Best State Fairs in the Midwest

State fairs are a summertime tradition, and a great outing for the family that can be turned into a short vacation when you travel to one in a neighboring state. Midwestern state fairs have become bigger, better and more creative with each year that passes. Fried food of every kind fill the stalls, bigger, more varied entertainers are brought in and several football fields worth of rides and attractions make up just a portion of the fair. If you are in the Midwest for vacation and want to add a state fair to the itinerary, here are the best options.

Best State Fairs in the Midwest

Illinois State Fair

The Illinois State Fair is not the biggest state fair, but it is close to it, and grows even bigger every year. Held in the state capital of Springfield and lasts for ten days with each day having a specific theme. The Illinois fair prides itself on the entertainment and performers that it brings in, with fifteen stages that include the Grandstand and the Arena where the biggest ticketed events take place. Horse races, a high dive show and the Illinois Wine Experience are among the most popular attractions.

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State fair is like its motto “Nothing Compares”. At the Iowa state fair, everything that can be made on a stick has been, and anything you haven’t thought of, like coconut mountain, has been put on a stick! The Grandstand lineup is a great one too with past acts like Daughtry and Lady Antebellum. The Iowa state fair likes to stay true to the original contests and competitions that made state fairs popular, bringing in entries from across the entire state.

Fairs

Missouri State Fair

The Missouri State Fair has been celebrated for over 100 years and is all about celebrating country life. The Tractor Pull events are some of the biggest in the country with teams preparing for the competition for weeks in advance. Competitions for children in agriculture and livestock are given the most importance at this fair so it really has a great family friendly atmosphere. Like other fairs, music and entertainment acts are brought in, but the real focus is the agriculture and farming culture of the state.

Wisconsin State Fair

The Wisconsin State Fair is held outside the city of Milwaukee, making it a great vacation destination where you can combine urban adventure with a couple days at the fair. Known for its food, the cream puff is a must try, with a traditional beer flavored cream puff paying homage to this beer capital. The 4-H barn and show is one of the biggest in the country, with an especially intense level of competition. Children prepare for these show events for most of the year and the popular Spin City if the reward for most, filled with games and amusement rides.

Have you ever been to a state fair? What is your favorite part? Mine is the food!

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve been to the Indiana State Fair when I was in second grad to see New Kids on the Block, but I don’t really remember much about it. We go to the Kentucky State Fair almost every year because my in-laws get free tickets. As a total city girl, that’s about as close as I get to farm life!

  2. says

    I’ve never been to a state fair but I’ve heard so much great things about it from my BFF who lives in Iowa. I am sure my fave part would be the food too!

  3. Anna C. says

    I have been to the Indiana State Fair once, but wasn’t that impressed. I grew up going to the Elkhart County 4-H fair though. Its larger than the state fair in Indiana. It has all the events like the state fair, plus you can see all the entertainment for free after you paid to get into the fair. Its one of the biggest county fairs in the country.

  4. melisa says

    We were just in Missouri and Illinois. Our family has allergies so we avoided them for years, but they’re under control now, and I really want to go to a state fair. We’ve been to stock shows and the like, but never a state fair. Thanks for the list.

  5. Sandy Cain says

    I’ve never really spent time in the Midwest, but New York has an awesome State fair! Beside the food (LOL!), I love seeing all the animals raised by the 4H people, and the award winning quilts, and the baking contests. It’s such a wonderful experience, the whole thing always makes me so happy!

  6. Terri S says

    I’ve never been to a fair in the midwest. I have always wanted to go to the Iowa state fair. I have a friend that always talks about how much fun she had there.

  7. says

    Because our summers are so hot, we have to wait until October for our fairs. They’re a lot of fun, though. I would love to visit some of the fairs in the midwest.

  8. Tammy Schweitzer says

    I just love fairs so much to do. I enjoy a fair because of the rides too exhibits plus great food

  9. nancyfancypink says

    The Midwest DOES have great state fairs! I wish we did out East. I have relatives in Wisconsin and I would love to coordinate a visit there with the State Fair. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Sue E says

    IL has a great state fair in Springfield. When I go to the fair, we get a hotel room, because we live over 4 hours away. Plus you cannot do everything at a fair in one day!! I love the craft booths!!

