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Best State Fairs in the US

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Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.

Going to a State Fair

When is the State Fair?

Excited about the state fair? Can't wait for the food, exhibits, concerts, or rides your state fair has to offer?

Most state fairs occur across the United States from mid-summer until late fall. These fairs were designed to showcase what each state has to offer in terms of agricultural items, from farm equipment to farm animals. They also have handmade craft items and many other exhibits, like those from fair sponsors or local clubs or groups.

Today, fairs also include a carnival-like atmosphere, with rides, games, and a lot of food to entice a younger crowd. They are family friendly and for the most part affordable.

Learn about what state fairs have to offer, from their exhibits, foods, concerts, and more!

Largest State Fairs

Some of the largest state fairs in the United States, based on attendance.
Source: Forbes .com

Largest State Fairs

Minnesota State Fair

Iowa State Fair

New York State Fair

Wisconsin State Fair

Indiana State Fair

Ohio State Fair

California State Fair

State Fair Prices

If you're going to visit a state fair, expect to spend a minimum of about $20. State fair prices vary from $6-$10 or more to enter, depending on which fair you visit. There may be other costs as well. Many state fairs charge a fee to park which is usually around $3-$5. Most fairs will charge separately for rides, games, and foods as well.

Of course, if you are visiting the fair with your family, you may want to have more in your wallet. Often, kids under 10-12 are free, but you may spend quite a bit on rides and games for them.

Discount State Fair Tickets

Most state fairs offer discounted tickets at local stores or other venues. Also, check the local newpapers or online for coupons. If you purchase a ticket early online, it will be at a discounted price. Senior citizens may also get a discount if they show proof of age.

State Fair Hours

Many state fairs are open for a week or more and operate from mid-morning until a few hours after sunset.

Visit your state fair's website for specific dates and hours.

Hours for the State Fair

State Fair Grounds

Since state fairs tend to be pretty large, they need a lot of space to spread out. Most fairgrounds sprawl in the middle of a large property with both indoor and outdoor venues. Some use a large arena or complex to house the fair, especially if it is not during the summer or fall seasons.

For instance, the PA Farm Show, which is Pennsylvania's State Fair, is held in January inside a large complex that houses an arena plus plenty of space for livestock and exhibits. The California State fair uses a large property with indoor and outdoor exhibits and shows.

Some fair grounds will have paved parking while others will have field parking where things can get pretty dirty and muddy. Be mindful of this when visiting your state fair!

State Fair Exhibits

Since state fairs are about the agricultural achievements of the state, you'll find plenty of farming exhibits, along with farm animals, farm fresh produce, and farm equipment.

State fairs also support handmade goods, so you will see hand crafted items such as furniture, home decorations, crafts, or holiday décor.

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To cater to everyone, though, there are often exhibits that are not all about farming. Often times sponsors will bring their goods and have examples for people to try. There are also hunting exhibits, particularly if you live in a state where deer or small game hunting is popular.

On the carnival side of the fair, usually by the games and rides, you'll find bizarre exhibits like the 'freak' shows with the 'world's smallest human' or the half-animal, half-human creatures. These can be seen for a small price, separate from the admission price.

Bizarre Fair Foods

Fried pickles and fried Oreos at a fair.

Fried pickles and fried Oreos at a fair.

State Fair Foods

At state fairs there is a great variety of foods. Here are some of the most common and popular fair foods:

  • blooming onion
  • funnel cake
  • corn dogs
  • fried Oreos
  • fried cheesecake
  • hamburgers
  • sausage and peppers
  • apple dumplings
  • French fries, with or without cheese
  • pizza
  • ice cream
  • elephant ears
  • roasted corn-on-the-cob

Of course, the foods list wouldn't be complete without the bizarre kinds of foods you find at fairs, such as:

  • deep fried gizzards
  • deep fried pickle on a stick
  • fried butter on a stick
  • deep fried pb&j sandwich
  • fried beer
  • frozen pickle pop
  • python kabobs

State Fair Rides

State fair rides are very much like carnival rides, although sometimes larger due to the extra space a state fair provides.

There are the usual rides, like the Ferris Wheel, merry-go-round, tilt-a-whirl, or swings, but you may also find rides that give you a tour of the fair, such as a sky ride or a horse and carriage ride. There are also fun rides for the kids, like a mini-roller coaster, cars on a track, or the ever popular pony rides.

For those who like to test their limits and seek adventure, there are also rides such as the rides that spin high up in the air, bungee jumping rides, or helicopter rides.

Of course, all rides at a fair are usually a separate price from the admission price. Also, be mindful of the safety of the rides. Being that most of the rides are carnival rides, they are assembled and taken down quite often, making them not as sturdy as an amusement park ride. Plus, they may not be subject to inspection as would amusement park rides.

