10 Iowa State Fair tips: How to save money, time and your sanity
Get an overhead view of the newly renovated Grandstands at the Iowa State Fair and hear what improvements you'll see this year. Brian Powers and Michael Zamora, The Register
Eleven days of deep-fried fun kicks off Thursday with the opening of the Iowa State Fair. It's a week-and-a-half filled with midway rides, free concerts and food on a stick — but sometimes, too, with long lines, pricey tickets and short attention spans.
Here are some tips to save you a little dough (so you have a few extra bucks to buy some cookie dough, for instance):
2017 Iowa State Fair includes Thrill Ville, Thrill Zone and Thrill Town for the little ones.
Navigate the Fair: Start at the back
Take the sky glider to the back of the fairgrounds and work your way forward to skip long lines near the front entrances. Here's a map of the fairgrounds.
Your guide: Food, concerts and fun at the Iowa State Fair
Take advantage of daily deals
- Monday-Thursday evenings from 5 to 10 p.m.: $9 adult admission $5 child admission
- Veterans Day (Monday, Aug. 12): $9 for active and former members of the United States military and their spouse.
- Older Iowans’ Day (Wednesday, Aug. 14): $9 for Fairgoers ages 60 and over.
- Extreme Sunday (Sunday, Aug. 18): $9 adult admission (ages 12 and over) and $5 child admission (ages 6-11). $6 adult admission with the donation of three cans of non-perishable food.
Plan your must-haves ahead of time
Did you know you can peruse the food stands from home? Use the Des Moines Register's Food Finder app, available for iPhones, Androids and online, to find your State Fair favorites (and where they're located).
Park for free and take the DART shuttle
If you park in one of the three free lots listed below, you can take the cheap (cash-only) DART shuttle to the fairgrounds. The round-trip DART shuttle costs $2 for adults and $1 for children, those older than 65 and Medicare card holders and people with disabilities. Children under 5 are free.
Hot tip: Show your advance admission tickets or use the MyDART app to get half-off DART shuttle rides.
Park for free at these DART pick-up spots from 8:30 a.m. to midnight during the fair:
- 7th and Center Street parking ramp. The bus picks up at the corner of 6th Avenue and Center Street.
- Iowa State Capitol visitor lots, East 12th Street. The bus picks up on East 12th Street, east of the Capitol building.
- Southeast Polk High School, NE 80th Street and Highway 163. The bus picks up at main door of high school.
Know where to meet your ride
If you need a ride home, Gate 8 is the only spot to catch a cab, Uber or Lyft.
Don't wait in line at the ATM just to pay a $2 fee. (You need cash anyway to ride the DART shuttle, remember?)
Take advantage of free entertainment
There are multiple free events scheduled every single day of the State Fair. Country and rocks acts dominate the lineup, Don't forget to pet the baby animals in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center! Find the full schedule of free entertainment here.
Iowa State Fair free stages: Who you'll see? Idols, up-and-comers and '80s rock gods
Iowa State Fair concerts: Here's every artist playing the Grandstand
Eat meals ahead of time
Save money by eating meals at home. You'll then have money to splurge on one of the many fascinating new food items this year. Use the Des Moines Register's Food Finder app, available for iPhones, Androids and online, to find your State Fair favorites (and where they're located).
Pay attention to food prices
All that funky fair food can add up, so pay attention to prices before and during your trip. Several food items cost less than $4.
Enter free wacky contests
There are dozens of head-turning Iowa State Fair contests for all ages — including bubble-gum blowing, rubber-chicken throwing and look-a-like contests. Check out the full schedule here.
Linh Ta and Nicole Derong contributed to this report.