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Iowa State Fair | © Phil Roeder/Flickr
Iowa State Fair | © Phil Roeder/Flickr

The Best State Fairs In America

Picture of Alexia Wulff
Updated: 9 February 2017
Heading to the state fair means rickety amusement rides, large stuffed animals, Ferris wheels, and deep-fried everything – from east to west, states across the nation host their own celebration of tradition and culture surrounded by regional and fair-style eats. Who does it best? From coast to coast, here are the top five state fairs in the US.

The Big E, West Springfield

The Big E, also known as the Eastern States Exposition, is one of the largest fairs in the US; dubbed ‘New England’s Great State Fair,’ the Big E represents six states at its annual autumn fair: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island. Head down Avenue of States and discover regional cuisine in each of the life-size replicas of the six statehouses along with exhibits and locally made crafts, or check out the livestock displays at the largest agricultural fair on the East Coast. If you’re on the lookout for traditional fair foods, go for the fair’s signature dessert, the Big E cream puffs; and don’t miss the Midway’s rides and games. If that’s not enough to keep you busy, there’s also shopping, live music, and Mardi Gras-style parades.

The Big E, 1305 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA, USA, +1 413 737 2443

Iowa State Fair, Des Moines

Established in 1854, Iowa State Fair is one of the largest and most renowned fairs in the US, bringing in over one million visitors every year. Known for its ‘butter cow’ sculpture since 1911, Iowa State Fair is also one of the world’s largest livestock shows and plays host to the largest number of food vendors of any fair in America, with more than 200 stands – making it an ideal fair for food quests. Go for anything on a stick, the fair’s specialty, like the bacon-wrapped corn dog or deep-fried pickle dawg (ham with cream cheese and a pickle). There’s also an art show, a ten-acre Midway filled with games, rides and a double Ferris wheel, concerts, auto races, and campsites if you’re yearning for an extra day at the fair.

August 10-20, 2017

Iowa State Fair, 3000 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA, USA, +1 515 262 3111

The Great New York State Fair, Syracuse

The Great New York State Fair is the state’s biggest event of the year; over 12 days, the Fair brings in nearly one million attendees for amusement rides, open-air concerts, agricultural, technology, and youth educational exhibits, and, of course, food. Indulge in chocolate and ice cream; sample regional foods at Taste NY (including wine!); watch a cooking demo from a celebrity chef; or dabble in international, vegan, and vegetarian cuisine. First opening in 1841, the Great New York State Fair is now one of the largest state fairs in the US. Be sure not to miss the Midway for the usual fair thrills, the 800-pound butter sculpture and 180-ton sand sculpture, and the Science & Industry Building, one of the fair’s most popular draws.

August 25-September 5, 2016

Great New York State Fair, 581 State Fair Blvd, Syracuse, NY, USA, +1 315 487 7711

State Fair of Texas, Dallas

The State Fair of Texas is consistently recognized as one of the best state fairs in the nation – because what better way to celebrate excess than in a state that does everything bigger? With the biggest amusement rides of any other state fair, and some of the most unique, however unhealthy, fair foods in the nation (looking at you, Fletcher’s corn dog), Texas does it best – here, you can get your hands on pretty much anything deep-fried. Want a deep-fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich, or a deep-fried banana split? Yeah, they’ll do that, too. Don’t miss the annual football game between Oklahoma and Texas or State Fair Classic, both held at the Fair Park; the auto show, a tradition since 1904; or the views from the Texas Skyway.

September 30-October 23, 2016

State Fair of Texas, 3921 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Dallas, TX, USA, +1 214 565 9931

Minnesota State Fair, St Paul

The Minnesota State Fair, nicknamed ‘The Great Minnesota Get-Together,’ is another one of the nation’s largest fairs, with the highest daily attendance of any other state fair. Held at the end of summer for 12 consecutive days, the Minnesota State Fair puts on livestock shows and 4-H competitions, an annual art exhibition, science and technology exhibits, comedy shows, and a long list of concerts featuring local and nationally renowned artists. Be sure to check out Minnesotan fair foods, most of which come on a stick (think alligator on a stick, ‘hotdish’ on a stick, or lobster on a stick). For cheap thrills, head to Adventure Park or the Giant Slide, fan favorites; or keep it OG at the fair’s Midway.

August 25-September 5, 2016

Minnesota State Fair, 1265 Snelling Ave, St Paul, MN, USA, +1 651 288 4400