Features

Taking in the many sights at North Las Vegas outdoor marketplace Broadacres

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Photo: Wade Vandervort
Photographs by Wade Vandervort

It’s a city within a city, a world unto itself. Broadacres Marketplace is true to its name. The seemingly endless maze of walkways offers an infinite bounty of anything that can be bought or sold (legally, of course). New and used items run the gamut: clothes, appliances and electronics, art and collectibles, furniture and household goods, toys and tools, knives, groceries and more. There are phone repair and haircut stands (men’s cuts go for $10). Even houses, cars and land are for sale.

“I like to tell people it’s half the size of Disneyland,” says marketing and events director Evelyn Sanchez. (Disneyland Park is 85 acres to Broadacres’ 44.) The former might be “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but that happiness comes at a steep price. With admission that tops out at $2.50 (kids get in free), Broadacres has its own appeal and its own motto: “where value and entertainment come together.”

Now in its 41st year, Broadacres Marketplace has adapted to compete in the age of Amazon. The 1,100 vendor spaces are buoyed by a robust live entertainment lineup and a cornucopia of food offerings—two areas where real life still beats the internet.

A permanent stage with covered seating and a café marks the center of the marketplace. With live entertainment every night, it acts as a hub and a stand-alone draw. The stage plays host to local artists, school district musical programs and numerous Latin bands.

Sanchez says the entertainment options tend to cater to the clientele, which is 90 percent Hispanic. While most the bands perform in Spanish, Broadacres has also hosted rock and country acts and even a Korean dance performance. In an era of increasing polarization, Broadacres Marketplace welcomes all.

Because it’s Vegas, the focus on live entertainment helps draw intrepid tourists, mainly from California, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii. “When people come to Vegas, they come for an experience,” Sanchez says. “Where other swap meets mainly focus on shopping, we’ve added that entertainment element to it: concerts, a food fair, a kids’ carnival area.”

Something must be working. Not counting children, Sanchez says that Broadacres draws 1.3 million customers a year.

Sweet Store

From the piñatas and bolsas de mandado (errand bags) dangling from the rafters, to the striped blankets that hang to the floor, numerous grocery stands tantalize the eyes with a rainbow of colorful temptations: Mexican-style tamarind sweets; bins of candied produce—plums, pineapples, pumpkins; roasted peanuts with inviting metal scoops; dehydrated banana slices; and buckets of tiny whole dried fish and shrimp that are eaten as snacks or used in traditional Mexican recipes. Don’t know where to start? For a sweet treat that’s similar to a peanut butter cup, try a Mazapán Cubierto de Chocolate (crumbly peanut marzipan covered in chocolate).

Food

Come with an open mind and an empty stomach. The culinary offerings at Broadacres—similar to all the marketplace’s offerings—are truly vast. Hundreds of food options can be found under the covered Broadacres Food Fair and sprinkled throughout the grounds. Sip on some sweet aguas frescas (fruit-infused waters) or a bestselling michelada (basically, beer with chili powder and Clamato juice) as you explore. Sure, you can order a pizza and burgers, but why not try something new? For example, nothing is more refreshing than a sandwich baggie full of tunas—no, not the fish. It’s the name for prickly pear cactus fruit, which is light green or purple and tastes like a cross between a kiwi and a honeydew melon. It comes peeled; eat it like an apple. You can’t go wrong with any of the traditional favorites: pupusas, empanadas, carnitas, tacos, burritos, tostadas and more. (With fresh-fried sopes, the standalone Sandra’s Mexican Restaurant is worth the trip). For an unforgettable snack, try the coconut stand. As you watch, vendors crack open a coconut, pour the juice into a cup, then chop off the pulp and serve it with your choice of toppings—from fruit and chili powder to cueritos (pickled pork rinds).

For the Kids

Las Vegas might be a playground for adults, but Broadacres Marketplace is place for families. That’s built into the very DNA of the venue. Children under 54 inches tall get free admission, and individual stalls are often rented out by multigenerational businesses with grandparents and kids pitching in. One family even runs the permanent carnival rides area. On the entertainment side, performers are required to be child-friendly, and you’ll often see children tearing up the dancefloor before their parents have had enough micheladas to dare venture out. Everything a kid could want or need—from toys to baby wipes to clothes and shoes—is for sale. There are traditional marionetas (marionettes), vintage video games and seemingly endless piles of used hard-plastic action figures, which must survive the ravages of child’s play better than other toys. One stall simply has a bunch of foosball tables that can be played for a nominal fee. It’s a place that will appeal to the kid in all of us.

Shop

If it’s your first time at Broadacres, it’s best to bring cash and no agenda. There are a few ATMs on location, and it’s possible that vendors take plastic, but you never know who will take what, which is part of the fun. The selection is broad but not specific, and the wares are always changing. Don’t bother searching for some random rare item—it’s a recipe for frustration—but do be open to discovering treasures you didn’t know you needed. Be respectful while haggling and conduct a quick price check on your phone to see if you’re getting a good deal.

Broadacres After Dark

For a completely different experience, visit Broadacres on Friday nights, when it opens late and stays open even later (4-11 p.m., as opposed to the weekend daytime hours). Even though the offerings are the same, it feels different after dark. Instead of a shopping day, it’s like date night. The warm lights of the individually lit stalls create a sense of cozy intimacy that doesn’t exist when the sun is blazing. Sunburns are off the table, and fear of heatstroke is replaced by the giddiness of the desert night air. With free parking and dirt-cheap admission, there’s no reason why you can’t try it both ways.

If you go

Plan to spend anywhere from a few hours to a full day at Broadacres. Because of the size, it’s easy to lose track of time and hard to leave in under a couple of hours.

Broadacres is mostly outside, so wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. If you forget to bring a hat, there are a ton of options for buying one there.

While Broadacres is open year-round, it’s much more comfortable when the weather is good.

You’ll do a lot of walking, so wear comfy clothes.

Hours: Friday, 4-11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 6 a.m.-5 p.m.

Cost: $2.50, ($1.50 on Saturdays), Children are free

Location: 2930 N. Las Vegas Blvd.

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