The whirlwind of rides, animals, treats and more rides that is the N.C. State Fair starts this very week - on Thursday, in fact.
The fair runs Oct. 13 to Oct. 23 at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in west Raleigh. As always, I share some tips for parents, especially those bringing young kids. Information comes courtesy of the N.C. State Fair folks, my experience and tips from readers over the years.
Here's what you need to know:
Can parents of young children ride for free on some rides? Which ones?
Yes! Children under 40" tall can ride for free, when accompanied by a paying adult 16 years of age or older on Merrie Go Rounds and slides. The adult must accept guardian responsibility and use good judgment when choosing which of the available rides to allow a young child to ride. On other rides, the accompanying adult must pay to ride with the child.
Minimum height requirements for children’s rides are 36 inches tall. The Kiddieland Midway area consists of about 25 rides, in addition to about four games suitable for young children. Most children's rides cost between 2 and 4 tickets. The games do not accept ride tickets. They are cash only.
If you're one to like mapping out your food and ride plans before you go, the fair has a food and ride finder.
Where are the stroller and wagon vendors?
Stroller and child’s wagon vendors set up at Gates 1, 8, 9 and 10. All strollers and wagons are first-come, first-serve.
Mobility Concepts LLC at Gates 1 and 10 is accepting reservations on their website. Fun-Rider Rentals is at Gates 8 and 9. The vendor will take a deposit of collateral such as cash, a driver's license or car keys.
What can you bring into the fair? Are coolers OK?
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.
What are the rules on tickets for kids in the concerts at Dorton Arena?
It's all free! Free tickets for reserved seating in Dorton Arena are available at the ticket office located outside Dorton on the north side of the building. All concerts in Dorton will have free reserved seats except the first Thursday (Oct. 13) and Tuesday (Oct. 18) due to the choral and Folk Festival performances, which will have open seating.
When is the best time to go to the fair to beat the crowds? Which days have the lowest attendance?
Mornings are a good time to see the fair if you want to avoid crowds. The first Thursday (Oct. 13) along with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 17-19) traditionally have lower attendance at the N.C. State Fair.
What are the fair's recommendations on contact with animals?
Signage posted in all the animal areas reminds fairgoers to always wash their hands after coming into contact with animals.
What are other don't miss spots, activities, events, performances for families?
Just know that, while things are generally the same, some of these attractions may have switched things up a bit over the years since I wrote about them.
- Field of Dreams: Fresh From the Farm
- Visit the N.C. Forest Service exhibit and talk with Big Smokey Bear.
- The Flower and Garden show, along with its musical garden.
- The N.C. Wildlife Commission's booth
- The Vegetable Petting Zoo
- Competitive rabbit hopping
- More than 20 free shows and attractions.
I also love the UNC-TV tent, which sits right next to Dorton Arena. I'll have more details about all of the free events that they'll offer over the course of the fair on Wednesday.
Deals, Discounts and more Freebies
The Family 4-Pack includes 4 adult admission tickets and 2 ride sheets for the price of $44. That's a $32 savings off gate price, and an $8 savings off advance cost. You must by the package by 11:59 p.m., Oct. 13. The fair's deals and discounts page has more information about the package and other opportunities.
Changing tables are available in most restrooms, and family restrooms are available in the Martin and Expo buildings. “Mothers’ rooms” for nursing mothers are located in the Scott, Martin, Expo and Graham buildings.