With over 200 food options, 70 of them on a stick, food is one of the biggest draws to the Iowa State Fair. However, if you have a mini food critic in tow, it may not be easy to find something that they won’t turn their nose up at. We all know one, a kiddo that will only eat PB&J sandwiches, plain pasta or the dreaded chicken nuggets. One benefit of taking a picky eater to the Fair, you will save some cash.
On the flipside, kids’ eyes can be much bigger than their tummies. Your son desperately begs for that pricey giant turkey leg, only to eat about a quarter of it. Later in the day he asks for Fried Oreos and a giant lemonade to wash it all down. So we decided to seek out and share some kid friendly economical food options that the Iowa State Fair has to offer. We hope that it helps you make the most of your family foray into the land of corn dogs and funnel cakes!
If you have a tot that won’t eat anything but PB&J, you can find the classic kid’s fare at Applishus in the Cultural Center courtyard and the Ag Building balcony for $2.00. It’s on a stick at The Salad Bowl in the west balcony of the Agriculture Building and brand new to the Fair this year Golden Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly on a Stick will be available at Veggie Table on the north side of The Varied Industries Building, west of the main entrance.
Hot Dogs & Corn Dogs
You can find dogs on a stick, smothered in about everything you can think of, and wrapped in bacon at the Iowa State Fair. Kids typically go a more traditional route, as they don’t always like their food touching or dripping with stuff. You can find some kid friendly hot dog options at the Dawghouse in the Rock Island Triangle for $2.00. The iconic Corn Dog can be found all over the Fairgrounds with a Gluten Free Corndog available at Campbell’s Concessions at the northwest corner of The Varied Industries building.
Grilled Cheese, Mac n’ Cheese & Cheese Pizza
Say Cheese, please! Luckily there are a number of bargains to be enjoyed in this category. Hardenbrook’s Hamburger Basket, which is west of the Riley Stage, offers Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for $2.50 and Stockman’s Inn at the southwest corner of the Cattle Barn serves up Mac n’ Cheese for just $2.50, also. If you’re little tyke has a more refined palette, a delicious Wood Fired Cheese Pizza can be found at Parlo Pizza near Grandfather’s Barn.
Chicken comes in all forms at the Iowa State fair and can be purchased from numerous vendors. Chicken fingers, strips and wings can be procured at Jalapeno Pete’s on Grand Avenue in front of the Midway, The Birds Nest, west of the Fairview Stage, and with a bit of pint sized foodie adventure at Wok N Roll west of the Riley Stage.
This fluffy ball of spun sugar always tops my daughter’s must have list of Fair foods. Cotton Candy from the Fair is not the same stuff that you buy pre-bagged at the store. We love to watch them swirl it on to the stick and gobble it up while it’s still warm and fresh. It can be bought for $2.00 at Newell Concessions on the southeast side of the Administration Building.
Cookies come in all shapes, sizes and flavors at the fair. Purchase them individually, in a cup or by the bucketful. The Wooden Shoe located north of the Varied Industries Building sells Cookie Bites; the Café in the Cattle Barn sells them individually for $1.00 – $3.00 and Barksdale’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Buckets can be devoured at three different locations around the Fairgrounds.
Ice Cream, Malts & Sundaes
If you are an ice cream lover, you’re in for a sweet treat at the Fair. A favorite place to find the cool creamy delight is at the Dairy Barn, on the main floor of the Ag Building or west of the Milking Parlor on Rock Island Avenue, where you can find a cone for $3.00. We also love the options at Bauder’s Ice Cream, which is just west of the Ag Building. We particularly like the Peppermint and Mocha Bars.
Most kids love an ooey gooey crispy marshmallow treat. They’re also one of the most economical indulgences at the Fair. Original, Peanut Butter & Fair-berry Flavors can be purchased at the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation stand, at the northwest corner of the Administration Building, for just $2.00. This year they are debuting the Chocolate Marshmallow Malt Fair Square.
You would think healthy food at the Iowa State Fair is an oxymoron. But, if you think about the intent of the fair, which is to celebrate Iowa’s agricultural bounty, there are actually a number of healthy food options to choose from. Several vendors sell fresh fruit and veggies. Grilled Roasted Iowa Sweet Corn can be found at The Corn Stand south of the Service Center.
You can also find a number of different grilled meat options like the Pork Chop on a Stick at the Iowa Pork Producer’s Tent on Grand Avenue near the Olde Mill. Jerky is another tasty healthy food option which can be found at Buckskinner’s in Heritage Village for 75 cents a strip.
Check out the Iowa State Fair’s Value Priced Items for $3 or Less page. It lists over 70 bargain-priced items available at the Fair. In addition to this list several stands sell beverages (including coffee, tea, soda, water, hot chocolate & more) for as little as $0.50.
Check out the Iowa State Fair’s Food Finder page to see where you can purchase all of your favorite Fair foods. You can also download the Fair Food Finder App to your iPhone. It’s so convenient to have the lists of foods, vendors and healthy fare locations along with daily events accessible on your phone as you are touring the Fair.
What are your family’s favorite eats at the Iowa State Fair?