Visiting the Arizona State Fair With Kids. The 2022 Arizona State Fair is in full swing at the fairgrounds on McDowell and 19th Ave in Phoenix and continues until October 30th. Visiting a fair is such a classic way to have fun with your family, I definitely recommend going, especially if your family is as obsessed with fried Oreos as mine.
At the event, you will find all the classic elements that make up a fair. Great rides, epic levels of unhealthy foods, carnival games, novelty souvenir stalls, and stages for various shows. But my personal favorite part of this fair is the 4H displays.
The Coliseum building is dedicated to arts and crafts, and you can walk around the exhibits and see the winning entries. I was very impressed with a soft, blue blanket that an 8-year-old boy made for his baby brother. It took him an entire year. Amazing work! There are beautiful quilts, rocket ships made from everyday materials, and a wood turner who kindly gave my three girls each a toy spinning top. We hung around for a few minutes and got to watch him make another one.
There are impressive displays of copper work, Lego structures, handmade vases, plates, dolls, and clothes. My husband was fascinated by a crocheted Grogu. One table had a collection of rare coins and information about how to become a coin collector.
We spent a long time watching wood crafter Linda Davis create beautiful works of art with a scroll saw. She gave each of my kids a wooden letter of their first initial. She crafted it right in front of them and explained how she was doing it. They couldn’t wait to get home and paint their letters.
In the Kerr’s Farm Tours building on the other side of the fairgrounds was a more lively setting. Participants in the 4H club brought in their animals for show, education, and enrichment. We got to see little pink piglets snuffle around their straw, watch a goat getting a shave, and come almost nose to nose with a beautiful gray donkey. The highlight was of course, the petting zoo.
Smooth, soft goats and fluffy sheep were the most prevalent animals, but there were a few llamas (or perhaps it was an alpaca?) and two tiny little baby kangaroos. My kids loved this area, and every kid and adult going in there had big, excited smiles. There was an option for purchasing small cups of food, but just going in and petting the animals were free. I am very thankful for the hand sanitizer table set up by the exit of the petting zoo area, and a hand washing station just outside the building.
The Paradise Perch bird exhibit has shows several times throughout the day. Check the schedule online ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss it. The birds are beautiful and fun, and there is always someone there ready to tell you all about their feathery companions.
Visiting the Arizona State Fair With Kids
To get on rides and play games, you are going to need tickets. The ticket system works by purchasing the amount you want and receiving a small slip of paper with a QR code on it. Each time you want to go on a ride or play a game, your QR code is scanned and the amount of tickets required to participate is deducted from your total.
They are grossly overpriced. It’s truly awful. We purchased what we thought were enough tickets for each of our kids to go on three rides and play one game each, plus one ride for each adult. We bought $60 tickets at a cost of $75. There was no discount for buying more tickets. The first ride we walked passed was a small carousel that was 4 tickets per person, so we thought most rides would be about 4 tickets. We found that 4 was the lowest level, most rides were between 5 and 8 tickets, and the games averaged 6 tickets. They will not accept cash.
Some games had a deal where you could purchase two games at once and use fewer tickets. We did end up going back and buying a few more tickets to get each of our kids what we had promised, three rides and one game. My husband and I each went on one ride and played one game as well, so that adds up really fast. And we didn’t even win any prizes.
The rides were awesome. I got nice and squished on the Twister with my oldest daughter, and my husband, Dave, rode the Crazy Coaster with the two older girls. Our little one loved the Ferris wheel with her big cousin. All three laughed and ran their way through the New York fun house, and raced down the slide at the end. One ride area was best suited for young kids, with gentle spinning rides that did not go up in the air, and smaller slides. However, there were plenty of rides for the more adventurous souls in your party.
We ended up spending our game tickets at a booth in which you had to stand up a bottle that was tipped on its side. You had to do it using a stick with a small ring tied to the end of the rope. It resembled a poorly made fishing rod. The bottle was on a slant, and it was obvious from the size of the prizes that this was going to be almost impossible. But the prize was a stuffed axolotl about the size of me, so we tried six times. With no axolotl to show for our efforts, we left defeated but determined to master our bottle fishing skills, and someday return.
After all that fun, we had to stop for food. My kids and I got pizza, cheese bread, and lemonade, and it did not disappoint. The biggest challenge was dodging the bees that were camped around the lemonade dispensers. My husband had pulled pork nachos from Piggly’s BBQ and said they were delicious. We got fried Oreos from a stall called Streat Fair, near entrance gate two. They also had fried twinkies, snickers, cookie dough, cheesecake, churros, and funnel cake. I think next time we need to make a point of trying one of each.
Getting to the fair in the first place isn’t so difficult. There are various privately owned parking lots on McDowell, although the closer you get to the entrance, the more expensive they get. My intrepid cousin managed a free parking spot on a side street two blocks away. We paid $20 to park close to gate two, but when we left the fair several hours later, the same parking lot was charging $30. It made me feel like we got a deal! There are three official parking locations. See the website for details.
A few noteworthy days and deals can be found on the state fair website as well. Every Thursday is wristband day. You can buy a wristband for $50 and enjoy unlimited rides. I thought this was outrageous until I saw the price of the tickets. Every day there is a deal called “Read and Ride.” Read three grade-level appropriate books, then download the form from the state fair website, and fill out a brief book summary. Have an adult sign the form, then bring it to the “Read and Ride” redemption area inside the shopping pavilion. For participating in this deal, each child that earns it gets three free rides. Every Friday is $3 Foodie Friday, and October 21 is Armed Forces Day.
For more information, see “Deals and Promotions” under the “Fair” tab near the top of the website.
Visiting the Arizona State Fair With Kids
While we did have a fun day, it often felt as though money was being sucked out of our pockets with a vacuum. There are lots of things you can do there without spending so much, such as watching the shows, visiting the petting zoo, and enjoying the exhibits in the crafting arena. Pursuing the shopping pavilion is also free, and shaded.
With all these prices and experiences in mind, I recommend deciding ahead of time what you’re willing to spend and setting the family’s expectations before you go. It’s still hard, and my kids absolutely cried when they didn’t win any prizes. But overall, we had a really great time. We made memories of trying the games and getting super dizzy on rides. We might even go again before the fair ends for the year. And honestly, we would go to just about any expense to eat fried Oreos.
For a map of the fairgrounds, see this link.
For more information on the Arizona State Fair, go here.