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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Heading to the State Fair with kids? Some tips

Posted October 8, 2012
Updated October 9, 2012

The N.C. State Fair is nearly here!

The big event opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 21 at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. While a trip to the fair can be a costly one for families if you take in all the rides and indulge in the food and souvenirs, you can save a few dollars before Thursday by buying your tickets online now. There are savings for daily admission and ride tickets. Click here for all the details.

As you can imagine, I've got all kinds of fair coverage plans over the next couple of weeks. But first, I checked in with the fair this year for some general tips and information for parents who are bringing their kids. We've got tips for parents of young children, but you'll also find details about activities for families here with older kids too. Most are free with admission.

Thanks to the folks at the State Fair for sharing these tips with me:

Rides

I'll start off with the popular question first: Can parents of young children ride for free on some rides? The answer: Yes! Cute animals, kids at the fair

The minimum height requirements for children’s rides are 36 inches tall. Parents can ride on all slides and merry-go rounds for free when accompanying a paying child who is 40 inches tall or shorter.

Other kiddie rides that children can enjoy are: Chopper Hopper, Circus Train, Cobra Coaster, Crazy Chopper, Dizzy Dragon, Fire Chief, Jalopy Junction, Kite Flyer, Lolli Swing, Looney Lagoon, Monster Truck, Quadzilla, Rainbow Rock, Rally Racer, Rockin Tug Boat, Ships Ahoy, Wacky Worm and Wiggle Wurm.

Strollers and wagons

There are stroller and child's wagon vendors set up near gates 1, 8, 9 and 10. All strollers and wagons are first come, first serve. The vendor will take a deposit of collateral such as cash, a driver's license or car keys.

Of course, you can bring your own stroller or wagon. See below.

What to bring

Parents can bring their own diaper and lunch bags, wagons, strollers, umbrellas and other personal items to the fair, just be aware that all baggage is subject to being searched at the gate for weapons, glass bottles, alcohol, drugs and other prohibited materials.

Concerts

If an adult plans to take a child to a concert, know that everyone age two and older, or any child who will need to occupy a seat, will need a ticket.

Early morning

Fair officials encourage families with small children and school groups to come early and come on a weekday. Gates open at 8 a.m., exhibits open at 9 a.m. and the midway opens at 10 a.m. It’s a great time to enjoy the fairgrounds without the crowds. Also, try coming on the first Friday or Monday of the fair (Oct. 12 and 15 this year). These are historically two of the lowest-attended days of the fair. Cute animals, kids at the fair

Check the schedule

You can pick up a daily schedule at any of the entrances and information booths. The schedule includes times and locations for all the events, including the free grounds acts. Also, look for daily bread baking demonstrations by Neomonde Bakery at the tent near Heritage Circle, musical performances daily at the church, and daily gardening demonstrations in the Flower and Garden Show.

Step right up and weigh in

As counterintuitive as it seems, many people like to weigh themselves in public at the State Fair, and not just at the Fool the Guesser games. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Standards Division operates an officially calibrated scale in the Education Building where you can get a printed card with your weight on it. Some people like to weigh in the morning and then again at the end of the day after a few fair foods.

Educational exhibits

Check out the State Fair Ark for information on animal agriculture, the Field of Dreams exhibit for other agricultural commodities, the Village of Yesteryear and Heritage Circle for old-time crafts and household needs and the Cultivate a Career tent, great for teens, especially, for agricultural career information. Learn about bees in the Expo Building or about the state’s Christmas tree industry in Dorton Arena. The State Fair Scavenger Hunt, which can be found online here, will help visitors navigate around to all the exhibits.

Tap your feet, clap your hands

The Folk Festival is a celebration of traditional North Carolina music and dance. Some adult participants have been competing since they were youngsters, so there is a real feeling of family here. The music is spirited and the dancing is high-energy fun. Shows are daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the tent behind the Kerr Scott Building.

