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State Fair for Pennies or Less


I had easily talked myself out of visiting the State Fair this year. Last year I planned a big birthday trip for my son to Disneyland, only to learn there that neither of my kids enjoy rides. Not a lesson I care to repeat.

Having grown up in Sacramento, I remember going to the fair each year just for the rides alone. I vaguely recall going into the covered buildings where quilts and drawings were on display, but that was more in my interest of finding shade than appreciating the arts.

Truth be told I had written off the state fair as an expensive gamble for a family with young kids. “But,” I thought, “I ought to at least look at the State Fair program to see if there are any fun activities that other people might want to know about.”

Now, as I make a list of all the places I think kids (myself included) might want to explore, I find the list is too large for one post. This is much different than the state fair I remember. It is still a gamble with young tykes, in my humble opinion, if you combine the parking fee, entrance fee and tickets for rides. However, for the budget-minded family, the first few pages of the online program are filled with discounts, free goodies and activities, even ways to win cool prizes. In a later post I will highlight some ideas of things that young kids may enjoy. Meanwhile, here are a few penny pinching tips you may be interested in knowing:

  • Every Tuesday all kids 12 and under receive FREE admission all day. (Regularly $8 for kids 5-12. Under 5 yrs are always free.) Carnival rides are $1 for everyone until 11pm. (Minimum height requirements can be found here.)  
  • Every Friday admission is $8 for seniors (62+ yrs) before 8pm. (Regularly $10.) Rides on the Grand Carousel and the Giant Gondola Wheel are also FREE.
  • Tuesday, July 20th is a salute to the Armed Forces, law enforcement, and first responders. FREE admission will be given to those individuals in or out of uniform with proper ID.
  • A Poppy Pac includes 4 admission tickets, 4 rides, and 1parking pass for slightly under $40. (Presale only, not available at the gate. Savings of 43%.)
  • Kids in grades K-8 can read 2 books and get 2 free carnival rides. Just fill out a Read 2 Ride form and redeem it at Guest Services.
  • Thursday, July 29th – Sunday August 1st Poppy Pals Club members can bring their PPC Newsletter to the Monterey Bay Aquarium booth in the Kids Park and receive a FREE child admission voucher to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  • You can find giveaways throughout the park including an American Adventure RV, cash, or a vacation for four to Disneyland Resort.

The California State Fair is open from July 14th through August 1st.

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