Our Iowa State Fair Favorites


Are you planning on making a trek to the Iowa State Fair this summer with your kids? I sure am and I’m going to tell you some our favorite fair things to do.

I’ve been going to the Iowa State Fair every year since I can remember. I love going and I pretty much love everything about it. We used to camp as a family and my parents still camp and let my son stay with them a few nights. I was a county fair queen and some of my favorite memories are when I got to participate in the State Fair Queen Contest. It was so fun to walk around the fairgrounds in a sparkly formal, heels and crown! I hope I can give you a little bit of an insider look at the Iowa State Fair.

The Fountains

There are two big fountain areas at the fair: right outside the grandstand and between the Ag Building and the Livestock Pavilion. The one in the Pella Plaza area actually has two fountain areas, a bigger one and a smaller one up the stairs. I do not for the life of me know what makes this so fun for kids but it just is. Maybe it is the water on a hot day or the gathering of other small children but it is one of our favorites and we always spend lots of time here. There are nice shady benches for adults to rest and plenty of food nearby. If you are taking a backpack or stroller you might want to think about bringing a long a swimsuit or extra chance of clothes!

Discovery Garden

The Discovery Garden is right next to the Ag Building and the fountains. They showcase beautiful plants that will grow well in your very own yard! I always get lots of ideas here for my own garden and there are lots of nice ladies to help answer your questions and inquiries. However, what is most fun for children is the giant tunnel made out of bean plants. Again, I’m not sure why this is so fun for kids but my son would spent an hour running through it if we let him (pictured on the photo above). It can get a bit busy if there are lots of kids so it is a good idea to station a parent at each end to keep track of the little caterpillars running around!

Fun Forest

Up the hill from the Discovery Garden is the Fun Forest which is lovely and shaded with old trees and has fun things for kids to play on. My son’s favorite is the large wooden train playground. The Fun Forest also has its own free stage filled with great entertainment geared towards kids and families. I’ve never seen an act I didn’t enjoy!

Little Hands on the Farm and Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center

Little Hands on the Farm is so fun for kids- my son especially loves the little pedal tractors. I love that they get to pick out a prize with their money from selling their produce. While you are in the area, check out the Animal Learning Center for a look at all sorts of baby farm animals. I love this building because the real fun is had when you slow down and really watch the animals. Our favorite the last few years has been the little chicks and ducklings who like to play in the water. They are very fun to watch for kids and adults.

Other Tips:

Fair food is good, but you might want to sneak some fruit or veggies in with you since they are a little bit hard to find at the fair…at least not in the deep fried form. I know my son acts and feels better if he has real food and it is easy to give him a banana or an apple from my backpack.

If tradition stands true, it will be hot and humid during the fair so stay hydrated with lots of water. My favorite for beating the heat is a lemonade shake up which you can find pretty much on every corner. I also purchased a “Chilly Pad” cooling towel to help me beat the heat the fair this year.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets early to save money! You can also get reduced admission after 5pm if you just want to go for the evening.

I hope you have a great time at the fair with your kids! What are your favorite things to do at the State Fair?

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