WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Money saving tips for the N.C. State Fair

Posted October 20, 2016

N.C State Fair 2016

It's that time of year again: rides, shows and fried everything!

Here are tips to save you some dough so you can enjoy more of the fried dough. Please share your money-saving ideas as well.

The 2016 N.C. State Fair will take place from October 13 through October 23.

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 at wral.com.

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!

Discounts and Free Days

Seniors 65 and older: FREE every day!

Kids 5 and younger: FREE every day!

Military adults: $6 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 $6 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 13th: $8 for adults and $3 for kids (the regular price at the gate is $10 for adults and $5 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 $6 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 discounts are available through October 13. 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.

See the State Fair website for all the details.

Advance Sale Ride Tickets:

Buy Advance Sale Ride Tickets through October 13 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 $10 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 $10 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 $10 back. The card is good only on the day purchased and only for adult admission.

Special Discount and Event Days

October 13 Preview Day

Entrance cost same as advanced sales: $8 for adults and $3 for kids

Preview Day Ride Wristband for $28. Good for unlimited rides from 3:30 PM until Midnight (weather permitting). The wristbands can only be bought at ticket booths on the Midway at the Fair on October 13. They cannot be purchased in advance. The wristband is only good on October 13.

October 14: Friday Frenzy (student discount and unlimited ride day)

Students get a $5 admission ticket when they show their school identification or recent (2015/2016) report card at the ticket booth. One ticket per student ID at the reduced price.

Unlimited Ride Wristband Day for $35 from 10 a.m. - midnight. Wristbands need to be purchased at a ride ticket booth inside the Fairgrounds so that the band can be applied to the wrist of the rider.

October 18: Senior Citizen's Day

Seniors age 65 and over get in free every day of the Fair and on Tuesday, Oct. 18 , they also receive a free Bojangles breakfast and entertainment at the Senior Citizen Fun Festival. The event takes place at Dorton Arena from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

October 19: Military Appreciation Day

North Carolina Education Lottery Military Appreciation Day is Wednesday, October 19.

The first 3,000 people in to the fair will receive a military appreciation keychain.

11:00 am: Military Appreciation Parade starting at the carnival midway.

There are a number of other free events at Dorton Arena to honor our military on October 19.

Remember that Military adults and dependents get a discounted ticket of $6 at the gate every day

October 20: Food Lion Hunger Relief Day

The annual Hunger Relief Day is Thursday, October 20. Bring five cans of Food Lion brand food to the N.C. State Fair on Thursday, Oct. 20, 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 and Sarah Hall at the WRAL tent for Smart Shopper and Go Ask Mom Swag on Friday, October 21 from 10:30 am – 11:30 am. Click the link above for WRAL at the Fair to see the list of folks who will be at the WRAL tent during the fair this year.

Money saving suggestions readers offered in the last couple years:

* "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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  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Oct 14, 2016

    hazeyc - wonderful suggestions! Thank you for sharing them!

  • hazeyc Oct 14, 2016

    Free samples of food can help fill you up. Go the the Got to Be NC tent for lots of free food samples, including seafood. There is a cheese sampling tent near the Jim Graham building.

    The commercial and education building has some free food samples including roasted peanuts, maple cotton candy and hush puppies.

    Some vendors such as the fudge and jerky vendors will let you sample before you buy.

    In the Kerr Scott building you can find samples of souse and other meat products, honey cotton candy, peanuts, maple butter and cookies. Some vendors you just ask for a taste, others just hand them to you.

  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Oct 13, 2016

    raesmom1612 - Please let us know if they are offering the $1 cup refills again this year and where it is located and I will add it to the main post. Thanks! Gator on a stick, huh??? Interesting!

  • raesmom1612 Oct 13, 2016

    This is our first year going where Rae knows she can get on tides so I bought2 sheets worth of tickets from food lion ($10 each). I'm excited for baby ziti's first time at the fair with all the sights and sounds. We also always take one of our lemonade cups and refill it for $1 28th something else.

    DH's favorite food is the deep fried cheescake. That is always our first stop. Rae like a the ice cream with the flavor swirls and I'm down for some gator on a stick lol Its pretty tasty......