The 20 Best State Fairs in America

Get ready for the fun and games. (And the deep fried girl scout cookies.)

For many of us, state fairs are the highlight of summer. Free live concerts, crazy competitions, carnival rides galore and deep fried EVERYTHING. While all state fairs are always great fun, not all of them are created equally. Read on for the top 20 that we think rise above the rest.

Funnel cakes, carnival rides, and local competitions await at these amazing state fair celebrations. Whether you want to conquer the most terrifying of fair rides, win your sweetheart a ridiculously extravagant teddy bear, or indulge in corn dogs, deep fried Oreos and your favorite fair food, these celebrations are the highlight of the summer. 


1. Kentucky State Fair

Louisville, KY

Kentucky is known for its state fair. From the incredible horse shows, Gourmet Garden chef demonstrations and live music from popular artists like Meghan Trainor, Eric Paslay, Aretha Franklin and the Oak Ridge Boys, what’s not to love? The Kentucky State Fair[1] first started more than 100 years ago with trick bears, award-winning horses and the Parade of Champions and it’s still going strong with more than 500,000 people in attendance in 2014.


2. The Great New York State Fair

Syracuse, NY

Almost one million people attend the Great New York State Fair[2] every year and there are plenty of exciting activities that the whole family can enjoy. The New York State Fair is America’s oldest, featuring dozens of fun competitions, live music from Eric Church, Everclear, Buckcherry and others, the popular NY Wine & Cheese Seminars and a celebrity milking contest in honor of the state’s official beverage: milk.


3. State Fair of Texas

Dallas, TX

The Texas State Fair[3] is well known for debuting some of the most delicious deep fried foods. Year after year, the craziest fried foods are introduced to the public, like deep fried milk and cookies on a stick, fried pumpkin spice oreo, fried chocolate maple bacon amazeballz and deep fried sweet tea. Not to mention the larger-than-life carnival rides that the kids will love. If you can't get enough of fairs, be sure to head to the Crosby Fairgrounds to attend another local fair!


4. Iowa State Fair

Des Moines, IA

Regulars to the Iowa State Fair[4] know to look for the life-size butter cow every year. The 600 lb. cow made with pure Iowa butter is recreated each year by a local sculptor to carry on a tradition that began way back in 1911. As is state fair tradition, the Iowa fair offers more than 70 different varieties of food on a stick. Some newer items include apple pie on a stick and golden fried peanut butter and jelly on a stick.


5. Minnesota State Fair

St. Paul, MN

The Minnesota State Fair[5] is no joke, with dozens of activities like the River Raft Ride, Butterfly House, and Adventure Park, which features a climbing wall, slingshot, turbo bungy and more. The entertainment is unparalleled with the live theatre Arts Fair, a nightly colorful laser show choreographed to music, championship horses performing in the coliseum and of course, live music from Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and Def Leppard, among others. And we can’t go without mentioning the Gizmo Sandwich, a popular Minnesota and Iowa State Fair favorite, made with ground beef, Italian sausage, and gooey, delicious mozzarella cheese.


6. Alaska State Fair

Palmer, AK

Alaska’s state fair[6] features great live concerts from award-winning artists like Skillet, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, Lee Brice and hilarious comedian Jim Gaffigan. And as always, the giant vegetable competitions are known to be a hoot. Some of the previous winners include a 138-lb. cabbage, a 39-lb. piece of broccoli and an 18-lb. carrot. Crazy, right?


7. Washington State Fair

Puyallup, WA

The Washington State Fair[7], previously known as the Puyallup Fair, draws more than one million visitors every year and is commonly revered as one of the top state fairs in the country. The fair’s Grandstand stage consistently hosts big name artists like Pitbull, Iggy Azalea, Jake Owen and more. As far as food goes, the scones drowned in honey butter and raspberry jam are a foodie favorite here.


8. Ohio State Fair

Columbus, OH

Tons of free daily attractions bring scores of visitors out to the Ohio State Fair[8] every year. The Bass Bin fishing demonstration is great for kids and first-timers, the Natural Resources Park offers free fishing, kayaking, archery, free music and live shows, and the brand new Zombie Acres gives state fair goers the chance to protect Ohio from a zombie invasion. Guests can find just about everything at the Ohio State Fair; from Zumba fitness classes and beekeeping shows to beard and tattoo competitions, deep fried candy bars and horticulture and floriculture competitions.


9. Oregon State Fair

Salem, OR

Carnival rides and fried foods don’t take center stage at the Oregon State Fair[9] (although you definitely don’t have to look very hard to find them). This western state is all about agriculture, with garden and floral exhibits, plenty of homegrown produce and a farmers’ market that’s teeming with fresh goods; all great motivation for the hundreds of thousands of attendants that come out every year.