Fresh from the farm

Many visitors don’t live on farms, but the State Fair offers fairgoers lots of opportunities to see farm animals up close. The State Fair Ark in the Expo Center features a display of junior livestock grand champions, along with horses, mules, mini donkeys and baby chicks. Livestock competitions are held throughout the fair in the Graham Building and the Expo Center. It’s tempting and they are cute, but please no touching. New this year is a mobile dairy classroom that will be set up near the Expo Center for daily milking demonstrations. The traveling milking parlor, operated by Southwest Dairy Farmers, will include information on the modern milking process, cow anatomy and the nutritional benefits of dairy foods. Cute animals, kids at the fair

Click here for the fair's new rules on interactions with animals at the fair. The changes were prompted after 25 visitors to the 2011 fair were sickened by E. coli. Among the recommendations to stay healthy, Wake County Community Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford recommends that parents leave strollers outside buildings with animals.

Transportation

Public transportation can take the hassle out of parking at the fair. Those coming from north Raleigh will notice a new park-and-ride location this year. The new North Raleigh CAT bus will leave from the former Westinghouse Building at 2728 Capital Blvd., Raleigh. There will no longer be a park-and-ride location on Wake Forest Road. Additional park and ride locations can be found in Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Raleigh and RTP. Click here for details.

Food Lion Hunger Relief Day

Food Lion Hunger Relief Day is Thursday, Oct. 18. Four cans of Food Lion-brand food will get you free gate admission all day. All collected cans will be donated to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. This year, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has issued a challenge to fairgoers. If fairgoers break the 2010 record of 247,569 pounds of canned food, the fair will donate $1,000 to the food bank. If collections top 275,000 pounds, the fair will kick in $2,500. And if collections reach 300,000 pounds, the fair will donate $5,000 to the food bank.

Subway Youth Celebration Day

School groups and youth organizations can enjoy the expanded offerings planned for Subway Youth Celebration Day Monday, Oct. 15. With smaller crowds and less traffic, the day is ideal for school and youth groups looking to enjoy the fair at a slower pace. State Fair

Subway will pass out coupons to all attendees at the gate. In addition, kids can stop by the Field of Dreams to pick up a free GrowUms gardening kit while supplies last. Activities are planned across the fairgrounds, but will be centered on the Kitchen Craft Waterfall Stage starting at noon. The entertainment lineup includes music, FFA speakers, Zumba dancing and the Animal Olympics presented by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

And if you're there on Monday, be sure to drop by the WRAL News tent next to Dorton Arena! I'll be there from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

I hope to see you there!

8 Comments

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  • khansen123 Oct 12, 7:58 p.m.

    They were very strict about parent tickets today. It was irritating...and handled much differently from past years. The rule is apparently stated that parents can ride free on three rides---I think they are Dizzy Dragon, Slide, and Merry-go-round only if the child is UNDER 36 inches. My daughter apparently is slightly above 36 inches and so they wouldn't let us ride with her without tickets. I saw many upset parents on the train and other rides today...6 tickets is a lot for a train that goes around twice- especially if you have a tall 2 year old!

  • wifeandmom2 Oct 12, 4:12 p.m.

    we had the same problem last year about the parents riding for free. we were so mad that we went to talk to raleigh worker of the fair. it took about 30 minutes of our time but it was worth it in the end. they gave us two ride vouchers up to 8 tickets each. luckily we were with friends so they watched our kids so we could go on the most expensive ride there which was for 8 tickets. even if we didn't have our kids there, i would have never have paid that much to ride a ride. so if you have a problem just let someone know!!!

  • julieburruss Oct 12, 6:50 a.m.

    Just FYI... we were at the fair yesterday with our 4 and 6 year old and the adults were required to have a ticket to take them on some kiddie rides. Even the Super Slide! Very disappointing...

  • nlschlac Oct 11, 8:30 p.m.

    can children under 36" ride the ferris wheel? My toddler is like 35" and I want to take her on some rides

  • shall6 Oct 9, 7:38 p.m.

    You're welcome busyb97! Have a great time!

    Sarah

  • shall6 Oct 9, 7:38 p.m.

    Sorry about that madamwuf ... just fixed.

    Sarah

  • madamwuf Oct 9, 3:35 p.m.

    The "click here" link doesn't work.

  • busyb97 Oct 9, 1:31 p.m.

    Thanks ,for the info! The kids look forward to it every year. It falls around one of my kid's birthdays, so makes a fun day out.