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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

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The Iowa State Fair will draw thousands of people to Des Moines for 11 days of deep-fried food, music, smelly animals, crazy contests and people-watching. Make sure you're ready and get the best deals with these basics on how to go and where to park. 

The fair runs from Aug. 8-18 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Ticket costs at the gate

Adults $12, children ages 6-11 $6. Children age 5 and younger are free.

There are also special deals on admission tickets during the Fair:

  • 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.

Get discount tickets in advance

Available until Wednesday. $8 for ages 12 and over, $4 for ages 6-11. Advanced admission tickets will be available online and at participating Fareway, Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Drug, Price Chopper and Cash Saver stores.

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Your guide: Food, concerts and fun at the Iowa State Fair

Fair hours

Fairgrounds are open 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. and the buildings from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Thrill Ville (amusement park-style rides) opens at 10 a.m. and is located between the Grandstand and Ye Old Mill.

Thrill Town (kid-friendly rides) opens at 9 a.m. and is located east of Gate 10 and directly north of the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center Lawn

Thrill Zone (adventure-style rides) opens at 10 a.m. and is located north of Gate 11.

Where to park

Parking lots are available for motorcycle and vehicle parking in the North, Northeast and University lots for $10. Fairgoers can take the Blue Line Parking Tram inside the North and Northeast parking lots for free from designated stops to the admission gates. Bicycle parking is available inside Gates 9 and 11 for free.

Music: Here's every artist playing the Grandstand and every free concert

Take the DART shuttle to the fair

Parking is free at all DART locations from 8:30 a.m. to midnight every day of the fair. Fairgoers will be dropped off and picked up at the DART Transit Hub at Gate 10 on the Fairgrounds.

Round-trip fares are cash only. All buses are wheelchair accessible. 

  • $2 adults (ages 11-64)
  • $1 children ages 6-10, adults (65+), Medicare card holders and people with disabilities (half-fare)
  • Children 5 and younger are free 
  • Discount: Show your Iowa State Fair advance admission ticket or use the MyDART app to receive half off the round-trip fare.

Parking locations:

  • 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. 

For more details, contact DART by phone at 515-283-8100 or by email at dart@ridedart.com

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Download Food Finder app

Find your favorite foods and vendors with the Des Moines Register’s free Food

Finder app for iPhone and Android or browse online.

  • Search for foods at the fair by type or vendor and locate them on the fairgrounds map. Favorite them and share your recommendations with friends.
  • Search to find all the new fair foods.
  • Find the closest place to get your favorite fair food from where you are located on the fairgrounds.
  • Peruse fair events.

More food coverage: 57 new foods to try for 2019  |  The best new deals   |  Weird and wacky foods you should try

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