Rides at the California State Fair

Concerts at State Fairs

Sugarland performing at the Delaware State Fair.

Sugarland performing at the Delaware State Fair.

State Fair Concerts

Since state fairs often bring in big crowds, they are great venues for concerts or shows. Many big-name stars, especially country stars like Sugarland, or Keith Urban, have concerts at state fairs.

There are also comedy acts or other performances at state fairs. Jeff Dunham and Weird Al Yankovich have been at fairs.

To find out who may be performing at your state fair, visit the state fair's website and look for concert information and tickets.

Keep in mind that the price of a concert or show ticket is often separate from the admission price of the fair.

Are You Going to the Fair?

Visiting a State Fair

Before you go to the fair, think about the weather, whether it is indoors or outdoors, and whether you need to bring anything extra with you.

Clothing should be comfortable and appropriate for the weather. If you will be visiting the livestock exhibits, remember that there may be mud, hay, and some 'cow pies', so wear the appropriate kinds of shoes, preferably a pair that you won't mind getting dirty. Also, bring along a light jacket if the weather is going to be cool and you will be outside.

If you are bringing kids, you might want to consider a wagon or a stroller to carry both them and any supplies you might need, like diapers, wipes, or an extra set of clothes.

Bring a camera along if you want to capture the memories or document your trip. The photos can be great additions to family or travelling scrapbooks, or they can be shared with friends and family online.

Have fun visiting your state fair!

©ThePracticalMommy

Comments

Lara C. on September 08, 2015:

I wish I were able to go to the Michigan state fair this year! I live here now, but grew up in Florida and went to that fair many times!

Sarah L on July 16, 2015:

Our state fair is a great state fair, don't miss it, don't even be late. Dollars to donuts that our state fair is the best state fair in our state.

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on January 10, 2015:

I love fairs. I love the Bloomsburg Fair. Is that considered a state fair? I love the odd foods you could get there. I try to everything that has pumpkin in it.

Marissa (author) from United States on September 28, 2012:

bdegiulio, never heard of The Big E; I'll have to look it up! Have fun if you go! Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 27, 2012:

Love state fairs. Here is western Massachusetts we have The Big E fair going on right now. It's the largest fair in New England. Great job.

Marissa (author) from United States on September 27, 2012:

tipstoretireearly, cream puffs sound fabulous! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

tipstoretireearly from New York on September 27, 2012:

Its always fun to try the specialty food that just about every state fair seems to have. In Wisconsin, it was cream puffs. Delicious!

Marissa (author) from United States on September 27, 2012:

Austinstar, I wonder why they stopped the horse shows? It's a shame since you liked them so much! The crowds at fairs can get quite crazy. We try to go in the lull of the day when kids are in school and most people are in work. It's much more enjoyable then. :)

Thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

Marissa (author) from United States on September 27, 2012:

teaches12345, funnel cakes are definitely a favorite of mine too! I'm glad to see you're a state fair goer. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on September 27, 2012:

I used to go to the Texas State Fair every year for my birthday to see the horse shows. I would always try the great food too. The exhibits are always fantastic. My husband loves the new car show the best.

Now they no longer have the horse shows and I'm too old to go and fight the crowds. I certainly don't need the food. Ah, for the good old days, right?

Dianna Mendez on September 27, 2012:

We have our annual state fair in January. We head out to enjoy it every year, especially those yummy funnel cakes. Thanks for giving us a tour of yours and listing how to enjoy a fair in the best way.

Marissa (author) from United States on September 26, 2012:

billybuc, state fairs are fun, aren't they? I didn't see that about the Washington State Fair; I'll have to check that out! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Aya Katz, I'm glad you have fond memories of the Texas State Fair! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Aya Katz from The Ozarks on September 26, 2012:

I used to love the Texas State Fair, when I lived in Texas. Thanks for reviving those memories.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 26, 2012:

We have the third largest state fair in the nation in western Washington, and I love it every single year. There is just something about fairs, from the smells to the tastes and the sights and sounds. Great fun and nice job with this hub.

Marissa (author) from United States on September 26, 2012:

twinstimes2, oh, the artery clogging food! Isn't it great? I can imagine the Ohio State Fair is hot in the summer, temperature-wise and fun-wise.

We find the state fairs fun, but you do have to really be interested in them to go. It might be more cost effective for families to visit an amusement park if the kids don't want to see (or in some cases, smell) the farm animals or visit the agricultural exhibits.

Thank you very much for reading and commenting! :)

Karen Lackey from Ohio on September 26, 2012:

I took your poll and we are not state fair goers. :) I can say that the Ohio State Fair is a very big deal and brings in some big named bands along with artery clogging food. Ours is in the summer and it is HOT! Fun article. Up and Interesting!

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