WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Money saving tips for the N.C. State Fair

Posted October 16, 2014
Updated October 13, 2015

Fun on the carousel

Wondering how to afford a trip to the State Fair without having to take out a 2nd mortgage? It can be done! Here are tips to save you some dough so you can enjoy more dough (the fried kind with powdered sugar, of course)! Please share your money-saving ideas as well.

The 2015 N.C. State Fair will take place from October 15 through October 25. The fair is located at 1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27607. You can find extensive details regarding the event on our special State Fair section

The following list includes ways you can cut your costs at the fair including entrance fees, ride tickets, food cost and even a free breakfast for seniors!

Seniors 65 and older: FREE every day!

Kids 5 and younger: FREE every day!

Military adults: $5 at the gate every day for Active-duty service members, reservists, retirees, National Guardsmen and their dependents (ages 13-64). Veterans are also offered the $5 discount for themselves and one discounted ticket for a guest or dependent. Proper ID required. See the Fair website for a list of accepted identification.

Advance Sale Tickets online through October 16th: $7 for adults and $3 for kids (the regular price at the gate is $9 for adults and $4 for kids ages 6 – 12)

Group Discount Tickets:

Adult ticket group discount: Purchase 40 or more adult tickets in advance of the fair at the same time for $5 per ticket

Child’s ticket group discount: Purchase 40 or more children's tickets in advance of the fair at the same time for $2 per ticket.

Purchase group tickets online or at the advance sales locations. The group discount available Aug. 1 through Oct. 16. The adult and child tickets cannot be combined. You have to get 40 of either the adult or the child tickets to get the discount.

Advance Sale Ride Tickets:

Buy Advance Sale Ride Tickets through October 16 online or at walk-up locations (see the State Fair website for list of walk-up locations): $10 for a sheet of $18 tickets (at the fair they are $1 per ticket)

Online ticket purchases will be subject to a convenience fee.

For a list of walk up locations, head to their website.

Free Weekday Lunch Pass Admission:

Get into the Fair for FREE during lunch on the weekdays! Here are the details from their website:
• Visit Gate 9 off Trinity Road, or Gate 1 off Hillsborough Street after 11:30 am on any weekday, Monday – Friday, of the fair. This deal is not available at any other gates or on the weekends.
• Buy a lunch card at the gate for $9 with cash (no credit accepted)
• Buy your lunch from the fair food vendors on site. Fair food vendors take cash and there are ATMS in the fairgrounds.
• Go to the same gate you entered by 1:30 pm with your lunch card and you will get a full $9 cash refund when you show them the card.
• If you don’t get to the gate by 1:30 p.m., you do not get the $9 back. The card is good only on the day purchased and only for adult admission.

Special Discount and Event Days

October 15 Preview Day:

Entrance cost same as advanced sales: $7 for adults and $3 for kids

Preview Day Ride Wristband for $28. Good for unlimited rides from 3 PM until Mdnight (weather permitting). The wristbands can only be bought at ticket booths on the Midway at the Fair on October 16. They cannot be purchased in advance. The wristband is only good on October 15.

October 21: Military Appreciation Day

North Carolina Education Lottery Military Appreciation Day is Wednesday, October 21.

The first 3,000 people in to the fair will receive a 4” x 6” United States flag.

11:00 am: Military Appreciation Parade starting behind the Graham Building and going through Kiddieland and then up to Dorton arena.

There are a number of other free events at Dorton Arena to honor our military on October 21.

Remember that Military adults get a discounted ticket of $5 at the gate every day

October 22: Food Lion Hunger Relief Day

The annual Hunger Relief Day is Thursday, October 22. Bring five cans of Food Lion brand food to the N.C. State Fair on Thursday, Oct. 22, and you will receive one free admission ticket.

Look for canned food on sale in the next couple weeks for as low as .50 per can to get a great deal on admission!

The donated food will go to the The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. They will distribute the cans to those in need in a 34 county area surrounding Raleigh.This is a fantastic way to get a super discount on fair admission AND help your neighbors in need!

