North Carolina State Fair

Your guide to the NC State Fair

Posted October 11, 2012 5:38 a.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2012 9:04 a.m. EDT

Today is the day we've been waiting for all year long!

The 143rd North Carolina State Fair starts at 3 p.m. Thursday and runs through Oct. 21.

We can't wait, and neither can you. But if you're planning to go, here are some things we hope will help you make the most of your experience this year – whether you go once or every day!

Here are the basics of what you need to know:

Gates open at 8 a.m. and close at midnight every day, with the exception of opening day.

Admission ticket prices are $8 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12 and free for children under age 5 and adults over age 65.

Get in for free on Thursday Oct. 18, for Food Lion Hunger Relief Day. Just take four cans of Food Lion-brand food and get one free gate admission. The event benefits the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Tickets for fair rides will cost you $1 per ticket. They are only available at the Midway ticket booths. Download a fairground map to help you get around.

If you're looking for a list of events, check out WRAL's calendar of events (on the upper right side of this page) or the State Fair's daily schedule.

Tickets are still available, as of Thursday, for a number of concerts, including contemporary Christian artists Matthew West and Sanctus Real (this Friday at 7:30 p.m.), country singer Jake Owen (Saturday), pop rock band Hot Chelle Rae (on Sunday) and several others.

If you're looking for Scotty McCreery tickets, however, you're out of luck. Both his Monday and Tuesday night shows are sold out. Check out the State Fair's concert page for the latest line-up and ticket information.

Getting to the fair

Your best bet for getting to the fair is a park-and-ride service.

Raleigh's Capital Area Transit is providing round-trip shuttle service to the Hillsborough Street fairgrounds with shuttles on three routes operating every 20 to 30 minutes each day.

The cost is $4 per person except for some children and adults over age 65. More information is available on the City of Raleigh's website or by calling 919-996-3247.

Durham Area Transit Authority and Triangle Transit are also offering shuttle services. More information is available on the State Fair website about pick-up and drop-off sites for each of these services.

Visit WRAL News at the fair!

We really hope one of your first stops will be at the WRAL News tent near Dorton Arena. Come by and say hello and meet the TV news team () before heading off for the food, rides, exhibits and competitions.

You can also keep up with the latest food creations, recipes and interesting rides and exhibits on WRAL-TV's morning, noon and evening newscasts and at WRAL.com's State Fair coverage.

Enjoy food and fun!

The food! It's probably one of the most anticipated parts of the state fair.

Remember the deep-fried Kool-Aid last year or the Krispy Kreme hamburger the year before?

This year, there's more delicious deep-fried 'goodness' for you, including cupcakes and cinnamon rolls with bacon (both available at the Murphy House in front of the Grandstand). Deep-fried Girl Scout cookies (think Samoas or Caramel deLites) are also on the menu this year (S2 concessions in Kiddieland).

You can't forget the rides, either!

There are nearly 100 rides slated for the fair this year – all courtesy of Powers Great American Midways. Check out some of them at PGAM's website.

If you're not sure what you want to do yet, here are some other activities you might like:

See the exhibits

Check out the Field of Dreams exhibit for other agricultural commodities, the Village of Yesteryear and Heritage Circle for old-time crafts and the Cultivate a Career tent for agricultural career information. Learn about bees in the Expo Building or about the state’s Christmas tree industry in Dorton Arena. The State Fair Scavenger Hunt will help you navigate around to all the exhibits.

Piglets racing for cheese puffs happens daily at the Hogway Speedway (near Gate 9) at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m. with the exception of opening day, when races start at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. Be sure to get there at least 30 minutes early —these races are popular!

The Flower and Garden Show, near the Village of Yesteryear, consists of more than 90 demonstrations, with experts offering advice on a variety of subjects – from pumpkin-carving to proper plant care.

The Folk Festival celebrates traditional North Carolina music and dance. The music is spirited and the dancing is high-energy fun. Shows are daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the tent behind the Kerr Scott Building.

The State Fair Ark in the Expo Center features junior livestock grand champions, along with horses, mules, miniature donkeys and baby chicks. There's also livestock competitions in the Graham Building and the Expo Center. New this year is a mobile dairy classroom near the Expo Center for daily milking demonstrations.

Don't forget the kids!

The Kiddieland Fun Park near Dorton Arena will host a clown, a magic show, a roving artist and a man playing the spoons. Performances are held at various times throughout the day. (The deep-fried Girl Scout cookies are here, too!)

Heading to the fair with your kids? Check out GoAskMom editor Sarah Lindenfeld Hall's tips on how to make the most of the experience with your little ones. She's done a great job highlighting some of the fair's accommodations for parents and has some great recommendations for fun, family-friendly activities.

There's much, much more!

This is just a small sampling of what's in store at this year's state fair. What are your recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below.

You can also find out more to do at the official website – or better yet, just go and explore!

Have fun!