Any place featuring the word “Original” in its title is worth checking out. Although this wording may inadvertently lead you to a tourist trap, it doesn’t diminish the fact that these places are usually a historical treasure.
I decided to visit Los Angeles’ Original Farmer’s Market one Friday afternoon during my commute home from work. It was quite the spontaneous decision actually – I was working offsite most of that week and drove past it on the new route I was taking. At the end of that week I decided to pull over and walk around; what I saw there was nothing short of magical.
The Farmer’s Market, located in the LA’s Fairfax district right next to the CBS Television studio lot, first opened in July of 1934. Unlike other farmer’s markets, it is a permanent installation open every day of the week. Unbeknownst to myself, it is connected to the Grove outdoor shopping mall by an electric streetcar. I’ve been to the Grove countless times, but never ventured far enough down the mall to see the Farmer’s Market.
Here are the highlights:
- It is a beautiful space hidden away in a type of alleyway courtyard. It may be difficult to find it you aren’t paying attention, but the Market’s isolation within a pretty poppin’ area of LA adds to its allure.
- The décor and layout gives off an antique vibe, though nothing looks old, run-down, or dirty.
- There are tons of stands with ethnic cuisines, including a couple of Brazilian BBQ joints. Some stalls also offer fresh produce and seafood; others sell specialty goods and treats.
- Visiting the Farmer’s Market can be a quick, limited engagement, or an extended event for socializing with friends. I went there to walk around, but there were a lot of friends and families gathered for a Friday evening meal.
- Parking is free for 90 minutes with validation from virtually every stand in the Market. I bought a baguette from one of the French bakeries and had my validation covered, all for about $3.
- There aren’t many cons, but as a pescatarian the dining options seemed to be limited.
- It wasn’t very crowded on a Friday early evening, but I can imagine that it would be busy on weekends or during lunchtime. The Farmer’s Market is contained to a relatively small space and the walkways are very narrow. Avoid going during the rush times if you don’t want to brush shoulders with strangers.
Price: Entry to the Farmer’s Market is free. As stated above, 90 minute parking is free with validation. Otherwise, parking will cost $3 for the first 15 minutes and $1 for each additional 15 minutes thereafter, with a maximum fee of $24. It is also accessible through public transportation – take bus 14 or 16 from Downtown LA.
Vendor prices are a little higher than, say, a normal grocery store or fast food eatery. They aren’t outrageous, but keep in mind that these stands are small businesses AND are in a premium location. People sometimes equate Farmer’s Markets with Flea Markets – note that nothing here is a knock-off or offered at a discount. The experience is different than going to a restaurant or shopping at Trader Joe’s; seating is community-style and the selection will be limited. However, I think it’s a worthwhile way to support local businesses and experience a rich part of LA history and culture.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! If I lived closer I would visit the Farmer’s Market at least once a week. It’s clean, it’s safe, and it’s fun. There is no other place in LA like it and it’s worth a visit whether you’re a tourist or a local. Tucked away in a ritzy part of town, the Original Farmer’s Market is a relic of old Los Angeles not to be overshadowed by the Grove and Hollywood glamour. Meet Me at Third & Fairfax!