Shopping may be a favorite vacation pastime, but there's no reason to limit it to outlet malls and souvenir shops. Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, stars of the History channel show American Pickers, say if you venture beyond the obvious places, you'll find something unique. "Everybody has a little bit of the treasure hunter in them," Wolfe says. He and Fritz share with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY some favorite cities for picking and browsing antiques stores and flea markets.
Wolfe owns a shop in Nashville, a city he says is prime for picking. "There are a lot of regional things: pottery, folk art, face jugs, Coca Cola advertising. A lot of things you'd never see in New York." Shoppers should stroll the antiques mall in nearby Franklin or visit the monthly flea market at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. The informal sales are part of Southern life, he says. "It's cornbread, green beans and flea markets." 800-657-6910; visitmusiccity.com
Wolfe owns a shop and lives in this small Mississippi River town, which has attracted a critical mass of antiques dealers and shoppers. "The show is bringing so many people into town," Wolfe says. "When there's one shop, it's hard to draw business, but when there are 10 to 15, they all come." 563-289-4242, ext. 1135; visitleclaire.com
The historic port city is one of the best places in the country to find antiques and collectibles. "Philly is a treasure trove," Wolfe says. "People are renovating block after block and the most amazing things are coming out." You'll find good stock on the city's Historic Antique Row, or at the 30-acre Rice's Sale & Country Market in nearby New Hope, Penn. 800-537-7676, visitphilly.com
Red Wing, Minn.
Wolfe loves this city, and not only for its famous stoneware, which is popular with collectors. One of his greatest finds was a toy that shot off caps and was designed to look like President McKinley. He bought it for $17 and later sold it for $800. No guarantees, but you can begin your treasure hunt at shops in the city's Historic Pottery District. 800-498-3444; redwing.org
A historic river city and manufacturing center, St. Louis has all the ingredients for prime picking. Wolfe recommends visiting Cherokee Street in the Soulard neighborhood. "From one end to the other, it's full of antiques and junk shops. Nothing's dusted off. They're looking to flip things right away," Wolfe says. 800-916-0040; explorestlouis.com
While Wolfe and Fritz are Midwesterners, they've recently ventured to the Pacific Northwest, a place good for maritime antiques, timber and cowboy items and commercial goods. Visitors can mix sightseeing and shopping by visiting the Seattle Antiques Market, near the Seattle Aquarium and the city's historic waterfront. 866-732-2695; visitseattle.org
The Motor City offers a windfall for antiques hunters, particularly folks like Wolfe who love items with a transportation theme. "There was so much manufacturing based there," he says. Warehouse items often find their way to local shops. Russell Bazaar, for example, has 130 merchants in a 90,000-square-foot space. 800-338-7648; visitdetroit.com
When it comes to shopping, everything indeed is bigger in Texas, Fritz says. "They have huge, huge sales. You can find anything there. He particularly likes the bi-annual Antique Alley sale that stretches along 37 miles of roads near Waxahachie and Cleburne, south of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Next date: Sept. 21-23. antiquealleytexas.com
Fritz calls this historic waterfront New England city antique-friendly. "There is an abundance of stuff and lots of shops," he says. "It's a really neat town with a lot of history." The city has monthly antiques auctions, and Fritz also suggests hitting nearby towns like Northwood, with about 10 shops in a three-mile stretch. 603-610-5510; portsmouthchamber.org
St. Charles, Ill.
With lots of people and lots of wealth, the Chicago region has historically been a good place to shop - and look for castoffs, Fritz says. "People had funds to buy things, and a lot of stuff was built there." A standout stop is the regularly scheduled Kane County Flea Market and the antiques stores in the town of St. Charles, about an hour west of Chicago. 800-777-4373; visitstcharles.com