The unmistakable scent of fried dough while strolling through the bright lights and loud sounds of the midway; the rush of a roller coaster, the view from a Ferris wheel; watching a show, or catching some fireworks—nothing spells the end of summer like a sojourn to a state fair.
And whether they mark the end of summer with Labor Day festivities or keep the fun going through August, Texas-style, the following state fairs all have one thing in common: they are some of America’s most iconic get-togethers. From carnival classics and agricultural traditions to regional food showcases and signature attractions, these state fairs are celebrations of the solstice, as well as harbingers of its impending end—a bittersweet and boisterous way to close the book on the warm weather and long, balmy days of the summer season.
The Great Minnesota Get-Together
Undoubtedly one of the Midwest’s best (and largest) state fairs is by far the Minnesota State Fair. Situated near the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, the sprawling fairground complex is a colorful, kaleidoscopic riot of attractions, showcases, concerts, and good old-fashioned midway fun that literally has something for everyone. From livestock competitions to three different amusement parks and everything in between, this end-of-summer fling is a whirlwind of food, fun, and fabulous over-the-top fair faves.
- Dates: August 25 through September 5, 2022
- Hours: Fairgrounds hours 7 AM-11 PM; 7 AM-9 PM Labor Day. See the website for a complete listing of hours for all buildings, rides, and attractions
- Tickets: Regular price gate admission is as follows: Adults (13-64) $17.00; Youth (ages 5-12) and Senior (65+) $15.00; Children under four: free. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate during admission hours
- 2022 Highlights: The Beach Boys and The Temptations; Jim Gaffigan: The Fun Tour; Blue Ribbon Bingo; The Old Iron Show; New Livestock and Agricultural Competitions; Agriculture Horticulture Building 75th Anniversary
- Food & Drink: Aldo’s Burgers; Union Hmong Kitchen; The Herbivorous Butcher; RC’s BBQ; Minnesota Farmers Union Coffee Shop; Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar
Salem’s State Fair Extraordinaire
There’s something very Pacific Northwest about the Oregon State Fair—in addition to all the usual bells and whistles in the form of midway rides, live music, and agricultural exhibitions, the Salem-based fair also boasts events that highlight the region’s outdoorsy feel and distinctive natural setting. Think Paul Bunyan Lumberjack show meets gardening competitions; crabbing and clamming expos meet deep-fried coffee, and you have yourself a uniquely wonderful fair that’s fun for all ages.
- Dates: August 26 through September 5
- Hours: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday, September 4, 10 AM-11 PM; Sunday, August 28 through Thursday, Sept 1, 10 AM-10 PM; September 5 (Labor Day) 10 AM-10 PM
- Tickets: Adults (13-64) $12; Children (6-12) $10; Seniors (65+) $3; Children under five: free. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. Carnival ride tickets and other event tickets are extra
- 2022 Highlights: Motor Mania; Hell on Hooves Rodeo; 4-H and FFA Animal Competitions; Nelly (in concert); The Beat Goes On Marching Band; Artisans Village
- Food & Drink: Sharky’s Fish & Chips; Yakisoba Noodle Dinners; Sushi Roll’n; Taqueria Los Pandita's; Oregon Dairy Women
America’s Largest State Fair
It’s no surprise that Texas boasts the biggest state fair in America, an annual, almost month-long shindig that’s a perfect panoply of Lone Star State-sized fun and events. Located at Fair Park in Dallas, the State Fair of Texas is bursting at the seams with a rousing repertoire of live entertainment, auto shows, dog races, pig races, rodeos—the list goes on and on. And it wouldn’t be a Texas event without football, as guests get to watch the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma battle it out in their annual Red River Showdown game.
- Dates: September 30 through October 23, 2022
- Hours: Sundays through Thursdays 10 AM-9 PM; Fridays and Saturdays 10 AM-10 PM (last entry at 9 PM)
- Tickets: Season Pass $50; Premium one-day admission $24 (online only); Daily admission tickets on sale September 12, valid only for the day specified on the ticket, Adults starting at $15; Children/Seniors starting at $5. All adults pay child’s prices when they purchase tickets after 5 PM
- 2022 Highlights: Starlight Parade; State Fair of Texas Rodeo; Mighty Mike Show; All-Star Stunt Dog Show; TX Stunt Jam at the Xtreme Sports Zone; World of Birds Show Presents SOAR!
- Food & Drink: Deep-Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls; Brisket Brittle; Deep-Fried Oreos; Lucky Duck Dumplin’; Funnel Cake; State Fair Wine & Beer Garden
America’s Oldest State Fair
A true classic among state fair standouts, The Great New York State Fair is America’s oldest—so you know they’ve gotta be doing something right. A veritable showcase of NY State’s best agricultural, educational, and technological industries, the fair is also home to classic carnival rides and attractions, free concerts, and, of course, stunning fireworks displays on both opening day and Labor Day. And don’t forget about the food—fairground faves mix with NY-state originals to create a foodie’s paradise on this marvelous midway in Syracuse.
- Dates: August 24 through September 5, 2022
- Hours: Fairgrounds hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 AM-11 PM; Friday through Sunday, 9 AM-12 AM; with no entry or re-entry after 10 PM. On Labor Day, the fairgrounds will close at 9 PM
- Tickets: Gate Admission $3 online. Children (12 and under) and seniors (65+) are free every day. Vehicle and motorcycle one-day parking $5. Midway (rides) tickets are sold separately
- 2022 Highlights: Circus Hollywood; Boy George & Culture Club; Chubby Checker; Beef Day; Native Americans Day; Sea Lion Splash; Broadway Skyliner Ride
- Food & Drink: Twin Stills Moonshine Distillery; Grow Brewing Co.; Coco Bongos of New York; The Bacon Bomb—Hammi’s BBQ; Babcia’s Pierogi
There’s still time to finish the summer with a bang at one of these iconic state fairs. Packed with a parade of delicious eats, festivities, events, celebrations, and concerts galore; and all the hyped-up, bustling nostalgia of the midway, these super state fairs are the perfect way to say sayonara to the summer solstice.