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Headed to the State Fair with kids? Some tips, ideas

Which rides can tots ride for free? When is the best time to go to beat the crowds? Is there anything new for kids this year? Find your answers here.

Posted Updated
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
It's N.C. State Fair time!
The fair opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 23 in Raleigh. If you're going with kids, here are some tips and things you might not want to miss. Thanks to Natalie Alford, a fair spokeswoman, for the information. Check WRAL.com's N.C. State Fair page for daily information.
1. I'll start with the most frequent question that I get from parents: Which rides can a young child ride for free with an adult?

Here's the word from the fair: Most children's rides require a minimum height of 36" tall, however, children under 36" tall can ride certain rides for free when accompanied by a paying adult 16 years of age or older on selected rides. The adult must accept guardian responsibility and use good judgment when choosing which of the available rides to allow a young child to ride. The accompanying adult must pay using tickets or wristbands.

Here are the rides included in this list: Fire Chief, Gondola Wheel, Merry Go Round, Dizzy Dragons, Ship's Ahoy, children's slide, Jalopy Junction, Chopper Hopper Helicopter. 

For more on kiddie rides and stroller and wagon rentals, click here.
2. Arrive early. The fairgrounds are less crowded in the mornings. It's a great time to walk through the exhibits, go to the Village of Yesteryear, catch the early Folk Festival performances or ride some rides. Weekdays are less crowded than weekends, and the first Friday is historically one of the least busy days, according to the fair. We went early Sunday morning last year and, while it got busy pretty quickly, it definitely wasn't as busy as it was by noon. Exhibit halls open at 9 a.m. Rides start at 10 a.m. (except on Thursday when rides start at 3:30 p.m. and exhibit halls open at 4 p.m.).
3. Map out your day. Pick up a daily schedule at entrances or information booths. Schedules feature a map of the fairgrounds, showing buildings and tent locations for attractions. Schedules also include show times for grounds entertainment so visitors can be at the right place at the right time. To get a good seat, plan to arrive early for some of the most popular shows, such as the racing pigs. You can also check the schedule before you go. Click here for a list of all of the free entertainment at the fair.
4. Plan some down time if you're going to be at the fair the entire day. Recent renovations have added more seating, but you can also find places to sit around the waterfall and Kitchen Craft Waterfall Stage, in the Expo Center Lawn, in front of Dorton Arena and in Kiddieland Fun Park. The Flower and Garden show area can be a relaxing and quieter place to sit (and recommended by a Go Ask Mom reader last year).
5. Go on a scavenger hunt. The State Fair Scavenger Hunt is an educational way to explore the fairgrounds. The scavenger hunt can be printed at home and brought to the fairgrounds. When you finish the hunt, you can turn the sheet in for a ribbon. Click here for the scavenger hunt. The Village of Yesteryear, featuring handmade crafts, also has a scavenger hunt this year. Click here for that one.
6. There are a couple of new family-oriented rides at the fair this year. Looney Lagoon, located on the Scott Building Midway, lets you hop in a wooden tub and take the "ride of your life" in this family friendly pirate-themed coaster. Crazy Chopper, located on the new midway near Gate 9, is a spinning helicopter family ride, one of only two in the country.
7. Near the Children’s Barnyard this year, you’ll find the Farm Follies singing vegetable exhibit, as well as the N.C. Museum of Natural Science's “House of Mystery” which will showcase dinosaur bones and interactive exhibits.
8. There are, of course, lots of opportunities to learn at the State Fair. They include Cultivate a Career, a new exhibit where visitors can go on an interactive career personality scavenger hunt to learn about the wide variety of jobs in the agricultural industry. Field of Dreams, a display of crops grown around the state, lets kids "harvest" some crops and "sell" them at a market in the exhibit. And, perhaps my favorite, kids can see the farm animals that other kids have raised in the livestock barns.
For many other educational opportunities at the fair, click here.
9. Food Lion Hunger Relief Day is Thursday, Oct .20. Bring four cans of Food Lion brand food to the N.C. State Fair to exchange for one free admission ticket.
10. Youth Celebration Day is Monday, Oct. 17. The Girl Scouts will celebrate their 100th anniversary with an event on the Kitchen Craft Waterfall Stage at 10 a.m., and a Be Early “Beeline Kazoo Dance” at 1 p.m. There will be some other special activities too. Click here for details.
11. And finally ... if you happen to be at the fair from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. next Monday and Wednesday, be sure to stop by and see me in the WRAL News tent.

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