us state fairs

US State Fair Road Trips (And 5 Worth a Flight)

Pack up the car and the kids, these U.S. state fairs are a big deal – so big in fact, they’re worth planning an entire trip for. With amusement rides and games, live music, the best in agriculture and lots of finger-licking foods, it’s old-fashioned fun for the whole family. Drive from home or make it a fly-and-drive vacation.

US State Fair Road Trips

Great New York State Fair

New York held the nation’s first state fair in Syracuse in 1841. Today, the Great New York State Fair continues the tradition in the city where it all began at Syracuse’s 375-acre New York State Fairgrounds. This year’s fair will be taking place from Aug. 23 through Sept. 4.

There’s a roster of performers stacked with acts like Bret Michaels, Salt-N-Pepa, Chubby Checker, Ludacris and more. Other fair festivities include amusement rides, games and classic fair foods like pizze fritte (fried dough), sausage sandwiches and wine slushies. New York agriculture is highlighted with farm animals that will delight the entire family.

The Big E

Every year on the second Friday after Labor Day, the Big E comes to the Eastern State Exposition in West Springfield, Mass. This year’s big event will be held Sept. 15 to Oct. 1.

There are special days celebrating each New England state: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Big E Arena, E Stage and Court of Honor Stage show off new talent every day.

Visit the farmers market, the Big E Bakery and the Sam Adams Beer Garden for food and drink options. There’s also a circus, parade, plenty of livestock and agricultural competitions, craft demonstrations and one big butter sculpture.

us state fairs
(Courtesy of North Carolina State Fair)

North Carolina State Fair

Whether it’s a long road trip from home or a flight into Raleigh, the North Carolina State Fair offers plenty of southern fun. From Oct. 12 to 22, there’s 10 days to enjoy more than 100 rides, livestock and horticultural competitions, horse shows, music, arts and crafts as well as local musicians on two stages.

Check out the flower and garden show and the daily folk festival, featuring traditional music, clogging and square dancing. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, try the best of the state’s food and beverages, plus international cuisine, fair favorites and seafood.

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US State Fairs Worth a Flight

us state fairs
(Courtesy of Wisconsin State Fair)

Wisconsin State Fair

The annual Wisconsin State Fair takes place Aug. 3 to 13, 2023, in West Allis, about a half-hour drive from Milwaukee.

Wisconsin’s largest agricultural showcase features shows, animals galore and around 30 free stages bringing a range of music styles and comedy. There’s also plenty of shopping at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, as well as rides like the Giant Slide and Sky Glider for views from high above.

Be sure to try the fair’s signature food item, the Original Cream Puff. Close to 400,00 puffs are eaten annually!

us state fairs
(Courtesy of Iowa State Fair)

Iowa State Fair

The single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the U.S., the Iowa State Fair is 10 days of music, rides, games and food. This year’s fair takes place Aug. 10 to 20. Located only 10 minutes from Des Moines, it’s an easy drive from the capital city.

Among the fun-filled activities are food demonstrations and classes, the Governor’s Charity Steer Show and the chance to be a part of the Guinness World Records attempt for the largest cornhole tournament.

Bring along someone you love to celebrate over 100 years of the Ye Old Mill Tunnel of Love. It’s the fair’s oldest permanent amusement ride and is one of only three originals remaining in the U.S.

Minnesota State Fair

The “Great Minnesota Get-Together” began in 1854 as a territorial fair and became the Minnesota State Fair in 1859, a year after Minnesota became a state. This year’s fair is Aug. 24 to Labor Day. The 322-acre Minnesota State Fairgrounds are located midway between Minneapolis and St. Paul, about a 30 minute drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

More than 100 acts perform over 900 shows on six stages during the fair. Among the attractions are the thrills of Adventure Park, Kidway for young guests, Mighty Midway with carnival rides and games of skill and a haunted house.

Of course, there’s also plenty of horses, cattle, sheep, llamas and other furry friends to see, as well as fine arts, needlework, handcrafts, baking and more to shop.

us state fairs
(Courtesy of State Fair of Texas/Kevin Brown)

State Fair of Texas

The State Fair of Texas in Dallas lasts 24 days from Sept. 29 to Oct. 22. Fly into the city and celebrate all things Texan.

More than 100 activities are included in the price of the admission ticket. New this year is a redesigned night parade, a kids DJ dance party and the return of the state fair rodeo. Fan favorites also include the All-Star Stunt Dog Show, pig races and strongman Mighty Mike. Kids will love the giant inflatable characters. For entertainment, there will be three live music stages, bringing more than 90 acts.

Florida State Fair

Escape the winter cold with a trip to Tampa and the Florida State Fair, slated for Feb. 8 to 19, 2024.

Here you’ll find more than 90 midway rides including North America’s tallest traveling Ferris wheel, and entertainment including acrobatics, aerial dancing and a high-dive show.

Find out who has the best quilt, pie, plant or livestock and visit Tampa’s only living history museum to discover what life was like in rural 19th-century Florida.

Ditch your diet before you arrive for quintessential fair foods like caramel apple cinnamon roll, deep-fried banana pudding and donut dogs.

Need a ride? AAA members can save up to 20% on Hertz rentals.

Have you ever been to a state fair? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Featured image: The Giant Slide. (Courtesy of Minnesota State Fair)

10 Thoughts on “US State Fair Road Trips (And 5 Worth a Flight)

  1. The Iowa State Fair is an excellent choice. Don’t miss the husband calling contest, where women compete at calling their husband in from the fields, or the skillet throwing contest where a cast iron skillet is thrown at a scarecrow to try to knock off the head. Both are hilarious to watch!! Don’t forget to see the butter sculpture and visit the beer tent. Food there is also amazing!!

  2. I’ve had fun at the Brooklyn County Fair, in CT. Animals, historical museums, and entertainment, in old-country style, make for a hearty family day.

  3. What about the Fryeburg Fair, in the last 22 years, I have only missed during Covid. I have also attended the Big E, Topsfield, and South County Fair in R.I., 56 years strong. Although they were all good, the family trip, always heads north to Maine for the Fryeburg Fair the 1st week of October.

  4. Nice to see the mention of the great Minnesota State Fair!! It was the big event of the year when I was growing up there. I just need to clarify that there is only one airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul, to fly into. Minneapolis and St. Paul border each other, with the fair actually being in St. Paul.

    1. You are correct–the State Fair of MN is clearly in St. Paul, not between that city and its twin, Minneapolis. I grew up a few blocks from the fairgrounds and used to sneak in every day through the “Farm Campus” of the UofM in the early 60’s. It was exhilarating as a teen but I doubt I could handle the ProntoPups and TinyTim donuts now! Enjoy it all!

  5. Going to the Texas fair has been a long-time dream of mine. Maybe this year I will see if I can make it.

    1. The article 15 about “STATE FAIRS” Topsfield Fair is not a state fair. Then again the Big E isn’t a state fair either.

  6. While living in Florida, my husband and I went to the Florida State Fair many times. We loved it. The food was extrordinary. Moved back to Massachusetts in 2014 and I often think about the fair and the good times we had. I lost my husband in 2020 so any chance of reliving those wonderful days are gone. But, I was going to visit my son and his family for Christmas but I think I would rather visit in February and go the Fair!

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