This is my most popular blog post every year, so I know it's necessary to replay every year. I updated all the links and information to make them current for 2012. This is my favorite family activity, with so much to learn and share.
Cheapout on Ticket Costs
- Kids 5 and under are free every day!
- Half price admissions--the last day of the fair (August 19) and every day after 5 pm.
- Pre-purchase your tickets and buy bundles online. An adult admission to the Iowa State Fair is $10 this year, but only $7 if you buy them early. I just went to look for the information on this, and July 27 is the last day to have the tickets mailed to you.
- NEW! Print your discounted admission tickets at home, fee free!
- Purchase admission and activity tickets online and have them mailed to you (a shipping and handling fee will apply).
- Beginning approximately July 1 through August 8, admission tickets will be available at participating Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Drugstores, Dahl's Foods and Fareway stores (without fees).
Cheapout on Activities
- Skip the midway, and focus on the free activities. There are more than enough free things to do at the fair. If you do want to go to the midway, buy a Fair Play pack ahead of time. This gets you some of the basic activities for a very low cost. (Giant Slide is a favorite for us)
- Here are a lot of activities your kids can do beforehand to get excited about the fair. There are coloring pages and scavenger hunts, or you can make your own list up.
- Sign up for Blue Ribbon Kids. It's free, and it allows you to gain access to more free activities.
- The Paul Knapp animal learning center is my little one's favorite. She's very young and still remembers the day we watched a litter of pigs being born. They have expectant mothers of many different species having babies throughout the course of the fair, plus eggs hatching. Even if you aren't able to witness the miracle of birth firsthand, they have tons of brand new baby animals and videos showing the births that have already occurred.
- We also love Little Hands on the Farm. The children get a chance to go around a path and harvest crops, then turn their crops in at the market for a dollar, which buys them a healthy snack. They also get a free hat.
- We loved the GRAPE STOMP at Grandfather's Barn! What fun, and it makes a mess. You know they love that. Our kids even got ribbons for participating.
- For some fun old time activities and learning, be sure to check out Pioneer Hall (husband calling contest, anyone?) and Heritage Village.
- Don't forget all the stage shows! There are areas specific to kids, such as the Fun Forest, but the other free events can still be fun for kids. Mine love the talent show. Check out my 2012 post on free fair entertainment HERE.
- There are animal barns all over, and you can certainly go through each and every one of them. I love the Avenue of Breeds, because you'll see a few of each type of animal all in one place. You can't forget the big boar. That's where you'll find him. The big bull will be in the cattle barn and the big ram will be in the sheep barn.
- The DNR building has aquariums and an outdoor pond with ducks, geese and turtles. They also have many fun activities and coloring pages.
- There is also a free Petting Zoo (though you buy food to give to the animals)
- To see the daily program, you can click here and enter the day you plan to attend to see what is going on and help you plan your visit.
Cheapout on Food
This really isn't all that possible, since the food is all expensive, but there are free food samples to be had. There are also some less expensive and healthier options, though sometimes we save money on everything else so that we can have the money to spend on fair foods. Here are some ideas:
- Free samples at the Agricultural Building. This is also where you see the Butter Cow, and it's a can't miss activity. While you're there, get a hard boiled egg on a stick or try some ostrich meat. There will be representatives from every industry with samples to taste.
- For good food, your best bets are the Cattlemans Beef Quarters for good, Iowa raised beef, or pork chop on a stick at the Pork producers booth. Dinner Bell is great for homemade breakfast, and Stockman's Inn for a better sit-down meal. The Cattleman's Beef Quarters is doing daily coupons through their Facebook page! Check it out HERE.
- This link lists all the foods available at the fair and where to find them. There really are healthier options (The Salad Bowl) and some vegetarian options.
- We all know why you're really going to the fair, though, so here is a list of all the foods on a stick at this year's fair.
Enjoy! I hope to see you all there.