My kids love going to the fair. We usually go to our county fair every year, but unfortunately we were out of town the week of our fair this year, so we decided to visit the State Fair instead. Now the Davis County Fair is free to get in the gates, you just pay for all the food, rides and some attractions separately once you are in. At the State Fair however, you pay for both your entrance, and activities inside. Since we paid for our admission this time, we needed to find a few ways to save money once inside in order to keep within our budget.
1. Check for Special Discounts
Various sponsors for the Utah State Fair feature different discounts each day. Check out their daily deals here. The best deal we could find is if you go TONIGHT (Monday, September 14th, 2015). Kids under 12 get in FREE and adults pay youth prices of only $7. Carnival ride wristbands are also buy one, get one free today. You can also save money and get special group rates by buying tickets online ahead of time.
2. Don’t Pay for Parking
We arrived at the fair right when they open the gates for the day at 10 am. This helps us beat the crowds and find street parking only about a block away from the main gate. The Utah State Fairgrounds are located in the middle of a neighborhood with plenty of free street parking, and since we were planning on spending all day walking around the fair anyway, adding an extra block onto our route really didn’t make a difference anyway.
3. Bring Your Own Food and Water
For many people part of the whole Fair experience is the food. But my boys have food allergies which makes it difficult to just buy food wherever we go, so we have gotten in the habit of packing all our snacks and meals with us. We used to just pack food for the food sensitive boys, but soon I discovered that I could save money and eat healthier by bringing everyone’s food. So the kids and I fill up on healthy, home prepared, more cost-efficient meals and then everyone gets to share one small fair item for the sake of flavor and enjoying the experience of eating the traditional ‘fried stuff on a stick.’ We also pack in tons of water bottles, little ones get dehydrated fast walking around in the heat all day. We found a couple of drinking fountains, but there aren’t very many so we just refilled our bottles every time we passed one and always had plenty of water available for everyone.
4. Focus on the Free Attractions
Going first thing in the morning not only makes it easier to find parking and leaves the grounds less crowded, but it also means none of the carnival rides are open yet. At the Utah State Fair the grounds open at 10 am, but the rides don’t open until 11 on the weekend or 1 pm during the week. Since we went on a Friday, this meant that we had 3 hours to explore the booths and visit the animals without my kids even thinking about wanting to go on rides or play carnival games. Instead we visited their favorite, free attractions instead.
My kids LOVED The Little Hands on the Farm exhibit. They each got an apron and bucket and went from station to station completing farmhand chores.
At the end they earned a dollar to spend at the country store.
Next we hit the Craft Corner and made barn animal masks.
The kids thought it was interesting to watch the 4H kids show off their animals, I love it when my kids get see other kids' accomplishments.
The building full of country jams and garden produce was my favorite, all the displays and awards is what I think of when I picture the fair.
There were some pretty cool animal exhibits as well. Being the wanna-be, backyard farm girl that I am, I was drooling with envy over the beekeeper display.
The Barnyard Friends area was also a big hit with the kids, tons of baby farm animals and education centers set up, all hands on and geared towards kids.
The kids had fun fun pulling wool into yarn and making their own bracelets.
This wandering magician caught my son's eye and hand him rolling in amazement with his tricks.
You also can't miss the butter sculptures, I mean, really...
5. Go Window Shopping
My daughter is only 6, yet somehow is already drawn to the idea of window shopping. Even when I told her we were not going to buy anything right then she and her brothers loved looking through the racks of things for sale. They found a couple booths with toys they liked looking at and a shop with tons of costumes, which they rifled through looking for ideas for their Halloween costumes this year.
6. Choose One Thing to Splurge On
The real sanity savor for me is that before we even go inside I explain that we are going to first go look at the free exhibits. We’ll look around and the kids can see everything that there is to do or buy and at the end of the day each kid gets a couple of dollars that they can spent however they want. Which means they can buy a small toy, some candy, go on a ride or whatever their little hearts’ desire, but they have to choose just one thing. This drastically cuts down on the begging in our family. Whenever they point something out to me or ask for something, I simply respond, okay, you keep thinking about it and we’ll come back at the end if that is what you pick. Then they either forget about it the second they see the next cool thing, or they really end up caring about it and stop asking for more things. At least so far it works…
Stephanie's Recommended Splurge:
Cut back where you can, and splurge on one thing. Whether that is a ride or a meal, pick something you love and enjoy it. For me, its all about the food. I have memories of the trying new and crazy cool food each year at the fair.
I've tried it all, fried coke, fried twinkies, fried candy bars, i love me some fried fair food... and its only once a year right?
Calling all cheese lovers...
This years must try fair food is the Tubby at Fat Kids Mac n' Cheese. Deep fried Mac n' Cheese balls, ok, that in itself is just plain ol' incredible. But then you have a choice of 4 made in house dips. Homemade ketchup? ahhhh,, I wish I could take it home. They also had BBQ, jelapeno, and my personal fave, Ranch (also made with a bit of cheese mixed in).
The Tubby's are crispy on the outside and full of melted cheese and noodles on the inside. We could have been fine with just the Tubby experience but no, there was more!
The mac was calling my name! The Mac is amazing, of course, but then you have the toppings. My favorite is the Highland Dr. with steamed broccoli, caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms, topped with some cherry tomatoes and more cheese of course. Even the basic Mac is topped with 'crunch' aka potatoes chips, and more cheese.
Another favorite was the North Temple, because bacon! Need I say more. No, I don't believe so.
These guys also have a food truck, so if you miss them at the fair, be sure to hunt them down on the stree.
Check online for daily discounts before you go
Take cash, a lot of vendors won't accept credit cards
Parking lot is $10 cash only
Parking on private property is a few dollars less
Parking on the street is free, be prepared to walk
Bring a water bottle
Sunglasses and sunscreen if you go during the day