10. North Carolina State Fair

Raleigh, NC

Experience North Carolina’s musical heritage at the Folk Festival, learn all about the state’s diverse livestock population at the State Fair Ark or ooh and ahh at the stunning fireworks show, a tradition that goes all the way back to the mid 1900s. The North Carolina State Fair[10] attracts almost one million visitors each year and consistently offers great family entertainment alongside historic exhibits that honor the traditional beginnings of the popular statewide event.


11. The Big E

West Springfield, MA

The Big E[11] is one of the biggest events on the east coast and it drew a record number of people out last year with 1,498,605 attendants. The Big E is full of big fun, with a daily Mardi Gras parade, an incredible circus the kids will love and a charming 19th-century village, populated by characters dressed in authentic garb and giving guided tours. The food at the Big E, on the other hand, is to die for . On top of your typical fried fare, you’ll enjoy a variety of favorites like key lime pie on a stick, Big E Cream Puffs, eclairs and more mouthwatering flavors.


12. Indiana State Fair

Indianapolis, IN

The Indiana State Fair[12] honors the hard work and impact of Indiana farmers on the state. The fair celebrates agriculture, youth and education with competitions featuring 4-H livestock, talented young musicians, delicious food creations, the fantastic work of local artists and more. The Indiana State Fair organizers even call attendants to action with a Farmers Care food drive to meet local hunger needs in the state.


13. Missouri State Fair

Sedalia, MO

The Missouri State Fair[13] attracts hundreds of thousands of guests every year, and many of them bring a fierce spirit of friendly competition with them. Missouri’s State Fair has always been a competitive one, even way back to the very first one in 1901 which featured a livestock exhibition and jockey horse races. Today, competitive livestock exhibitions, truck and tractor pulling races, baking competitions, art exhibitions and even robotics competitions are just a taste of the Missouri State Fair. Endless family-friendly entertainment, free concerts and delicious deep fried favorites make it a popular summer event.


14. California State Fair

Sacramento, CA

Being so close to Napa Valley, visitors have to expect ample opportunity for fantastic wine and beer tastings at the California State Fair. But the California Brewfest is just the tip of the iceberg. Live horse races, a kid-friendly water park and a variety of exhibits are eye-opening and cultural. Visit the science fiction-y Tech Trek to learn about scientific discoveries, watch cooking demos at the California’s Kitchen exhibit, explore the diverse California Counties exhibit and be amazed by the Global Winter Wonderland Dragon Lantern Display.


15. Illinois State Fair

Springfield, IL

Hundreds of thousands of people come out to the Illinois State Fair[14] annually to enjoy the promising grandstand concerts and a broad range of events and entertainment. The Ethnic Village is a draw for many, featuring cuisine specialties from 15 different nationalities as well as two international beer booths. The heartland also proves to be popular, showcasing the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Farmers’ Market, a special play area for little ones and antique farm equipment on display.


16. Wisconsin State Fair

West Allis, WI

Choose from hundreds of mouthwatering foods at the Wisconsin State Fair[15], and see why Wisconsinites are so proud of their innovative dishes. Dig into the Caribbean crepes, peanut butter bacon bison burgers, deep fried maple bacon cookie dough and of course, the deep fried cheese curds in Wisconsin are a must. But the more than one million visitors that attend the fair every year aren’t just there for the food — the Giant Slide, Super Nova Roller Coaster and New York, New York Funhouse are just a few of the exciting attractions offered.


17. Colorado State Fair

Pueblo, CO

The Colorado State Fair[16] was born in Pueblo in 1869 and is the largest summer event in the entire state. The rodeo is a huge part of Colorado’s state fair, highlighting America’s western history with action-packed bullfights, team roping, bronc riding and more. Visitors also come out for the fun livestock, horse and small animals shows starring some of the state’s most treasured creatures.


18. Georgia State Fair

Hampton, GA

The Georgia State Fair[17] is held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and has a long, 164-year history boasting incredible entertainment and activities. In the past, the fair was held in Macon, Georgia, but since it moved to its new location at the Speedway, attendance quadrupled. Just being at the Speedway makes for a fun time, but add in the live wolf encounter, monkey jockeys riding on the backs of racing dogs, a human freak show and Coronas Hollywood Circus and you’ve got the one-of-a-kind Georgia State Fair.


19. Arizona State Fair

Phoenix, AZ

A southwestern flair is what makes the Arizona State Fair[18] unique, featuring foods that represent the local flavors, vibrant fine arts and photography competitions and amazing free concerts. The Arizona State Fair has been going for more than 70 consecutive celebrations and regularly draws more than a million people out to Phoenix to be a part.


20. Oklahoma State Fair

Oklahoma City, OK

Every year, the Oklahoma State Fair[19] is spectacular, with endless savory and sweet food options, big name concerts, extreme bull riding and fun competitions (including an arm wrestling competition!). The fair also usually includes an ice skating performance, plenty of rides and games, and quite a bit of fun for adults and kids alike.

What do you love the most about your home state’s fair? Have you been to any of these? Comment and share below!


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