Updated for 2017!
It’s fair time! Yes, already! The Washington State Fair (We still call it The Puyallup at our house) now begins Labor Day weekend.
This post has my best bets if you’re looking to do the fair on a budget, PLUS the scoop on what’s new for kids at the fair this year!
Best Deal On Admission This year, there are TWO chances to get everyone in the fair for free
You can go the morning the fair opens, Friday, September 1st, and get in free with a canned food donation. It’s Komo’s First Day at the Fair food drive, and your entry is free with your donation from 10:30AM-12:30 only.
OR If You Don’t Have to Work or Go To School Friday Morning the 8th: You can go down and watch the cattle parade (super fun), and then continue on into the fair between 10:30AM-12:30 and get free admission with a school supply donation. If you’re early risers, you can even stop by Pioneer Park (it’s the one by the downtown library) and get breakfast first for just 2.00 between 7:30-10.00! If you have little kids, this is an awesome deal, and once you’re in the gates there is a ton they can do for free. More info. on the cattle drive and parade is here. More info. on the free opening day admission is here. Note that kids are free all Labor Day weekend (no coupon needed), and they will also get free admission coupons at school. It’s totally free to watch the parade.
Best Deal On Rides Rides will dramatically increase the cost of your fair trip. If your kids want to do more than a couple, your best option is probably to buy a Dizzy Pass. The Dizzy Pass gets you unlimited rides (with a couple of exceptions) and two games. These aren’t cheap but will pay for themselves quickly. You’ll save 10.00 if you buy yours by September 3rd. Another option is to buy the 40 ride and game ticket option for 20.00 or the 120 ticket card for 50.00 and divide the tickets up between your kids (each ride costs 7-12 tickets). If you’re a Costco member, you can also get two 75 ticket fun cards for 50.00. You can see all the rides deals here.
Best Deal if You’re a Military Family: Go Mondays for free admission for active and retired members of the military and their dependents. You will need to show a valid photo id at the turnstile. Read the details here.
Best Deal Otherwise: There are a number of coupons and deals for the Fair. Which one is best, depends on what you value most in your fair going and when you want to make your trip.
- Love rides? If your idea of a good time is whirling and twirling, your best bet is to get a Dizzy Pass. See the section above for more on that. Try to buy online by September 3rd if you can!
- Got Kids? School age kids will receive free coupons through their school. Kids can also get in free all Labor Day weekend, and they don’t need a ticket or a coupon! Kids 5 and under are always free.
- Just need a ticket? If you’re a Pierce County resident you can get 2-for-1 admission on Thursdays-September 7th, 14th, and 21st. You do need the coupon that came with your August ValPak. I believe it’s also in the TNT insert. I’m working on finding out if there is an online/printable option. You can also save a few dollars by purchasing in advance online or at one of several ticket outlets. Go here for all your admission deals.
- On a budget? There are actually tons of things to do at the fair for free. Pay for the grown-ups to get in, use the kids’ free coupons, and then head to the exhibit halls for all kinds of free things to see and do (more on those below). My advice to make this work is to discuss the expectations before hand, and maybe have an alternative for after-like an evening of free fair fun ending with a trip to the ice cream parlor. You can use the Fair Planner along with the daily schedule to figure out what to hit. When our boys were small we would let each of the boys do a set number of rides (like 3), and we limit our food to scones. Mmmm….scones! See more food tips below.
Other Deals: There should be a bogo admission coupon in the Entertainment Book, but I don’t have one handy. If you do, leave a comment!
Concerts and Rodeo: If you want to see a concert or go to the rodeo, keep an eye on the various deal sites, like Groupon. I don’t see anything right now, but there have been offers in the past.
Parking: Bus service has been restored! Woot! If you’d like to park for free and leave the driving to someone else, this is a great option.
If you want to drive yourself, generally speaking, the further out you park, the cheaper it gets. Official fair parking in their lots is 10.00 on weekdays and 15.00 on weekends. If you’re patient, you can circle until you find a street space for free. I like to park at a church or a school. The rate tends to be reasonable, and it’s going to a good cause. They also have people out, so your car looks less abandoned than it might sitting in the yard of someone who let you park and then went off to do whatever…I like the First Christian Church parking lot. Friendly folks, a hop and a skip away, and you get in and out privileges for your 10.00. I also recommend Kalles Junior High. You can also sometimes score free street parking near Kalles.
Food: If you can survive without fair goodies, you’ll save a bundle. I’ll be springing for the Fisher Scone ice cream. It’s a little cup sized serving, but it’s delicious and only 2.00. You can’t get much food at the fair for 2.00!
What to do: What to do once you’re in the fair? Don’t limit yourself to the Midway. Lots of the best fair fun is free! We love the Northwest Outdoors Hall where kids can fish for free, the animal barns with the petting zoo (also free), the milk samples and, “Cow,” milking in the dairy barn, and the fun exhibits in the Hobby Hall-don’t miss the Lego area. Reader and site friend, CoreyAnn, tipped me off to the penny pressing in Sillyville. It will cost .50 and a penny to press a souvenir penny with a fair design, but that’s cheaper than just about any souvenir you’ll find elsewhere! Do skip the games-they’re pricey and pretty much impossible imho.
What’s New: New highlights this year include Fisher Scone ice cream (It’s so good!!), the new Circus Jumbo ride (Super cute-it is a lot like the ride that rhymes with Jumbo at you-know-where), and two paid attractions, the Giant Insect Adventure and Big Washington’s Imagination Workshop. I’ll report back on these if I have a chance to check them out. If you get there first, let us know if they’re worth the extra cost.
Coming back this year is SuperHero headquarters. There are superheroes to meet and greet, and a bunch of cute photo ops. This is free, and I really recommend it if you have superhero fans. My kid is a Marvel Comics nut, and he LOVED this last year.
Phew! It’s a bit of work wading through fair options, and this post didn’t begin to cover them all, but hopefully it helped!
I would LOVE for you to leave a comment with your favorite fair going tips. I know others would appreciate ’em, especially newbies! Oh, and Puyallup friends-put a sticky note somewhere so you don’t forget it’s fair time and get stuck on Meridian (Just me?).