August is just a few days away and that means the legendary, “Nothing Compares” Iowa State Fair will be in full swing. Families plan their vacations, jobs, and lives around this 11-day event. From August 10 – August 20, children and families will be taking the day to explore the Iowa State Fair, probably not only once, but several times. It can become overwhelming and expensive, but don’t worry! I am here to help guide you through what you should think about before attending the fair.
THINGS TO DO
There are a lot of things to do, but here is a list of specific activities you may want to check out with the kids.
The Wednesday evening before the gates open for the fair is the Iowa State Parade. This year it is Wednesday, August 9 and will begin at 6:15 p.m. in downtown Des Moines. You can see 200 floats, animals, vehicles and more. Parade entrants will then travel west on Grand Avenue to 13th Street.
The Iowa State Fair will unveil Thrill Parks: Thrill Ville, Thrill Town and Thrill Zone. If you think you will be riding a lot of rides, several times then purchasing a wristband is going to be the best for your wallet. Take a look a the options here.
- Thrill Ville: This includes the newest, fastest and most thrilling rides. This will be located between the Grandstand and Ye Old Mill.
- Thrill Town: These rides are perfect for little fairgoers and their families. There will even be stroller parking available. The rides are kid friendly, fun and clean. It will be located east of Gate 10 and directly north of the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center Lawn. This is perfect so you do not have to navigate through the larger Thrill Park areas.
- Thrill Zone: These rides are for those seeking breathtaking and heart-stopping rides. This is located on the southwest corner of the Fairgrounds.
The perfect place for your little ones.
- Little Hands on the Farm: Hand on exhibit.
- Blue Ribbon Kids Club Tent : For children ages 10 and under.
One of my favorite things to see at the fair. With all the kids touching the livestock. Please, make sure they wash their hands.
- Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center
- Milking Parlor/Milking Experience
- Boulevard of Dairy Breeds
- I Milked a Cow
- Cattle Corner
- Avenue of Breeds
- Pig Place
- Horse Haven
- Sheep Stop
- Hedrick’s Petting Zoo: Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., now located in the Kids Zone.
Check out the list of new items this year.
Perfect place for the kids to run and cool off on a super hot day. Bring extra clothes.
PRICES & HOURS
7 a.m. to 1 a.m.; no entry or re-entry after 9 p.m. on Extreme Sunday, August 20
9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
10 a.m. to Midnight
Regular Gate Admission
Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted at the gate.
Adults (Ages 12+): $12
Children (Ages 6-11): $6
Children (Ages 5 & Under): Free
Check out all the discounted admission opportunities.
There is still time to purchase punch cards, mega passes, etc. I highly recommend taking advantage of these. It will save you lots. Check out all the details here and don’t delay to purchase. All online order close at 10 a.m. on August 9.
There are several places to park and it depends on where you are coming from, how long you will be at the fair, etc.
- Park on the fairgrounds for $10 per vehicle
- DART Park & Ride: Starts at 8:30 a.m. to midnight every day. $2 for adults, $1 for seniors, disabled & children (6-10 years). Show your advanced Fair admission and get half off.
- Center Street Park & Ride
- Southeast Polk High School
- State Capitol
- Park at someone’s house and/or yard surrounding the fairground. Prices vary.
WHAT TO BRING
Most places do take debit/credit cards, but it is always a bit easier and quicker when you have cash on hand. There will be about 30 ATM’s available and scattered throughout the fairgrounds.
There are lots of animals to touch and play with, make sure you have something to clean your hands afterward!
There is a fun splash/fountain area for the kids to run and cool off in. Make sure you have some dry clothes to change them in afterward.
Food & Water
On the site, it states you cannot bring in outside food & drink. My past experience, if you have small children, packing water bottles, sippy cups, and small snacks will be fine. I highly recommend doing otherwise water and food will add up quickly.
Some like to stroll and take in the fair at their own time. If you are wanting to see specific attractions and shows, I would highly recommend creating an outline before going. This way you can see and do as much as you can in one day. There is an awesome resource on the fair’s website. You can check out the daily program and create your itinerary right on the site, print and take it with you. Check it out here.
Erin is a reliable resource and stepping stone for women and families to find support and make connections within our community. She wants families to feel confident to reach out and ask for help and advice to get pointed in the right direction. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her two children in tow!