One of the fair traditions I’ve started with my two boys is that we spend one morning each year at the fair, just the three of us. Sometimes we’ll meet up with family, but we have fun exploring the fair on our own terms.
Here’s how we survive the Iowa State Fair:
Go in the Morning
I know fairs originated based on farmers’ schedules, but this city girl does not like being outside during hot August days, and I wish our fair was in late September. That said, we arrive around 8:30 in the morning for a few reasons.
- Parking is easy in the fair lot where we don’t have to walk a long way before we even get to the gate.
- Breakfast at the fair is great! And cheap! We can typically eat eggs and bacon somewhere for a reasonable price compared to going at dinner time with a big meal.
- It is so much cooler in the morning. I love the shade that is available when the sun is not high overhead in the afternoon. There are also fewer people in all areas which seems to keep us cooler as well.
Plan Your Food Stops
With two growing boys, we can’t go more that about 30 minutes before one them says they are hungry. I would have to get a second job in order to pay for this amount of food consumption at the fair!
- Set expectations early. I tell them we will eat a good breakfast and then we will find something yummy after 10:30 a.m. I tell them to keep their eyes out for something that they’d like to try. It’s the fair, so a little bit of splurge is ok!
- Drink TONS of water. We buy one water bottle early in the morning and then refill it at drinking fountains in the fair buildings. Almost all buildings have drinking fountains by the restrooms or entry doors. I make my kids carry their own water bottles.
- If you need a quick healthy snack, we love the watermelon cups at Beattys by the big slide. Also, if your kids aren’t too old, Little Hands on the Farm is a great way to learn about farming and get a free snack! The Agriculture building has free eggs on a stick too. These little snacks can keep rumbly tummies at bay for a little bit.
Don’t Plan Your Other Fair Stops
One of my favorite parts of the fair is letting my kids be the guides. We start by picking up the fair guide and seeing if there are any shows that morning that we might want to see.
- I let them decide what they’d like to look at. Animals? Army trucks? Tractors? Fish? Now that we’ve been there a few times, they remember where they like to go and they lead the way. I do try to help them make a general circle around the fair so we don’t backtrack too much.
- Stop for frequent breaks. We will sit on a bench any time one of the kids needs to rest. We plan ahead by wearing light clothing and tennis shoes, but we still make frequent stops.
- We also take bathroom breaks whenever needed. As a boy mom, I will still take my kids with me into the women’s bathroom if there isn’t a family bathroom around and their dad isn’t with us.
When we go to the fair with minimal expectations of each other and the day, we always have a great time together!
Check out Niki’s post for more tips on going to the Iowa State Fair with kids.
What does YOUR family like to do at the fair each year?