The Iowa State Fair runs August 11 through 21, 2016. If you have never been it’s definitely an experience you should not miss! Tackling the fair with little kids can be intimidating. Whether you’ve got toddlers or tweens, our tips will help you navigate the Iowa State Fair AND have a great time.
1. Look for discounted tickets to save on admission and rides.
Advanced Admission Tickets are currently available for purchase on the Iowa State Fair’s website and at participating Iowa Hy-Vee and Fareway stores. You can also find Fun Passes, Fun Packs and Midway passes, which need to be purchased before the fair starts. You might also consider the “Half off Adult and Child Tickets After 5” when admission is $6 for adults and $3 for kids ages 6-11, 5:00 to 10:00 pm, Monday through Thursday. Visit http://www.iowastatefair.org/visit/deals-discounts/ for other discount offers.
2. Plan your “must dos” before you leave.
Visit the Iowa State Fair’s website ahead of time and plan out your day. You can’t do everything, but with a little planning you can map out a strategy — times, places, events — and keep the kids happy and yourself sane.
3. Make note of important locations.
When you’re doing your pre-planning make note of where the bathrooms, diaper changing areas, nursing rooms, first aid stations, lost and found desk and lost person’s rendezvous points are.
4. Know where to park.
There is quite a bit of parking around the fair. However, it can be a long walk and sometimes the terrain can be less than ideal for pushing strollers on. It can be worth it to spend a little more money to park close and not wear everyone out before you get in. You’ll also want to avoid parking at the Midway Entrance Gate. (We always save the Midway to the end of our visit or we’d never see anything else!)
5. Consider riding the bus.
DART offers three convenient Park & Ride locations where fairgoers can park for FREE. Embark from Center Street, Southeast Polk School or the State Capitol. Discounted round-trip fares with advanced Fair admission tickets are $1 for adults and 50 cents for seniors (ages 65+), disabled persons, Medicare card holders and children (ages 6-10). Regular round-trip fares are $2 for adults and $1 for seniors (ages 65+), disabled persons, Medicare card holders and children (ages 6-10). Children ages 5 and under are FREE. The buses except cash only and exact fare is required.
6. Try to visit the Iowa State Fair on a weekday and go early in the day.
If your schedule permits, you can beat the crowds by going on a weekday and early in the morning. We got to the Fair around 9:00 am last year and we made it through several of our “must do” attractions before the crowds started trickling in.
7. Know what to bring.
- Water Bottles & Sunscreen: Bring a water bottle for everyone and refill at water fountains. Sunscreen and hats will keep everyone from getting sunburned.
- Good Shoes: This is not the place to break in those new sparkly sandals (yours, or your kiddos). Close-toed shoes are your best bet, especially if you are touring the animal barns. No amount of wet wipes will make you feel clean if you accidentally step in a big ol cow patty.
- Cell Phones: Charge ‘em up before you go to ensure that you can call the rest of your family when you have to take yet another potty stop and the rest of your crew wandered to an exhibit.
- Stroller: For little ones who may get tired out quickly from all the walking.
- Cash: Not all vendors accept plastic, so even though there are ATMs on the fairgrounds, you’ll save yourself some time by bringing cash for food and merchandise.
8. Know what to leave behind.
The Iowa State Fair is a big place. You don’t want to be hauling a bunch of unneeded items around for a whole day, and you won’t want to walk back to the car to drop things off. Stick to the basics (above). Bring only what you really need and you’ll be a much happier camper.
9. Be prepared for the weather.
This is Iowa and August weather can be fickle, so even if yesterday was roasting, today might be cool. You’ll definitely want to be able to layer up, especially if you’re staying for any of the evening entertainment. You’ll also want to plan your day around the weather. It’s been a hot summer, you may want to start with outdoor events in the morning and visit the air conditioned exhibits in the afternoon when everyone starts to get hot.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
There are volunteers all around the fairgrounds (it may be my neighbor (or yours)) to assist you, and many of them have been helping out fairgoers for years.
11. Schedule break times.
The Iowa State Fair is raucous, colorful, exciting and super-fun, but sometimes even the most energetic of little (and big) people need a quiet moment to recharge.
12. Relax and have fun!
Yes it can be crowded, and expensive but it’s a once a year event. With a little bit of planning the fair can be a great experience for the whole family!
What are your tips for tackling the Iowa State Fair with kids in tow? Share them with us in the comments!