Raleigh, N.C. — Thursday is the day many have been waiting for all year long.
The 144th North Carolina State Fair opens at 3 p.m. and runs through Oct. 27. Whether you're planning to go once or every day, here are some tips that can help you make the most of your experience in 2013.
Gates open at 8 a.m. and close at midnight every day, except for Thursday. On the fair's first day, gates don't open until 3 p.m.
Admission ticket prices are $9 for adults, $4 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children under age 5 and adults over age 65.
Get in free on Thursday, Oct. 24, for Food Lion Hunger Relief Day. Bring five cans of Food Lion-brand food and get one free gate admission. The event benefits that Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
Tickets for fair rides will cost $1. They are only available at the Midway ticket booths. Download a fairground map to help you get around.
If you're looking for a list of events, check out WRAL's calendar of events or the State Fair's daily schedule.
Getting to the fair
Your best bet for getting to the fair is a park-and-ride service.
Raleigh's Capital Area Transit is providing round-trip shuttle service to the Hillsborough Street fairgrounds with shuttles on three routes operating every 20 to 30 minutes each day.
The cost is $4 per person except for some children and seniors. More information is available on the City of Raleigh's website or by calling 919-996-3247.
Durham Area Transit Authority and Triangle Transit are also offering shuttle services. More information is available on the State Fair website about pick-up and drop-off sites for each of these services.
Visit WRAL News at the fair!
We hope one of your first stops will be at the WRAL News tent near Dorton Arena. Come by and say hello and meet the TV news team (check out the complete schedule) before heading off for the food, rides, exhibits and competitions.
You can also keep up with the latest food creations, recipes and interesting rides and exhibits on WRAL-TV's morning, noon and evening newscasts and at WRAL.com's State Fair coverage.
New food, rides and exhibits
Every year, the North Carolina State Fair aims to tantalize your taste buds with new deep-fried treats.
The Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger made a splash at the fair several years ago, but this year it's all about the Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe! This time a Sloppy Joe mixture topped with cheddar cheese will reside between two glazed doughnuts. Messy, but pretty tasty.
On the deep-fried front, pink lemonade funnel cake and red velvet deep-fried Oreos topped with cream cheese are the latest twist on these fair staples. Two popular candies are also getting deep fried this year. Joining the traditional chocolate bars (Milky Way, Snicker's, Peanut Butter Cup, etc.) is the Sugar Daddy and Cow Tales.
Some new rides occupying the midway this year include a new children's train ride dubbed the Gold Rush Express. Surf's Up will allow riders to stand up like they are riding a skateboard or surf board as they head down a track and over hills.
The Stampede, a take on the double Ferris Wheel, will be making its debut at the fair. It's coming straight from the factory to Raleigh, said Corky Powers, spokesman for Powers Great American Midways. This ride lets users face out as they spin in one of two wheels.
You might also notice some new performers roaming the fairgrounds. The Gantry Bike by Cirque Mechanics, K-9s in Flight dog show and Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations are among the new acts.
This year's state fair is also home to a new exhibit, Agriculture Today. Presented by the state's soybean farmers, this exhibit gives visitors have a hands-on learning experience through interactive stations. It will feature a 10-foot-tall soybean fountain, a biochemistry stage and a carnival-like information challenge. It will be located near Gate 11.
This year's fair does not have a petting zoo. Fair spokesman Brian Long says the concern over the spread of illness made it impossible for the petting zoo operator to get liability insurance.
But there will be plenty of animals to see at the fair.
Eat lunch at the fair
If you're an adult looking to take advantage of fair food during the lunch hour, there is a chance to avoid the $9 admission fee.
Enter Gate 9 off of Trinity Road or Gate 1 off of Hillsborough Street after 11:30 a.m. on weekdays to purchase a weekday lunch pass. The pass costs $9, but if you leave prior to 1:30 p.m. at the same gate you enter, you will receive a refund.