The NC State Fair is here: Your guide to parking, shuttles rides, food and more
Posted October 13, 2021 5:05 p.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2021 11:19 p.m. EDT
Two major events are taking place in Raleigh on Thursday — the first Carolina Hurricane's game of the season and the opening night of the N.C. State Fair.
With PNC Arena basically beside the N.C. State Fairgrounds, people heading to either of these events can expect heavy traffic and likely delays.
Fair gates opened at noon with a visit from Gov. Roy Cooper.
Kent Yelverton, manager of the N.C. State Fair, said that people should be patient on Thursday night.
"Park away from the fairgrounds. Let us drive you to the gate," he said.
For fairgoers, there will be these park and ride shuttles available
Park your car near Regal Cinemas at 1205 Timber Drive East in Garner. From 8:30 a.m. to midnight, on Thursdays through Sundays during the fair, a roundtrip ride costs $5. Only credit/debit cards are accepted.
In Raleigh, park at Triangle Town Center (5959 Triangle Town Boulevard near the Dillard's parking lot). A shuttle will arrive every 30 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to midnight. The same $5 charge applies.
The fair has also added new parking spots on the Edwards Mill and Reedy Creek Roads for off-site parking. The N.C. State Fair will provide free shuttles from Reedy Creek Road to the N.C. State Fair to and from Gate 8 off Trinity Road and Gate B at the Carter-Finley Stadium. The parking lot will be open on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 11 a.m. and will remain open daily until one hour after gates close. Starting Friday, shuttles will run daily beginning at 8 a.m.
Here's where to park if you're ok driving, walking
Visitors can also park for free at the Carter-Finley Football Stadium and the PNC Arena, but they'll have to walk the rest of the distance to the fair.
"There’s going to be a lot of traffic, but it’s going to be easy," Yelverton said. "We’ve got a lot of parking. We’ve got a lot of parking off-site."
There will also be parking along Blue Ridge Road for people who need it.
N.C. Highway Patrol will have dozens of troopers directing traffic near the fairgrounds. Sgt. Marcus Betha, with the N.C. Highway Patrol, also told visitors to expect delays.
"Parking is a bit different this year. Some of the landscape around us has changed," he said. "We're going to adjust accordingly."
Betha said troopers are expecting turnout like that of years past, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Once anyone is in this general area whether they are attending the fair or just passing through, exercise caution," he said. "Look for those message boards and look for folks in the roadway directing traffic."
"We have 4,900 parking spaces, lots of room. Our shuttle buses are ready. It's going to make it easy to get to the fairgrounds," Yelverton said.
Derek DeYoung, who is planning on attending the Hurricanes game Thursday night, said he's concerned.
"We live half an hour away. Friends of ours are leaving their house at 2 p.m., because they're concerned, so we'll see," DeYoung said.
Masks and COVID-19 vaccines optional but recommended
Masks and vaccines are optional but strongly recommended at the N.C. State Fair this year. Out of caution, there will be no indoor shows inside Dorton Arena, with outdoor music stages set up around the fairgrounds instead. There is also a new clear bag policy in place -- only non-clear diaper bags and medical bags will be allowed, but they will be checked at gates.
Jessica Dixon, an infection prevention specialist at WakeMed, said the fair is not a place for seniors or high-risk individuals this year. People who attend the fair should consider getting tested for COVID-19 in the days following, especially if they are unvaccinated, high-risk or experience symptoms.
New food, rides this year
We ranked some of the best new foods offered at the fair this year, including the Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie, fried lobster and shrimp and grits on a stick.
New rides at the fair this year include the Itsy Bitsy Spider Wheel and the Sky Hawk.
In N.C., state fair rides undergo thorough inspections.
"You look at every nut, bolt, screw, washer, blocking, anything that has to do with that ride being in the air and staying in the air," said Tommy Petty, the chief of the department's Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau.