The Golden State’s farms may stretch well into the countryside, but many of California’s best farmers' markets sit right within the bustle of the biggest cities. On any day of the week, go where the top chefs and locals go for their produce—and see the amazing bounty that is California agriculture in a single swoop. Here are the don’t-miss farmers' markets in California’s 10 biggest cities (year-round, unless otherwise stated), listed north to south, along with a few notable smaller-city markets.
Central Farmers’ Market, Sacramento
The biggest market in California’s capital city—with over 120 vendors, offering countless peppers, fruits, mushrooms and rainbow-hued cauliflower—convenes year-round at the underpass of U.S. 50 (look up to see how the ceiling has been emblazoned with a blue-sky mural). Other markets happen in Sacramento almost every day during the summer; one is the Capital Mall Market, which features food trucks at lunchtime.
Temescal Farmers’ Market, Oakland
The market in this restaurant-filled neighbourhood is foodie favourite: While you peruse the produce, get a coffee from Blue Bottle and a croissant-like kouign amann from Starter Bakery, which has earned a cult following.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
The city’s 1890s ferry terminal has been reborn as a remarkable food hall focusing on local-artisan food purveyors. It also hosts a huge farmers’ market, a favourite of area chefs in this ultimate foodie city. Come on Thursdays for street foods like tacos and pizza; on Saturdays, sample wares from local restaurants.
Downtown and Japantown Markets, San Jose
Fridays and Sundays
The Friday market (May through November) at San Pedro Square offers fresh produce, artisanal breads and gifts and some offbeat Silicon Valley tech—like the occasional Blender Bike, which you can pedal to make your own smoothie. On Sundays the Japantown Marketoffers diverse veggies—like great daikon (white radish), won bok, and bok choy—along with artisanal breads and barbecue.
Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings
Even Alice Waters has claimed to be a fan of this twice-weekly Central Valley market, which resides under a cathedral-like canopy of trellises. Look for local peaches, plums and nectarines, along with heirloom tomatoes, artisanal cheeses, and pastries.
Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays
Celebrity sightings are almost as common as just-picked strawberries—plus basil, quince, snowpeas and more—at this party-like market with three locations. Word is that L.A.’s A-list chefs tend to shop at Wednesday’s market on Arizona Avenue between 4th & Ocean.
This L.A. County market runs as late as 8 p.m. during the summer—a nice way to catch a sunset and also take in some Long Beach history: The coastal location was the site of the 1932 Olympic rowing competition and the 1968 Olympic rowing trials. These days you’ll also find local produce, prepared food and live music.
The Orange County city’s Center Street Promenade is closed to cars for this lunchtime and afternoon market. It truly becomes a stroll-able promenade through produce vendors—lots of avocados, citrus and herbs—crafts, and prepared foods like tamales, barbecue and roasted corn.
Little Italy Mercato, San Diego
Tucked on one side of downtown, the San Diego neighbourhood of Little Italy is already a foodie magnet (with such restaurants as Juniper & Ivy and Craft & Commerce), and this market may feature as much prepared food as produce. After looking over the fruits and veggies, don’t miss the artisanal breads, gourmet guacamole, vegan bacon and greens-rich smoothies.
The Valley Farmers’ Market, on Golden State Avenue, is the biggest and oldest market in this Central Valley hub; it stretches beyond produce into jellies, olive oil, soy candles and jewellery. Brimhall, meanwhile, focuses on small farms and more gourmet fare.
Want to go a little more small-town? Here are cool markets in four smaller cities:
Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons
This wildly popular market has incredible produce (look for unusual Asian fruits and vegetables), entertainment and cooking demos. The “Picnic in the Park” market (Wednesday evenings from mid-March through October) includes a wine and beer garden, music and kids’ activities.
Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market, San Luis Obispo
This Higuera Street market is a weekly street fair, with more than 120 farmers and vendors: Come to look at the Central Coast fruits and veggies, and stay for the live music and dinner choices like sushi, pizza or barbecue.
Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Markets, Santa Barbara
State Street is the city’s main shopping street any day, but Tuesday it comes alive with chef-magnet produce—like local olives, pistachios and seasonal fruit pies from nearby Solvang—and live music. The city has five others days’ worth of markets, too.
Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays
The desert metro area has a trio of markets—in Palm Springs as well as Palm Desert and La Quinta. (Good news: The markets move indoors, with air-conditioning, during the summer). Look for local dates, avocados and grapes, as well as lavender and fresh-made tamales.
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