Guide to the North Carolina State Fair (with Kids)

I’ve seen fairs. I love fairs. But nothing is as outrageously humongous and fried-food packed as the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, North Carolina. The N.C. State Fair is chock full of classic fair food, colorful rides, funhouses, sideshow acts, agricultural exhibits (including prize livestock, horses, bunnies), even a bonafide pig race.

If I can stress nothing else on your first or next visit to the N.C. State Fair (and I sure do hope you go!), try to head out on a weekday and go early. Truthfully, no matter the time, the fair is unbelievably crowded; which is crazy, considering how huge it is.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

PARKING

Scarlett and I set out on our own, and parking was a bit intimidating. To make our lives easier, we grabbed a spot at the nearest lot just behind the fair, by gate 9, but we probably could have parked for free over at PNC arena. All of the lots lead straight into the fair, with cone walkways and a whole lot of police officers directing traffic. My suggestion: follow the masses.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. Photo by Mikkel Paige

Photo by Mikkel Paige

FRIENDS & FAMILY

Hit up the fair with a decent-sized group. You don’t want to go with too many people because it’s pretty difficult to keep track of everyone in all of the crowds, but having a few friends and family there to share in the awesome fair food; that’s key. Scarlett and I met up with Courtney, the awesome fellow blogger behind Courtney Fashionista, and Laura, a new-to-me, and totally amazing photographer in the area. After the girls left, I waited for my friend Mikkel, an incredible photographer who travels all over the world (seriously, check out her travel blog and her beautiful photography site) and my hubby, who came after work. Mikkel and I bonded over our love for sweet ‘n low (diet limeade is awesome, you guys!) and hubby was in gross fried food heaven (seriously, if you’re an adventurous eater, the fair is for you!)

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

KIDS

Scarlett is still too little to ride the rides, so a stroller was essential. I probably should have brought her baby carrier as well, because it’s hard keeping them in the stroller through such a long day, but I sure am glad we brought that stroller. It was a lifesaver for Scarlett’s inevitable early afternoon nap and great for carrying snacks and prizes. It also worked as a great way to push through fair traffic.

I brought along sunscreen, snacks, bottles of water, the diaper bag, and a blanket for Scar just in case. Again, so glad to have that stroller basket.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

There are games for all ages, and I can’t wait to bring her next year to choose a rubber duck from the “pond” and hold onto all of the prizes her daddy will win her.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.    A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

We stopped off at Smitty’s Apples – still crying over the fact that I didn’t try the “apple fries” nearby (apple sticks fried in sweet dough and topped with powdered sugar), but I did get Scar a cold freshly peeled apple for a dollar that she devoured. Winning. If you don’t want your little ones eating so much fried food, the peeled apples are a great and inexpensive option.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

WEATHER

The weather is absolutely gorgeous this time of year, and this year (2015), was no exception. Bring layers. I brought along a light cardigan, jacket and scarf, and took turns using each. Scarlett (15 months), wore a cardigan over her outfit, plus I packed a jacket and blanket. The blanket really came in handy because I could easily throw it on and off while she was in the stroller. In the shade it can get really cold, though the “warm”, typically in the 60s, is so beautiful (and perfect fair weather)

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. Photo by Mikkel Paige

Photo by Mikkel Paige

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

FOOD

I love great barbecue – though disclaimer here: I’m boring, and typically stick to chicken – but my husband about burst when he realized he could have BBQ in a cup. And that he did. Get the BBQ in cup. I promise you, you’ll love it.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. Photo by Mikkel Paige

Photo by Mikkel Paige

Of course there are also the classics: giant turkey legs, roasted corn on the cob, lemonade, kettle corn, gyros, potato ribbons, corndogs, the list goes on and on.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. Photo by Mikkel Paige

Photo by Mikkel Paige

But let’s be real: it’s the fried food that has everyone talking. Our local NPR station has been singing it’s praises for weeks now, so I knew we had to take the plunge. I’m talking fried pickles dipped in peanut butter and chocolate and covered in powdered sugar, every variety of funnel cake ever (red velvet funnel cakes, OMG), fried cheesecake, fried Tootsie Rolls (wrapped in bacon), fried Twinkies, fried Oreos and Girl Scout cookies.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. Photo by Mikkel Paige

Photo by Mikkel Paige

We took the plunge on fried Caramel deLites – which are basically just Samoas in disguise deep fried in doughnut dough and topped with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar; best decision ever. Who knew Girl Scout cookies could get better? I’m a huge coconut fan, though it’s subtle, and the cookie starts to melt on the inside. I’m crying a little just thinking about it.)

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever. A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

ATTRACTIONS

There is so much to do here and though we were there almost an entire day, I still missed so many things. But hey, there’s always next year! I’m a dork, so I loved the bunny exhibit; the Flower and Garden Show; the craft exhibits in the green Hobbies & Crafts building; the Bluegrass Band Stage (with live music all day long); and though it was hard to see, the pig races were pretty adorable (little pigs race for cheese doodles – a worthy prize indeed.) Of course there are also the “spectacles,” like the “World’s Tiniest Horse!” and “Beautiful Head of a Woman …. Ugly Body of a Snake!” There were log-chopping competitions and horse races and livestock shows and carnival games, so many Village of Yesteryear and old-time themed displays too. I promise you this, you’ll be entertained.

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh (with little kids), and how to have the best time ever.

We left before it got REALLY crowded; just before 5pm. You can’t imagine who busy it gets in the evenings. The fair is the place to be. I grabbed a caramel apple on the way out, because I always think it’s fun to have something sweet to remind me of our awesome time a day or two later. Plus, who doesn’t love a caramel apple?

A guide to the North Carolina State Fair (with kids), and how to have the best time ever.

Photo by Lexi of Glitter, Inc.

Get the Look: Free People Swing Print Tunic // Karen Walker Super Duper Sunglasses // Scarlett’s Kitten Flats // Scarlett’s Cardigan

Photos by Laura Simson Photography and Mikkel Paige (Pictures taken by Mikkel are noted and check out Mikkel’s travel blog for more fun details about our trip to the fair!)

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Lexi

2 comments


  1. Marly

    I love the recapp of your NC State fair experience. I did a foodie recap on my blog today. Pretty soon I will be using some of your tips on how going to the fair with kids. I love that you got your daughter an apple. Just a good and sweet treat for kids. Way better than what I was stuffing down my face lol.
    Marly
    http://www.GirlyLove.org

  2. Amy Locohtan

    Looks like y’all had a blast!

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