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Saugus swap meet

The Rose Bowl might have the most popular flea market in Southern California, but its reputation comes with a steep admission price of $8 to $20. For more than 40 years, however, there's been a weekly and less crowded alternative at the Saugus Speedway and Swap Meet in Santa Clarita -- with a top entrance fee of $1.50.

Hundreds of sellers and thousands of buyers converge nearly every Sunday and Tuesday, rain or shine, to sift through overstock items or goods out of attics and garages. (Smoke and fire in the general area, however, might be a different story, so call ahead to check conditions if you intend to hit the swap meet today.)

The mishmash of the Saugus meet encompasses the kitsch of Olvera Street (humorous T-shirts en español and luchador masks), Chinatown and Little Tokyo (buddhas and bonsai plants) with a collectibles market. Some of the interesting older finds on a recent Sunday included Bee Gees and Care Bears lunchboxes, the "Footloose" soundtrack on vinyl, a 1950s Zenith radio and record player for $59 and asbestos irons, which are old-fashioned pressing irons (they make great paperweights).

People who aren't as interested in roaming the aisles, a.k.a. husbands, can keep busy by listening to live music on Sundays or watching a football game at one of the beer stands. On the first Sunday of the month, antiques appraisers are on hand for a few hours to evaluate items, à la "Antiques Roadshow."

Although the Internet has become fierce competition for outdoor flea markets and swap meets like Saugus', there's at least one thing that the open-air market has that EBay doesn't: instant gratification. Until online sellers discover a way to teleport items to your front door, there's still room for collectible hunting and bargain shopping the old-fashioned way. (22500 Soledad Canyon Road, Saugus. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun., $1.50 admission; 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Tue., free. [661] 259-3886,

Nearby respites

After a hard day's shopping, Chi-Chi's Pizza (23043 Soledad Canyon Road, [661] 259-4040, -- a local chain marking its 50th anniversary -- can hit the spot.

Two Indian restaurants are also close. The Tandoori Grill (23360 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita, [661] 288-1200, is the older and more casual, and it's known for its lunch buffet and weekend Champagne brunches. Karma Restaurant Bar & Lounge (23460 Cinema Drive, Valencia, [661] 288-0080, is swankier, with a more Hollywood than hometown atmosphere.

Ziemba is a freelance writer.

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