Our state fair is a great state fair. In fact, it's the best state fair in the state. It's so great that it's a little daunting trying to put together a list of just a few things for families to do at the fair. So, if there's anything in this guide you don't see, make sure to check out the Fair's website, or Facebook page.
Top Ten Nostalgic Favorites
If you grew up in Wisconsin, you likely visited the fair as a child. Now that it's time for your own kids to check out the fair, you probably want to share some of those nostalgic favorites with them. Here are some of the highlights!
1. The Giant Slide – Kids and adults alike get thrills out of this ride. Little ones can ride with their parents, and bigger kids can grab their own burlap sack and take a ride (or several) down the 200-foot slide.
The slide is located right in the middle of the park at 2nd Street and Central Avenue, and tickets are $2.50 apiece.
2. Animals – It's always fun to stroll through the different barns and see the best of the best animals Wisconsin farmers have brought to show off.
The animal barns are clustered around Central Avenue at the north end of the park. Here are the animal barns you can choose from.
• Cattle (along with a milking parlor)
• Rabbits and poultry
• Sheep and goats
• Pigs and goats
• Baby animals (in the Badgerland Financial Discovery Barnyard right near the Giant Slide)
If your kids are interested in seeing the judging, check out the daily schedule to see when animals will be presented in the Coliseum.
The fair also has other animal experiences aside from the animal barns and judging. Try out any (or all!) of the following.
•Sea Lion Splash: the only traveling sea lion show in the country, with daily half hour shows at 12:30, 2:30, and 5:30 (and the sea lions are available for photo ops in between shows). This is located at South Grandstand Avenue.
• Racing Pigs: What kid wouldn't love seeing pigs race around a track for Oreos? The Racing Animals Arena is located at 2nd Street and Badger Avenue. Check out the daily schedule for race times.
• K-9 Sports Arena: This is the place to be to see dancing dogs, diving dogs, and just generally dogs doing cool tricks. It's located in the Big Backyard, and has hourly shows.
• PAW Patrol: This traveling show of performing dogs will be at the fair for one day only (from 8am to 7 pm), so be sure to be at the fair's Central Park on August 5 if you have a young dog-lover in your house!
3. Sampling the food – One of the best things about the fair is going from vendor to vendor and sampling the goodies. That's why Crazy Grazin' Day is an awesome idea. On Aug. 9, more than 50 food vendors will offer smaller serving sizes of favorites for lower prices – perfect for being able to sample. Check out the list of participating vendors and their sample-sized menu.
And, even if you don't get to the fair on Crazy Grazin' Day, there are some great kid-friendly options to keep the little ones satiated while you satisfy your fair cravings, like popcorn, french fries, pizza, and ice cream.
Check out the food finder to plan your day's menu.
And, for those kids who have absolutely no interest in fair fare, remember that, although your bags are subject to search at entry, you are welcome to bring your own snacks for those little picky eaters.
Of course there's a ton of food available at the fair, but some of the traditional options are too nostalgic to pass up.
4. Corn on the Cob – The New Berlin Lions Club offers their wonderful roasted corn, and there's no need for kids with braces or loose teeth to miss out on the buttery deliciousness as corn-in-a-cup is on the menu as well.
The corn is located on Central Avenue and 2nd Street.
5. Big Pickles – You pretty much can't turn around without seeing a booth to buy a big pickle, both at the outside food vendors and inside the exposition center.
6. Cream Puffs – What would the fair be without getting a face-full of powdered sugar and whipped cream? The Original Cream Puff Pavilion is located at Dairy Lane and Main Street. You can also order cream puffs ahead to be picked up at the drive-thru between 6 and 8 am right inside Gate 6 near the main gate.
And, if you need more information about how to order, where to go, even how to get a gift card, the most popular snack at the fair has its own website.
7. Flavored Milk – Wisconsin is the dairy state, and when in the dairy state, you need some dairy! Get the kids to drink their milk by enjoying it in different flavors at the Milwaukee Bucks Milkhouse – chocolate, strawberry, root beer, fruit hoops, and birthday cake. And, it's cheap – only 25 cents per cup! The Milkhouse is located near the Expo Center at South Grandstand Avenue.
8. Vendors in the Exposition Center – Where else can you check out cooking demonstrations, get your favorite as-seen-on-TV items, and get your fortune told? Booth-hopping at the Expo Center (located at the south end of the park) is one of the most fun things to do at the fair.
It's nice for the kids too because it's air-conditioned! And, with all the sights to take in and people-watching to do, it's not too boring for kids, especially if they're being chauffeured in their strollers or wagons. There's also no shortage of kid-friendly merchandise for sale, from toys and games to children's books and costume jewelry.
9. Competitions and contest winners – The whole point of an old-school fair is for farmers to bring their livestock, their recipes, their produce, and their homemade items to display and compete. For those who are interested in seeing the best of the best, check out the daily schedule for the livestock shows, and when you visit the barns, you'll be able to see which animals have won ribbons. For other competition winners, like pies, cakes, jams, jellies, and textiles, the Horticulture, Craft and Culinary Pavilion (located at Grandstand Ave. and Main Street) is the place to go.
