Our guide for navigating the N.C. State Fair

Our guide for navigating the N.C. State Fair

Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios

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Ferris wheels, farm animals and fried food — we’re giving you the rundown of the N.C. State Fair.

Going to the State Fair is a treat no matter how old you are. It’s good nostalgic fun.

New for the 2021 season: This year, fairgoers will only be allowed to bring clear bags into the fairgrounds as part of the new clear bag policy.

Otherwise, enjoy yourselves. Here’s our guide for navigating the N.C. State Fair.

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How to get there

Amtrak: Driving is one option, of course. But why not mix it up? You can avoid the parking and traffic by taking Amtrak straight from Charlotte to the fairgrounds. It drops you off just steps away from the gates.

  • A round-trip train ticket will cost you about $67 and common departure times for the fair are 6:45am, 10:30am, and 3pm.

  • Another convenient part of taking the train is that there’s a tent where passengers can wait to board the train.
Amtrak train to Raleigh

I got up bright and early to catch the 6:45am train to the fair. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios


What to expect

The N.C. State Fair has everything from rides and free entertainment to hundreds of local vendors from across the state and, you guessed it, fair food.

Rides & attractions: There are game stands, fun houses and Ferris wheels as far as the eye can see. And, if you’re a thrill-seeker, there are drop towers and inverted rides that will have your adrenaline pumping.

  • Pro tip: If you don’t ride anything else, definitely get a ticket for the State Fair flyer which gives you a view of the fair from up high (it’s absolutely worth it).
  • Bringing little ones? There’s even an entire ride zone designated for the kiddos.
  • Stick around until the evening for nightly firework shows.
NC State Fair

View from the State Fair Flyer. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.

NC State Fair

Pick a prize, any prize. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.

Food: Did you even go to the fair if you didn’t try any of the fair food? You can find some of the wackiest, wildest food pairings you’ve ever seen at the fair. I’m talking Krispy Kreme burgers, gator mac & cheese and shrimp and grits … on a stick!

  • You’ll find food stands all over the fairgrounds, but I discovered that there’s a sort of “food row” that has a range of options.
    NC State Fair

    I spotted at least 10 food stands offering funnel cakes. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.

    NC State Fair

    The southern girl in me can’t resist some good fried pickles. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios

    NC State Fair food

    Order a cup or a bucket of cookies and dip them in a cold cup of milk. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.

    Exhibits and vendors: Have you seen antique farm equipment from the early 1900s? Want to wander through fresh crops like okra, peanuts and sweet potatoes? The fair has several exhibits that allow guests to walk through and get up close to historical artifacts, crops and vegetables before they get to the grocery store.

    • One of the most popular attractions is the Village of Yesteryear which features more than 75 local artisans displaying and selling time-honored handmade wares.
    NC State Fair

    Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.

    NC State Fair

    I was surprised to see what certain vegetables look like before they reach the table. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.

    NC State Fair

    Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.


    Details

    Dates/hours: The N.C. State Fair runs through October 24. Days and times are Sunday through Thursday from 8am to 11pm and Friday and Saturday from 8am to midnight.

    Cost: Fair tickets are $13 for adults, $7 for kids 6-12 and $5 for seniors. A round-trip train ticket will cost you about $67 and departure times to the fair are 5:31am and 6:45am.

    • Most fair rides require tickets or a wristband. A sheet of 18 ride tickets is $10 (on average, rides are about 5-6 tickets). A wristband is $40 and gets you unlimited rides for one day.
    NC State Fair

    Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios.

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