State fairs, originally held to celebrate the harvest, have grown into enormously popular annual events. For couples on a budget and last-minute vacationers, state fairs offer great, affordable dining and entertainment close to home.
A bounty of edibles fresh-picked from the farm, ethnic delights, and other unique temptations await those with an appetite for something different at state fairs. At the Minnesota State Fair, you can choose from dozens of different foods-on-a-stick...
Regional specialties also reign at state fairs: To determine who makes the finest cheese in Wisconsin, attend competitions featuring colby, cheddar, and other local varieties.
At the Vermont State Fair, see how to make maple syrup -- and savor maple cotton candy and maple donuts. And at the California State Fair, sip on blue-ribbon wines.
Animal lovers head for the livestock exhibits at state fairs, where they can see the cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and other farm animals up close that 4-H club members work so hard to nurture all year.
Four-legged creatures are also put through their paces in state fairs. Horse shows and dog agility demonstrations draw animal lovers. Those with a greater appetite for speed can catch state fairs' grandstand racing and demolition derbies.
At night, the midway illuminates the grounds of state fairs
Crafty types will appreciate state fairs' demonstrations of needlework, dress-making, and stained-glass making. Award-winners in canning, baking, cake decorating, and other domestic skills show onlookers how the experts do it. If you're not handy yourself, craftspeople and vendors hawk everything from hand-pieced quilts to amazing new inventions at state fairs.
At night, the midway illuminates the grounds. The big Ferris wheel provides an eagle's-eye view of the state fairs activity, and the carousel turns it all into a blur of colors and sounds -- especially when there are fireworks. Visitors of all ages flock to games where prizes large and fuzzy await ring-tossing, balloon-popping champions. (Tip: If your heart is set on walking away with a larger-than-life stuffed animal, offer to buy it outright: In the long run, it'll be cheaper than "winning" it.)
And the bands play on...
Expect to see the biggest names in show business performing on the state-fair circuit -- and ticket prices are comparatively low.
Don't miss the old-fashioned country pleasures of state fairs
Old-fashioned country pleasures such as fiddling, square dancing, hog-calling, and hay rides are a staple at many state fairs. And state fairs are also the best place to hear country music outside the Grand Ole Opry.
All over America, the good times are rolling. Whatever your vacation plans, make time to come to the fair. Click below for dates of upcoming state fairs, links to these great events, and lodging ideas: