Fall is in the air and finally on the calendar! After a long hot summer, the cooler days bring welcomed relief. Apples and pumpkins are everywhere and so are the local fairs.
Many state and local fairs team up with grocery stores to offer advance tickets for admission to the fair and for the rides. These tickets can be anywhere from a few dollars to half off the “at the door” prices. It’s well worth your time to do this if you definitely plan on attending the fair, especially if you have several children who love the rides.
Take Advantage of Specials
Some fairs have “special” days where admission may be a few cans of food to a local food bank or a donation to a charity. Others may have “students get in free” days where children 5-18 years old are admitted free. Still, others may do a “two for one” day where you will get two tickets for the price of on. Many fairs do “night time extra” ride deals or days where unlimited rides are a set price. Get a schedule of planned events from the fair’s website and plan your day/evening trip well ahead of showing up at the fairgrounds. You might be surprised at the money you save.
While few fairs allow outside food or drink, almost all will stamp your hand so that you can go to your car for food and then you are able to bring from home. Or tuck carrot and celery sticks, raisins, nuts, and other power boost snacks in diaper bags and pockets for a quick and cheap treat. Buy the $5 bottle of water and then keep it to refill; you’ll be saving money and being eco-friendly. It goes without saying to eat before you go to the fair. Of course you want to treat yourselves to at least one delicious fair food treat, but make sure to go with full bellies so that you don’t overdo it. You know you won’t be able to resist that purple cotton candy, ice cream dots, or cupcake on a stick.
Let your children know that they have a set number of tickets for rides and once those tickets are gone, they are gone. This teaches responsibility and decision-making skills. Also, make sure to lace up your walking shoes and wear comfortable clothes. Don’t forget sun hats and sun glasses, too. You want you and your children to be as comfortable as possible while running sporadically between attractions.
Search the Deals
A big part of the fair is the food. We all get the overwhelming need to have that funnel cake or fried snickers bar when we see the b
ooth. However, make sure to be observant and check prices; often what is $7 at one stand may be $5 at another. It’s worth shopping around a bit to find a better deal. Also, many rides offer the same basic concept. Find the one which interests your child the most and stick to that rather than spending tickets on three different tilt-a-whirls designed as an elephant, caterpillar, and strawberry.
Seek Out the Churches
Many fairs have local churches with booths that sell simple food items such as cotton candy, bottles of water, hot dogs, and hamburgers for low prices. These can meet the basic needs for food or drink and still leave a bit of money for that one item that you are going to splurge on. The church booths are also a good place to find fair booklets, “Forgotten” items such as hats and sunscreen, and general question-and-answer information such as where the nearest restroom with a changing station is. Many even have balloons and stickers to amuse smaller children.
The obvious main attractions that are the brightest and noisiest part of any fair are the midway rides. Fairs offer so much more than these, you just have to search for it. Skip past the obvious and go into those unassuming and quiet buildings along the sides of the fairgrounds.
The petting zoo is always a free attraction at the fair. Let your children discover what petting a goat or a cow feels like. Our local fair here has a “moo-ternity ward” where newborn calves and their mamas are located. Take in the local crafters’ booths. You may discover a shoe maker or jewelry expert right in your own backyard.
Use some time to relax in the quiet (and often air conditioned) paths and see where your food is grown, what equipment farms use, and the people behind what the grocery stores sell. There’s no better way to teach your children about where their food comes from. There are often food samples and free demonstrations on soap making, bees making honey, and many other fascinating things!
Having fun doesn’t always have to involve spending money. Sometimes simply walking at the fair is an experience in itself. Taking in all of the sights, scents, noises, and feelings is free!
Certainly, children want the food and rides and not much else! Expect this and recall how you experienced the fair as a kid. Let your inner child out to play. Eat fried food that you know isn’t healthy but is meant to be a rare treat. Slide down that big slide. Scream on the roller coaster. Have the guesser try to see how old you are. Fairs come but once a year.