. For souvenirs, consider Oregon hazelnuts from Freddy Guys or The Smokery's smoked Northwest salmon.
Where: SW Park and Montgomery
When: Saturdays, year-round; 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (opens at 9 a.m. November-March)
- 3 of
PHOTO BY: Richard Broadwell / Alamy Stock Photo
Santa Fe Farmers Market (New Mexico)
Starting in late July, a wave of red, green, orange and yellow chili peppers washes over this Saturday market at the Railyard, a thriving arts district. Get there early to score a lavender doughnut or breakfast burrito to fuel your perusal of foods from about 80 northern New Mexico growers/makers, including 400-year-old Santa Cruz Farm and multiple purveyors of honey. For a gorgeous, edible souvenir, you can't beat a ristra, a string of dried, deep-red peppers.
Where: The Railyard, 1607 Paseo de Peralta
When: Saturdays, year-round; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (opens at 7 a.m. June-September)
- 4 of
PHOTO BY: ASHTON RAY HANSEN
Boulder Farmers Market (Colorado)
From July into September, shoppers line up early for Morton Organic Orchards’ luscious cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines at this Boulder market, which offers views of the city's iconic Flatirons sandstone formations. You'll find plenty of other local eats, like pasture-raised bison meat from Sunrise Bison Ranch, Pastificio Boulder's heritage grain pasta, and Boulder Chips’ blue corn tortilla chips made of corn from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and fried in Colorado sunflower oil. There is also locally brewed kombucha, empanadas, tacos and pupusas. The market hosts artisan shows the second Saturday of every month.
Where: 13th Street between Canyon and Arapahoe
When: Saturdays, April-November; 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
- 5 of
PHOTO BY: Downtown Farmers Market
Downtown Farmers Market (Des Moines, Iowa)
Though the Des Moines market includes a large craft component, it also hosts a rotating roster of 177 vendors (as many as 165 at a time) selling fresh produce, plants, jams and ready-to-eat foods. Farmstead cow's milk cheese from Lost Lake Farm is popular, as are the baked goods, including cinnamon rolls and fruit pies from Mast Family Farm. In July and August, keep an eye out for just-picked corn, sold by Penick's Sweet Corn out of a pickup truck trailer.
Where: Historic Court District
When: Saturdays, May-October; 7 a.m.-noon (opens at 8 a.m. in October)
- 6 of
PHOTO BY: Dane County Farmers' Market
Dane County Farmers Market (Madison, Wisconsin)
During the height of its summer and fall run, this Saturday market in the shadow of the state's domed Capitol draws 140 vendors. You'll find loads of summer produce — check out the unique, old-world veggie varietals from Jones Valley Farm — but since this is Wisconsin, cheese abounds, whether in the form of a 15-year cheddar from Hook's Cheese Company, bags of squeaky and fresh cheese curds, or a warm loaf of spicy cheese bread from Stella's Bakery. There are also lots of arts and crafts vendors and street musicians performing. This year, on Sept. 25, the market transforms into an art fair. (Madison also has a smaller downtown market on Wednesdays.)
Where: Capitol Square
When: Saturdays, mid-June to mid-November; 6:15 a.m.-1:45 p.m.
- 7 of
PHOTO BY: Green City Market
Green City Market (Chicago)
The 50-plus vendors at this twice-weekly market in Lincoln Park come from an average of only 65 miles away. Tomato lovers flock here for the summer bonanza, and when that wanes, there's always the jarred, oven-roasted heirlooms from Tomato Bliss. Getting into September, pawpaws, a North American native fruit that tastes like a banana-mango cross, are highly prized. Noshables range from Underground Meats’ salami to killer grilled cheese sandwiches and scallion pancakes. If you're visiting friends or family in town, nab a homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Co. as a sweet houseguest gift.
Where: Lincoln Park, 1817 North Clark Street
When: Wednesdays and Saturdays, May-October; 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
- 8 of
PHOTO BY: ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
Memphis Farmers Market (Tennessee)
Watermelon, honeydew, peaches, strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, cut flowers and sweet corn from family operations like Whitton Farms and Falcon Ridge Farm are all high on shoppers’ summer lists at this Saturday market under an open-sided, downtown pavilion. Among the regional favorites are Memphis smoked hot sauce from Black Sheep Bottling, Mr. C's fried pork rinds, Lil’ Bit of Country's chow chow relish and watermelon rind pickles, and the peach cobbler-stuffed cinnamon rolls from 350 Baked.
Where: South Front Street
When: Saturdays, April-October; 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
- 9 of
PHOTO BY: City of Charleston
Charleston Farmers Market (South Carolina)
Upwards of 65 summer vendors offer prepared foods and Low Country produce (berries, tomatoes, peaches, melons and more) at this Saturday market on historic Marion Square. Charlestonians love to people-watch here, too, often while enjoying a wrap from Roti Rolls — maybe pickled local shrimp with butter bean chow chow — or a fruit-infused lemonade or iced tea from Low Country Lemonade. Popular souvenir options include creamed honey from R and R Acres and Carolina sea salt from Botany Bay. In fall, try the local apples and pecans.
Where: Marion Square, 329 Meeting Street
When: Saturdays, April-November; 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
- 10 of
PHOTO BY: Helen Sessions / Alamy Stock Photo
Peachtree Road Farmers Market (Atlanta)
A huge array of Georgia produce — all organic or certified naturally grown — can be found at this market on the grounds of the Cathedral of St. Philip. But it's no surprise that, come summer, one of the Peach State's largest producers-only markets, with about 50 food vendors, offers 20-plus varieties of fresh peaches, not to mention peach pastries (The Little Tart Bakeshop), frozen puree (Glass House Kitchen), hot sauce (Piedmont Provisions), popsicles (King of Pops) and other peachy treats.
Where: 2744 Peachtree Road, NW
When: Saturdays, March-December; 8:30-noon
- 11 of
PHOTO BY: Ellen Rooney / Alamy Stock Photo
Union Square Greenmarket (New York)
More than anything, the buzz of Manhattan and the breadth of offerings characterize this 165-vendor, producers-only market that started small back in 1976 and can now draw tens of thousands of visitors each market day. There are vegetables (and even pickles and sauces) from the nearby Black Dirt region (S. & S.O. Produce Farm); water buffalo milk, meat and cheese (Riverine Ranch); wild mid-Atlantic fish (PE & DD Seafood); and orchard fruits from the Hudson Valley (Locust Grove). Pick up wine, ciders and jams, and watch cooking demonstrations by area chefs. For snacking, don't miss the potato chips and melon popsicles from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm.
Where: Union Square, 14th Street and Broadway
When: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, year-round; 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
- 12 of
PHOTO BY: Frank Vetere / Alamy Stock Photo
Burlington Farmers Market (Vermont)
Along with crafters, upwards of 50 produce and prepared-food vendors populate this market in the South End neighborhood of this cool New England city on Lake Champlain. Highlights include June Farm's vibrant flowers, berries and jams from Adam's Berry Farm, and the state's famous maple products from multiple vendors (Brigham Hill Maple will even whirl you up a cloud of cotton candy). When it comes to hot foods, expect lines for the Taiwanese fare at Green Mountain Potstickers and the momo (Nepalese dumplings) from Sherpa Foods.
Where: 345 Pine Street
When: Saturdays, May-October; 9 a.m.-2 p.m.