For more information on the special events listed above, head to their website.

Additional tips for saving at the fair

Bring your own food! You can bring in food and drinks in small bags. No glass bottles or alcohol are allowed. I realize that one of the main reasons that many folks go to the fair is for the amazing (and sometimes bizarre) foods that you only see once a year. After you enjoy your Sloppy Joe doughnut burger or deep fried Sugar Daddy, you are also going to want something to drink. If you don't want to spend way too much money on a bottle of water or a soda, bring your own. Or maybe you plan on taking the whole day to experience the fair and want to make sure you have something to eat with less than 10,000 calories! Pack some snacks and your wallet and belt will thank you.

Free exhibits and events: Enjoy the many free exhibits and events including Antique Farm Machinery, Flower and Garden Show, Village of Yesteryear, Fireworks (nightly at 9:45 pm), Folk Festival, Kenya Safari Acrobats, Racing Pigs, k9’s in Flight, Down to Earth Aerials, Fire Safety Show, Juggling, BMX bike riders Stunt Show, Comedy Hypnotist show, multiple music stages and more! See the full schedule of free entertainment and exhibits on their website.

Make it an educational field trip: There are plenty of free activities and exhibits at the fair every year. There is a whole section on the fair website with information on the many educational opportunities at the fair.

Free coloring pages for the kiddos on the fair website.

Free rides for the parents of young kids: There are a number of rides that parents can ride for free when accompanying a paying child. From their website: "Parents can ride on all slides and Merry-Go-Rounds for free when accompanying a paying child who is 40-inches tall or less. "

WRAL Tent Smart Shopper freebies! Come visit me at the WRAL tent for FREEBIES on Friday, October 24 from 10 am – 11 am. You can also register for a chance to win a Wake County Attractions Dining and Value Guide Coupon Book!

Money saving suggestions readers offered last year:

* "Sharing food is something we do. Normally the portions are very large and we can also try more things that way."

* "We always take a huge empty cup. A lot of the vendors will refill any cup for $1 :)"

* "The best way to make sure you don't spend too much is to take in a certain amount of cash and leave the atm card in the car. You will be more selective on what you purchase and once it's gone and you've made that long walk back to your car, you aren't likely to turn around and go back in!"

* "I always pack juice boxes and water for our outings. My 3 years has her own backpack that she puts her juice and snacks in."

What ideas do you have for spending less at the fair?

And while you are sharing, what is your favorite food? Favorite ride? Favorite exhibit? Favorite performance or event?

Have fun and remember: It’s your money – spend it wisely!


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  • Manusoccer Oct 13, 2015

    Most of these dates for specials are off by one numeric day... The days of the week are correct, but not the date... ie Food Lion Day is Thursday, Oct. 22 - Food Lion Hunger Relief Day

  • slag19112 Oct 16, 2014

    It’s that time of year again: that time when folks of all shapes and sizes converge upon the epicenter of our home-sweet-home state to sample the strange (and sometimes sketchy) food and drink that only carnies have to offer. That’s right, people: it’s time for the North Carolina State Fair!!!

  • A person Oct 16, 2014

    Staying off the rides, as we usually do. Unless it it a permanently fixed ride as in an amusement park, I never ride them

  • 68_dodge_polara Oct 16, 2014

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    These are great ideas.

  • gingerlynn Oct 16, 2014

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    Yikes! I work downtown and there is no way I can take that much time for lunch.

  • gingerlynn Oct 16, 2014

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    I sharpied my phone number on their tennis shoes after one became separated at a crowded mall.

  • PowderedToastMan Oct 16, 2014

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    wow, you're both so witty.

  • VickLo Oct 16, 2014

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    You beat me by a minute!

  • heard-it-all-before Oct 16, 2014

    saved a gob of money just bringing drinks. $7-$10 sodas at the fair add up fast.

  • ascherer Oct 16, 2014

    Jo - That is an awesome tip. Thanks