Wander around a farmer's market to pass a pleasant Saturday afternoon in October or a Thursday night in July. Shop for fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, or browse for handcrafted jewelry and independent boutique-style clothing while a local band provides the background tunes. The United States and Canada are chock-full of farmer's markets, and even the smallest towns will usually throw something together at least once a week in summer. But the best farmer's markets offer more than just plump peaches, ripe tomatoes, and fresh-cut flowers. They also offer a unique factor -- a historical legacy, social-scene atmosphere, or regional specialties. The markets you'll read about here set the bar a little higher.
Location: Kerrytown neighborhood; Ann Arbor, Michigan
When to Go: Open year-round on Saturdays; open May-December on Wednesdays; open June-October Wednesday evenings
What to Look For: Seasonal produce is always a hit, including Michigan asparagus and tomatoes. There's always a rich bounty of fruit in the summer, including local strawberries, blueberries, and melons. Watch for an amazing variety of local cheeses, baked goods, and flowers.
Why It's Unique: The Ann Arbor Farmers Market has been operating within the community for 95 years, serving between 5,000 and 8,000 people on any given Saturday. With strong community values, the market welcomes customers participating in food assistance programs. In addition to the farmer's market, an Artisan Market that features original, handmade works by local artists and crafters operates in the same location every Sunday. The annual HomeGrown Festival in September is a grassroots community event showcasing the best of the region's local food, drink, and music.
Location: Adjacent to the corner of Park Ave. and Second St. near the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum; Minneapolis
When to Go: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., May through September; Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in October
What to Look For: Crepes by Spoonriver, creamy coconut macaroons from Salty Tart Bakery, Bliss granola, dry and cured products from Red Table Meat Co., and body care products from Worker B. Also look for locally made jewelry and clothing.
Why It's Unique: Founded in 2006 by local restaurant owner, chef, and educator Brenda Langton in collaboration with the Mill City Museum, the market promotes healthy foods and local farmers alongside the Mississippi riverfront in the Mill District of Minneapolis. Its mission of inspiring and nurturing a healthy community by building a local, sustainable, and organic food economy means visitors can expect living cooking demonstrations and food tastings.
Location: Downtown Ottawa; Ontario, Canada
When to Go: The market is only closed two days each year -- Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Otherwise, enjoy outdoor vendors during daylight hours.
What to Look For: Offerings vary with the season, although items like maple syrup, cut flowers, and arts and crafts are found year-round. Expect fresh local and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Additionally, around Christmas, there are trees and decorations on display.
Why It's Unique: Founded in the 1820s, this is one of Canada's oldest continuously operating farmer's markets. It's also one of the country's largest. The streets around ByWard Market are extra wide, which was party of the city's original design to accommodate produce-filled wagons and gathering spaces. Unique signage is assigned to the outdoor vendors: A green sign means the vendor is selling homegrown products; a yellow sign indicates at least 60 percent of the vendor's offerings are homegrown.
Location: Main St. from 3rd to 7th streets; Grand Junction, Colorado
When to Go: This market is open between mid-June and mid-September. It operates on Thursday evenings during its 15-week run.
What to Look For: Don't miss the locally grown produce, including juicy Palisade peaches, cherries, strawberries, and cantaloupe. Veggies include sweet corn and plump red tomatoes. Vendors sell arts and crafts, and live music adds spirited evening entertainment.
Why It's Unique: Because this farmer's market is held on Thursday evenings, it has a social, "date night" atmosphere. The market features live entertainment, art demos, sidewalk sales, artists and craftspeople, and food vendors, along with the delicious locally grown produce.
Location: Railyard District; Santa Fe
When to Go: The market is held year-round on Saturdays, and on Tuesdays May through November.
What to Look For: During planting season, pay a visit to the market nursery to stock up on herbs and potted vegetables and flowers. After the fall harvest, nab fresh-roasted Hatch chile peppers.
Why It's Unique: This large farmer's market has more than 150 active vendors year-round. But its unique factor comes from the Southwest flavors and style. Taste samples of mesquite cactus honey, buffalo sausages, and spicy mustard. Food stalls serve local specialties including green chile breakfast burritos and pork tamales.
Location: On the Portland State University Campus; Portland, Oregon
When to Go: Saturdays year-round
What to Look For: Local chefs stock up on fruits and veggies for nightly menus. The breakfast vendors are worth waking early for try the spicy Southwest-style breakfast burritos and organic crepes stuffed with sweet and savory ingredients.
Why It's Unique: This market features more than 150 of the best producers and farmers in the area, selling free-range yak cuts, Italian chestnuts, homemade pasta, and more. Vendors also offer hot meals, and live music fills the air. In summer, Portland has no fewer than seven affiliated farmer's markets, but the Portland State University market is the only year-round operator.
Location: Overlooking Elliott Bay waterfront; Seattle
When to Go: The market is open daily. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
What to Look For: This market focuses on produce and crafts from local growers and producers. Keep an eye out for beeswax candles, rose body butter, and wild mushrooms and berries. Local Seattle chefs often give cooking demonstrations.
Why It's Unique: Pike Place Market has been in operation since August 1907, making it one of the oldest continuously operating farmer's markets in the country. The market is in the same vicinity as Seattle's famous fish market, as well as a meat, dairy, and crafts market.
Location: 9th St. and Grand Ave.; downtown Glenwood Springs, Colorado
When to Go: The market runs every Tuesday from late spring through early fall.
What to Look For: From Colorado wines to seasonal fruits and vegetables, it's all about local goods and produce at the Glenwood market. Look for cherries, eggplant, green beans, basil, and tomatoes.
Why It's Unique: Beyond selling produce, the Glenwood market offers a community vibe. Cooking demonstrations are a mainstay, and crowds gather to learn how to prepare a variety of dishes. Music is also front and center: A different band is featured each week of the season.
Location: Capitol Hill neighborhood (225 7th St., SE); Washington, D.C.
When to Go: Daily. On Saturdays and Sundays, local producers participate in the Farmers' Line, which is an additional fruit and vegetable market on the grounds.
What to Look For: For fresh produce, flowers, and baked goods, head inside to the South Hall Market. Other notable edibles include fresh seafood, grass-fed meat, and homemade pasta.
Why It's Unique: In the heart of Washington, D.C.'s revitalized Capitol Hill neighborhood, Eastern Market has been serving as a community gathering spot since 1873. The bustling market, which has both an indoor and outdoor component, offers more variety than the average farmer's market. More than 100 stalls focus on handmade arts and crafts, jewelry, and specialty import items like intricately carved African masks.
Location: Heritage Square; Santa Monica, California
When to Go: Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays
What to Look For: Cozy up to more than 75 stalls packed with fresh local produce, plus meats, dairy, flowers, and artisanal goods. A rotating weekly restaurant is on site at a pop-up venue. Don't skip the fresh-squeezed juice vendor.
Why It's Unique: Chefs from Los Angeles drive to Santa Monica to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. The market's live music and cool location in Heritage Square make it a great place to wander on weekend mornings. Don't leave without a bite to eat from one of the many vendors serving made-to-order hot meals.