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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Taking kids to the NC State Fair? Check our guide first

Posted October 15, 2019 9:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 16, 2019 9:33 a.m. EDT

A look at the opening afternoon of the N.C. State Fair on Oct. 15, 2015.

— The whirlwind of rides, animals, treats and more rides that is the NC State Fair starts this very week - on Thursday, in fact.

The fair runs Oct. 17 to Oct. 27 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 the merry 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 a couple of dozen rides and 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 map out your food and ride plans before you go, the fair has a food and ride finder.

Should I bother buying NC State Fair tickets in advance?

If you know you're going to go, it's best to buy those tickets as soon as you can to save both money and time - and before Oct. 17. Admission tickets are cheaper online, and, if you arrive with tickets, you won't have to wait on line at the fair to buy them. (Kids five and under get into the fair for free.)

Also, before the fair begins, you also can purchase unlimited ride wristbands for $25. which is $10 off, or ticket sheets for $10 for 18 tickets. They'll be $1 per ticket once the fair starts. Most smaller rides take three to six tickets each. Other rides require 5 to 6 tickets each.

Go to the State Fair's website to buy tickets online.

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.

The vendor will take a deposit of collateral such as cash, a driver's license or car keys.

Where are are private spots for changing and nursing babies?

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 if you're looking for a little privacy.

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.

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. 17) along with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 21 to Oct. 23) traditionally have lower attendance at the N.C. State Fair.

State Fair rides

What are other don't miss spots, activities, events, performances for families?

Here are some of my favorite things. 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.

UNC-TV also is lining up fun for kids in its Rootle Wonderland. Here are more details ...