America’s Best State Fairs, Ranked
With carnival rides, concerts, and deep-fried everything, it’s no wonder state fairs are an essential summer tradition. Get this year’s fix at one of America’s top state fairs.
Who can forget those fond childhood memories of hot summers days spent at the state fair? Just in time for the start of the season, SmartAsset, a financial technology company, has released its findings on the top state fairs of America and you might be surprised at which ones rank highest. (Sorry, Midwesterners—it’s not Minnesota, Iowa, or Wisconsin.)
Five factors, drawn from 2018 data, were considered when determining the best state fairs: the length of each fair in days, attendance rates, the cost of general admission tickets for both children and adults, plus the daily average precipitation. So what features make the top five state fairs truly stand out (aside from the deep-fried everything)? See if your state made the cut, below, then head to SmartAsset for the entire ranked list of 36 state fairs.
5. New Mexico State Fair
The New Mexico State Fair, tied with Western Idaho, is held in Albuquerque each September. This year’s theme: Love is in the Fair. If the punny theme doesn't draw you in, its karaoke competition will. It’s the largest in the nation and singers have the opportunity to audition at more than 18 venues around New Mexico before making it to the Pavilion Stage. Suffer from stagefright? Grab a ticket to see Smash Mouth or Eli Young Band at the Tingley Coliseum instead. Other festivities include weekend car shows and the signature green-chile cheeseburger challenge. Watch 12 of the state’s best burger chefs compete for the 2019 trophy, and if you’re lucky, you might even get to taste-test and help vote for the people’s choice award. (Yes, please!)
4. Western Idaho State Fair
Idaho has not one but two state fairs, both of which scored top-five spots on this list. Pop over to Boise between mid- to late August to kick off the fun at the Western Idaho State Fair. Tickets cost one dollar more here, but they also include free admission into grandstand acts. Catch 3 Doors Down, Dustin Lynch, or REO Speedwagon complete with the Boise foothills as your backdrop. Other fair musts include the llama dress-up contest and famous Idaho ice cream potato. And contrary to its name, there are no actual potatoes involved in the famous ice cream potato—just a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream coated in cocoa powder and topped with “sour cream” whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
3. Mississippi State Fair
The Mississippi State Fair in Jackson is in its 160th year and ranks third on the list thanks to its high attendance rate and low admission costs. At $5 per ticket for both adults and children, it’s the cheapest on the list, which means more money for funnel cakes and activities. Bring out your inner kid and head down the 140-foot-long giant slide, or make your way to the midway for carnival games and unlimited amusement rides. (Last year’s unlimited deals cost just $27 or less!) However, be sure to check the weather before you go—Mississippi State Fair ranks at the bottom of the list for average daily precipitation.
2. Eastern Idaho State Fair
August 30 - September 7
Lucky for Idaho, you don’t have to choose sides. The Eastern Idaho State Fair, held annually in Blackfoot, takes place just after the Western fair has ended, and pulls ahead with a cheaper admission rate of $6 per ticket. One of its top attractions is the Pari-Mutuel & Indian Relays, a four-day high-stakes horse race with a $37,500 prize. And that’s not the only competition happening at the Eastern Idaho fairgrounds. Think you’ve got what it takes to win an arm wrestling match? Flex your muscles at the Idaho State Arm Wrestling Championships, then treat yourself to a cream cheese-themed dessert over at the Reed’s Dairy Baking Contest.
1. Arizona State Fair
The fairest of them all? The Arizona State Fair! The event is held in Phoenix each October and lasts 24 days, making it the longest-running fair on this list. It’s also one of the latest in the year, allowing desert temps to cool so southwestern fair-goers can wander the grounds more comfortably. Plan on catching more than just Old West-style rodeos and figure-8 car races when you make your visit. The Arizona State Fair includes a variety of gaming exhibits like retro-theme arcades and (for the first time ever) an Esports Gaming World. See celebrity gamers in action, plus try out the latest in virtual reality. You can even jump in on the fun in one of the dozens of gaming stations. Whether you’re a pinball wizard or just enjoy a good old-fashioned rodeo, there’s something for everyone!