  11. Darlene says

    State fairs sound great. I don’t have any state fairs near me in california. We have a smaller local fair though with great food. Always have delicious food to splurge for at the fair. Once I even saw deep fried butter (eww) and deep friend Oreos (yum).

  12. Renee Smith says

    I live in northern Wisconsin and I’ve never been to the state fair. I have relatives in Milwaukee that go every year. Some day I will have to do it.

  13. Corey Olomon says

    I’ve been to the Kansas, Texas and Washington-state fairs. My favorite is probably Kansas.

  14. Lisa Brown says

    I haven’t been to a fair in many years; they are so fun. That ride looks so scary, not sure I would partake in that, though :)

  15. Leanne Cobbledick says

    I love state fairs. They are a great excuse to go on a family road trip and have some fun creating great memories. My favorite childhood memories are family road trips!

  16. Lisa Konieczke says

    I would love to take my kids to anyone of these state fairs. I don’t take my kids to the state fairs around where I live… there’s always got to be someone that gets shot or something bad happens. It’s not far to those who actually go to have a good time. I would love to go to a reputable state fair. These all have something different to offer.

  17. Ronald G says

    I am from Canada so we do not have these exciting State fairs, but we do have a 10 Exibition much the same

  18. ginette4 says

    To be honest I’ve never been to a state fair, we have one that’s about 2hrs away from where we live but I’ve never wanted to make the drive, one day we’ll get there and probably camp over night..they are fun.

  19. suzanne says

    Generally Fairs are too crowded for me, but when I ever make it out food is always my favorite part.

  20. Sherrie C. says

    I’ve never been to any of these state fairs but would love to go one of these days. The closest to me would be the Wisconsin state fair. Hopefully one of these days my family and I will get to visit and enjoy a good ol’ day out at the fair.

  21. Shannon says

    I wanna go to all of them. Our fair here used to be nice and easy to get to but they moved it and I refuse to go now because there is only one gate (the other one had multiple gates and was closer too).

  22. alena svetelska says

    i wished they were more around here,we r lucky if fairy stop by once every few years.We would love to go

  23. Grace says

    I use to live in Upstate NY and I miss going to the NY State Fair…we use to go and spend the whole day there

  24. Jody D says

    We don’t have state fairs, but I grew up in Calgary and each year the Calgary Stampede was the high point of the summer, and something I really miss now that I have moved east.

  25. says

    The only fairs I have attended have been smaller town fairs quite unlike the ones you have described. They only run three days for the most part. I do enjoy the foods offered and the ferris wheel when I can attend. Also, the many booths with many items to buy!

  26. April Chasteen says

    We love to go to as many fairs and festivals as much as we can handle! We have been to the Indiana and Ohio State fairs. Also, all of our surrounding city fairs in Ohio. We live on the border of Ohio and Indiana so we hit a lot of fairs in Indiana, too! My kids love everything about it and I love their reactions! :)

  27. Stephanie Compton says

    How fun to see Missouri listed. I haven’t been but heard that it is good. Sherry Compton

  28. suzanne t. says

    I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life and have never missed a year of attending our state fair; I believe it is the 2nd largest in the country. I would love to check out some of the other state fairs.

  29. sierra field says

    I grew up in a rural community in Maryland, and I entered our county fair every year with 4H! My favorite things were the piglet races and getting a funnel cake on the last day of the fair. I’ve never made it to the state fair. I just loved that it was so about the agriculture of our community. We were too small for rides, but all that was ok! Every kid looked forward to petting a bunny or milking a goat at the fair!

  30. lisa says

    I haven’t been in years. I used to enjoy playing the games that you could never win. I also enjoyed Skee-ball and the junk food.

  31. Lauryn R says

    I love State Fairs!! It looks like you and your family had so much fun! I used to go all of the time as a kid, but it’s been YEARS since I’ve been to one! I will definitely have to check out when one close to me will be coming.

  32. melisa says

    We have an upcoming trip to Wisconsin planned. I would really like to see the fair, hoping it will work out for us.

  33. says

    I LOVE fairs! love, love. I love the rides, the food, etc. we don’t have a state fair around here that I know of (MA) but we have town fairs that are just as fun.

  34. Carissa Joslyn says

    I have never been to any other State Fairs other then where I live, which is Maine. But I have always loved the Bangor State Fair. I planned everything around it so I was able to go. Luckily I had my youngest a few weeks before the fair came 😉 Although, now I can’t handle rides anymore. Since having kids I get so sick! :/ But, Still love taking my kids!

