America's Best State Fairs

Caroline Morse, August 20, 2014
Fares from Washington DC:

    Nothing says America like deep-fried food, butter sculptures, and dubious carnival rides. Whether you like livestock, musical shows, or food on a stick, there's a state fair out there for you. Here are 10 favorites across the country.

    (Photo: Quinn Dombrowski via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

    Iowa State Fair

    More than a million people from all over the world attend the Iowa State Fair every year. We bet they're coming to see the fair's butter cow, an annual tradition since 1911 in which a sculptor uses around 600 pounds of Iowa butter to create a life-sized cow. Don't worry, the butter isn't wasted—much of it is recycled and reused for up to 10 years. (That's some shelf-stable butter!)

    Not into cows, but still into butter? A different "companion" sculpture is featured every year alongside the cow. Previous years' artwork has included Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, Harry Potter, Elvis Presley, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

    (Photo: Joe Shlabotnik via flickr/CC Attribution)

    New York State Fair

    The New York State Fair draws big crowds and even bigger musical stars every year. This year, you can catch performances by Brad Paisley, Jason Derulo, and the Doobie Brothers. The food at this fair goes beyond the standard fare, too—the Taste NY tent is stocked with libations from local wineries and breweries as well as regional foods. Or, for a simpler snack, hit the Potato Booth for a baked potato smothered with your choice of toppings for just $1.

    (Photo: kc7fys via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

    Minnesota State Fair

    Bring your appetite to the Minnesota State Fair, where there are about 500 different foods available at 300 concession stands. Some standout items: beer gelato, deep-fried breakfast on a stick (a sandwich with two pancakes as the buns, stuffed with two types of cheese, a sausage patty, eggs, and Canadian bacon, and then fried), and Jell-O salad ice cream. The Minnesota State Fair is surprisingly eco-conscious as well—at this year's Eco Experience, you can see things like the world's largest wad of paper, a climate-change exhibit, and an urban garden.

    (Photo: Steve Rainwater via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

    State Fair of Texas

    Everything's bigger in Texas, including the state fair (and its mascot, a 55-foot-tall cowboy). This fair goes on for 24 days and packs in plenty of entertainment, including concerts and cooking competitions. Of course, no Texas event would be complete without football: The Cotton Bowl Stadium inside the fairgrounds hosts college football games during the fair. There are plenty of non-sports games and rides for daredevils, too—be sure to check out this year's new 500-foot Top o' Texas Tower ride.

    (Photo: Selena N. B. H. via flickr/CC Attribution)

    North Carolina State Fair

    Fair food can be healthy, too: The North Carolina State Fair's Field of Dreams is a miniature farm where fairgoers can pick their own crops (like apples, strawberries, and cucumbers). This year is the Year of the Horse, so there will be plenty of equine-themed activities, including horseback-riding lessons, polo, and parades.

    (Photo: Eve Hermann via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

    Ohio State Fair

    The Ohio State Fair boasts one of the world's longest portable sky rides—the SkyGlider, which takes you a half mile above the fair on a ride that's more relaxing than adrenaline-pumping. There's also the Giant Slide (144 feet long), and there are more than 60 rides on the Mountain Dew Midway to enjoy. For families, there's a special park just for kids (aptly named Kiddieland) that features rides for smaller fair fans.

    (Photo: Katherine Johnson via flickr/CC Attribution)

    Illinois State Fair

    Which do you think is the bigger draw: disgraced "Blurred Lines" singer Robin Thicke or a 500-pound butter cow sculpture? You'll find both at the Illinois State Fair this year. Need more reasons to visit? Check out the fair's food-vendors map, which lists where you can find delicacies such as quarter-pound bacon on a stick, fried peaches, alligator on a stick, deep-fried turkey sandwiches, and pork chops on a stick.

    (Photo: Andrew Petro via flickr/CC Attribution)

    Arizona State Fair

    The Arizona State Fair's eclectic concert lineup means that there's something for every type of music fan. This year, there will be performances by Sublime with Rome, Darius Rucker, Wiz Khalifa, and the Barenaked Ladies. There's also a Milking Parlor, where you can watch an educational video about Arizona's dairy farmers; or for something slightly more exciting, check out the midway rides, featuring roller coasters, a Tilt-A-Whirl, and more.

    (Photo: Jay Galvin via flickr/CC Attribution)

    Alaska State Fair

    Giant produce may not be what you think of when you think of Alaska, but the Alaska State Fair could change that. The fair has already set two world records for massive vegetables; see if it will happen a third time at this year's 19th Annual Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off. There are more than 10,000 exhibits at the fair as well as big-name celebrities like KC and the Sunshine Band, The All-American Rejects, Flo Rida, and the stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty.

    (Photo: Jason Meredith via flickr/CC Attribution)

    Kentucky State Fair

    Kentucky is world famous for horses and bourbon, and you'll find both at the Kentucky State Fair. There's the World's Championship Horse Show, Quarter Horse Show, Miniature Horse Show, and 4-H Horse Show to satisfy the equine category, and there's the "Bourbon: America's Native Spirit, Kentucky's Liquid Soul" exhibit, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Congress' recognition of bourbon as a unique product, to satisfy the spirits category.

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    This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title America's Best State Fairs.

    Follow Caroline Morse on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

    (Lead Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

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