Let's be honest, sometimes the kids aren't all that interested in sitting and watching judges look at the items you're interested in. But the Youth Expo Hall (located at North Grandstand Ave and 5th Street) has you covered because what's more interesting to kids than watching kids? And they can do just that at the Youth Expo Hall where kids have music and drama demonstrations, and show off their projects. Also, youth volunteers are scheduled to help out kids at activity stations throughout the building.
10. Smokey the Bear School House – An iconic attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair is Smokey's school house. At the DNR's Natural Resources Park (at Main Street and Dairy Lane), there's lots for kids to do, including making animal prints, designing t shirts, and, yes, having a seat in the school house and listening to a presentation about forest fires from an animatronic Smokey the Bear.
More Kid-focused Fair Fun
In addition to the traditional favorites, there's lots of other family fun to be had at the fair.
At these stages, there is free family fun all day long, including puppet shows, magicians, music, and comedians. Click on the link to be taken to each stage's schedule of activities.
Activity Stage – in the Exposition Center
Bank Mutual Amphitheater – in the Central Marketplace
We Energies Energy Park – on the west side of the fair on Wetley Way at Center Street
Wilderness Resort Family Variety Stage – on Wetley Way in the Big Backyard
World Cafe Stage – between Wetley Way and 84th Street
Rides and Games on the Midway
If your kids are into rides, SpinCity at the far north end of State Fair Park is the place for you. There are more than 50 rides, including thrill rides, a roller coaster, and a four-story fun house for older kids (and kids at heart!).
For the little ones, there is a kiddie area with rides like a family train, both a standard merry-go-round and a dinosaur-go-round, and a mini-Ferris wheel.
For a list of rides as well as height requirements, visit the SpinCity page.
Tickets need to be bought for the rides, and most rides require between 3 and 5 tickets. Tickets are $1 apiece, $20 for a 25-ticket sheet, and $30 for a 40-ticket sheet. Wristbands can also be bought for $35 Monday-Friday and $40 Saturday and Sunday. The wristbands allow riders to go on unlimited rides all day, but they must be purchased by 7 p.m., and can only be used the day the wristband is purchased.
Kohl's Activity Zone
Kohl's partners with multiple organizations throughout the community to provide kid-focused programming. They're highlighting some of the best of those programs at the Kohl's Activity Zone, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and located at South Grandstand Avenue.
Some of the interactive activities on tap for families include art projects through the Art Museum's Kohl's Color Wheels; scientific design projects with Discovery World's Kohl's Design It! Mobile Lab; and theatrical performances from the Zoo's Kohl's Wild Theater.
Farm and Family Building
At the Farm and Family Building (at 3rd Street and Sue Wetley Court), kids have the opportunity to visit different stations and receive a stamp at each one. They'll be able to do cool things like build cars out of vegetables to race in the Veggie 500, meet Alice in Dairyland, and play games like cow pie pitch (hopefully, that's just a cute name!).
Need-to-know Info for Families
Here are some important things to know for your family visit to the fair.
The fair takes place Aug. 4-14 this year, and is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. through midnight Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. through 10 p.m. the final Sunday.
The fair tends to be less crowded (and definitely cooler) earlier in the day, and many food vendors have breakfast offerings.
Prices at the gate are $12 for adults, $6 for kids 6-11, and free for kids 5 and under. Seniors and military members or veterans with a military ID get in for $7.
There are also lots of admission deals available.
• Thursday, Aug. 4 – Get in for $2 if you donate at least two nonperishable food items or make a cash donation to Hunger Task Force. This deal ends at 4 p.m.
•Friday, Aug. 5 – If you, or someone you know is not a Wisconsin resident, you can buy two adult tickets for $12 with an out-of-state ID.
• Monday, Aug. 8 – On Kohl's Family Value Day, adults 12 and older get $5 admission, and kids 11 and under are free. This promotion ends at 6 p.m.
• Tuesday, Aug. 9 – This is the day to bring grandparents, as seniors receive $5 admission all day.
• Wednesday, Aug. 10 – If you're a Meijer shopper, grab a custom coupon when you spend $40 or more at Meijer July 24-Aug. 10. You'll be able to get into the fair for $8 when you redeem the coupon at the gate before 6 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 14 – On the last day of the fair, military families are recognized. Military personnel and veterans with a military ID can get free admission for themselves and up to three family members until 4 p.m.
• Kids can get in free with reading coupons from completing the requirements for Milwaukee County Library summer reading programs.
Important State Fair Park Information
• Family and baby care centers are in the Exposition Center, one is in the Guest Services Pavilion ( at Main Street and Central Avenue), and one on North Grandstand Avenue next to Bell Ambulance. The centers provide a quiet place for families to recharge, diaper changing stations, and nursing mother areas.
• Visit one of the three Reconnection Centers to get safety bracelets for the kids, or if you get separated. They are at the Guest Services Pavilion, the lobby of the Exposition Center, and next to Bell Ambulance on North Grandstand Avenue.
• First aid stations are at North Grandstand Avenue and 5th Street, and inside the Guest Services Pavilion. Also keep a lookout for one of three sunflower sunscreen stations throughout the park.
• If you don't want to bring your own stroller or wagon to the fair, you can rent them. Single strollers are $10, and wagons are $15.
• General parking costs $10, and preferred parking is $20. Shuttles from the Milwaukee Mile infield parking lot are available daily from 10 am to 8 pm. Check out the website for more parking information and for driving directions.
• Maps are available at the fair and online if you want to plan ahead.