  35. Rust says

    I loved the state fairs as a kid, riding the ferris wheel and shooting the little plastic ducks in the arcade. And the food! My kids loved them too when they were little and they really hadnt changed all that much. Love the cotton candy!

  36. Candy Kelley says

    I live in the midwest so this is great info. Thanks for the review and not to mention love the fair food.

  37. darci says

    Live in Canada and not close to a large city so have been to a couple fairs ever one in Edmonton and at the PNE in Vancouver. We have our own small town event and it is ok, my kids loved the petting zoo more than any of the rides.

  38. M.Clark says

    I remember going to the state fair when I was younger and we lived in Hawaii. Yes, my favorite is definitely the food, yum!!

  39. Mary Ross says

    I have never been to a state fair. Our KY state fair usually has some big name concerts. George Strait used to do shows and I wanted to see him so badly. Maybe, some day we can plan a couple of days away and attend the fair.

  40. Angela McCandless says

    I haven’t been to a fair in a long time, but now that im older the rides scare me to much to ride on them. But when I did go, I always had to get funnel cake with powdered sugar on it.

  41. says

    I’ve been to a few state fairs; Florida, Kentucky and Ohio.

    We could swing the IL fair easy enough.

    I love that Iowa puts everything on a stick LOL That may be worth checking out one year for a family trip.

    Thanks for the midwest state fair information!

  42. says

    I’m a little late to the party with your post here, Teri. As I intend to hit one of them this year and I’m discovering this now with vacation time coming up, I thank you for your post. Although I live in Illinois, I often forget they do still have a state fair.

  43. Laurie P says

    State fairs just sound so fun. Here in Canadiana, in my part, the closest thing to it is the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), but it’s losing it luster, to me anyway…

  44. Tracy says

    Thanks for the reminder … when I was growing up, we always took a road trip to Springfield, IL for the state fair. Great memories :)

  45. Kimberly Flickinger says

    Thank you for your post, very informative in regards to State fairs. My family and I are going to be attending a local fair here in Michigan for the first time, we just moved here from Ohio. Have a great Fourth of July!

  46. sherry blamer says

    I love the ohio state fair. its a pretty great fair with some really good food. I also love smalltwons those are pretty good too.

  47. Bekah Kuczenski says

    I have never been to a state fair before. But, we always go to our local county fair, which we enjoy :)

  48. Debbie Welchert says

    I haven’t been to the state fair in years. In fact, the last time I went to the fair was over 25 years ago with my husband. I had so much fun. I loved where the merchants sold new items and we could enter for raffles and things. My favorite food was the frozen pineapple whip. It was so good.

  49. Jennifer C says

    I haven’t been to any of those state fairs. I’ve been to the Ohio state fair. We actually have a few bigger names coming for concerts. It’s always fun to go although we have yet to find the fair food e everyone raves about.

  50. Noelle says

    Love to see Wisconsin State Fair on this list! I dream about our cream puffs all year long. As far as I’m concerned, the state fair means delicious food! Last year we had dead fried smores, chocolate dipped cookie dough, and country fried bacon! Yum!

  51. Linda Manns Linneman says

    State fairs are always a fun time for all. Thank you for sharing all this information for us. These would make for a great summer time getaway

  52. petra says

    There are a lot of county fairs nearby that we love to go to during the summer. Our favorite events are the demolition derby and livestock judging.

  53. Kadie says

    These look like so much fun! The Florida State Fair is in February (and even then it is often toasty outside) so it is hard to imagine enjoying a fair in the middle of summer. These look awesome!

  54. Ashley F says

    We’ve lived in Illinois for a year and half and may have to check out the state fair this year. We used to live in Arizona and their state fair was in October because it’s too hot in the summer for a fair!

  55. Dorothy Teel says

    Thank you for sharing the reviews of State Fiars, Oklahoma has one every year and they still do the blue ribbons for patron submitted crafts, foods, and thelike, the 4 H clubs still submit their animals and have judging and auctions for them, it is a lot of fun for kids to go to the fair and learn so many new things, out here the kids love the pig races, and their is the carnival, concessions, displays auto shoes and so much to do in a day or two. Thank you for reminding me of a lot of fun memories

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