Visiting a fair is a great way to spend your time with friends and family while having some fun, especially during the summer. From adrenaline-seeking rides and unique competitions like livestock and pie-baking contests to fun games and live music performances, there are plenty of different activities that will appeal to everyone. Check out these 9 extraordinary county fairs that you must add to your bucket list.
Best County Fairs in the U.S.
1. Arizona State Fair
An annual tradition since 1884, the Arizona State Fair in Phoenix showcases the state’s talent while offering affordable fun and entertainment. Elvis Presley performed to a sold-out crowd at the fairgrounds in 1970, and by 1985 the fair’s attendance passed the one-million mark. For three weeks, the fair transforms into a fun community celebration with grandstand events and concerts, including eating competitions, a texting contest, and the Midway – which is where most of the action (including the rides) takes place. The fair runs from October 7-30 and is open Wednesday through Friday. Hours are noon to 9pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon to 10pm on Fridays, 10am to 10pm on Saturdays, and 10am to 9pm on Sundays. Admission is $10 for adults, $ for children and seniors.
Address: 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ
2. Orange County Fair
Also known as the OC Fair, this 23-day annual event takes place every summer at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California. There is tons to do, whether you’re looking to catch a concert at the Pacific Amphitheatre, participate in the Annual OC Fair Fun Run 5k, or enter one of the many competitions, from baking pies to homemade wine. It is the 9th largest fair in the United States, and also has a carnival with rides like the Zipper and Starship 2000, as well as popular food dishes such as caviar Twinkies, deep-fried coffee, and drunken donuts (made with Fireball whiskey). The fair runs from July 15 to August 14, and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hours are noon to midnight during the week, and 10am to midnight on weekends. General admission is $12, seniors and children are $7, children 5 and under are free.
Address: 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA
3. Kentucky State Fair
There are many fun things to do at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, from strolling through the Gourmet Garden to observe and participate in different cooking contests, to catching daily music and educational shows, cheer and dance competitions, and checking out the different food and drink tents, including the Kentucky Bourbon, Bites and Brew Tent, which features Kentucky-themed food and craft beer. Don’t forget to check out the Little Miss & Mister pageant, which features pageant winners who are between the ages of 5 and 8 from participating counties. The fair runs from August 18 to August 28; hours are from 9am to midnight. Rickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children and seniors.
Address: 937 Phillips Lane, Louisville, KY
4. Iowa State Fair
This internationally-acclaimed fair in Des Moines draws over a million visitors annually, and is home to the state’s largest art show. The fair offers free entertainment and features everyone from rock legends to up-and-comers, while the famous Midway includes a Double Ferris Wheel and Kiddieland – filled with nearly 20 attractions for families to enjoy. The fair runs from August 11 through 21; the fairgrounds are open from 7am to 1am. Tickets cost $8 for adults and $4 for children between 6 and 11.
Address:3000 E Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA
5. Malibu Kiwanis Chili Cook-Off and Carnival
This annual event in Malibu draws upwards of 10,000 attendees and features carnival rides and games, a raffle, arts and crafts, and of course, dozens of vendors who participate in the chili-making contest, which includes plenty of taste-testing and samples. The star-studded event attracts lots of local Malibu residents and celebrities, among them Cindy Crawford, singer Pink, and Jamie Foxx. The cook-off lasts from September 2 to September 5, hours are 6 to 10pm on Friday, 11am to 10pm on weekends, and 11am to 6pm on Monday. Tickets are $10 for ages 12 and up.
Address: 23789 Stuart Ranch Road, Malibu, CA
6. Ohio State Fair
A favorite among Columbus locals, this annual event features an impressive lineup of rock and country music artists, and features fun traditions that included being greeted by the iconic Smokey Bear and an exhibit of calves and cows sculpted out of butter. The fair sells 30 different types of food on a stick, including candied apples, cotton candy, and chocolate-dipped cheesecake. There are plenty of rides, including the SkyGlider, which is one of the world’s longest portable sky rides. The fair runs from July 27 to August 7, hours are 9am to 10pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children.
Address: Ohio Expo Center, 717 E. 17th Avenue, Columbus, OH
7. State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas in Dallas is so popular that it was even featured in its very own film “State Fair”, which was first released in 1945 then remade in 1962 by Rodgers and Hammerstein. They are known for their livestock exhibits, their chili cook-off, live music, daily educational shows, and cooking competitions. They also have wine and beer gardens, as well as their Celebrity Kitchen, which features various celebrity chefs preparing their favorite signature dishes while answering questions in the audience. The 24-day fair lasts from September 30 to October 23. General admission is $18.
Address: 3921 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Dallas, TX
8. Hawaii State Farm Fair
There is plenty of fun to be had at the Hawaii State Farm, which takes place on the island of Oahu at Kualoa Ranch, near Kaneohe. In addition to cooking demonstrations, there are other contests like watermelon eating, a pie hunt, corn husking, chili pepper eating, and more. Local musicians perform and are given awards, and there are various livestock competitions (including goats, swine and lambs), as well as hay and horse rides, and a Kiddie Zone with rides and bouncers for the kids. The fair takes place on July 9 – 10; hours are typically from 9 to 8pm on Saturday and 9 to 5pm on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, children and students are free.
Address: Kualoa Ranch, 49-560 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, HI
9. The Great New York State Fair
The very first New York State Fair took place in 1841, and has since then grown into a 12-day showcase of entertainment, agriculture, education and technology in Syracuse. The fairgrounds are also transformed into the live music capital of New York, offering various exciting lineups at their multiple venues. The fair takes place from August 25 to September 5 and open daily from 10am to midnight. Regular admission is $10.
Address: 581 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse, NY
This article was written by Kamala Kirk.