Wisconsin State Fair is arguably the most kid-friendly of the Milwaukee-area summer festivals — from tons of free stuff for kids to do to affordable food to enjoy to plenty of rides and games.
If you’re planning a trip to State Fair this summer, here’s what you need to know.
Hours, bag policies and stroller rentals
Dates for State Fair this year are Aug. 4-14, and general admission hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 10 a.m.-midnight Thursdays through Saturdays. SpinCity, the midway area with rides and games, opens each day at 11 a.m.; closing times vary.
At the gates, all bags are subject to be searched and metal detectors will be used. New this year, bag size is limited to 9″ by 10″ by 12″, with an exception made for diaper bags.
Visitors are allowed to carry in food for the dietary needs of their family (such as formula, food for babies and food for people with allergies) although cans and glass bottles are not allowed. One sealed water bottle for person is allowed.
Strollers and wagons are allowed on the fairgrounds, and they’re also available to be rented. Single strollers are $12, wagons are $17, wheelchairs are $25 and electric scooters are $60 ($40 after 4 p.m.).
Accessible restrooms are available in the Expo Center, in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, at the corner of Grandstand Avenue and First Street and at the corner of Central Avenue and Second Street. A family restroom is in the north lobby of the Expo Center.
Free things for kids to do at State Fair
There are plenty of things to do for families looking to entertain their kids for free.
The Young People’s Art Exhibit in the lobby of the Expo Center is an exhibition of artwork by students in grades 6-12 across Wisconsin. There is also a free make-it-and take-it art area for kids to enjoy.
There is a stage with performances by youth groups and project exhibits by Wisconsin youth ages 12-19 in the Youth Expo Hall at Grandstand Avenue and Fifth Street.
There are baby farm animals and family activities in the Compeer Financial Discovery Barnyard, in the Ag Village on Sue Wetley Court, south of the lower cattle barn.
There are hands-on activity stations for kids and outdoor activities like hopscotch courts, a water feature, a dragonfly bench and toadstool hideaway in Exploratory Park, on the south side of Main Street across from the Original Cream Puff Pavilion.
Dog shows and demonstrations, including dog dock diving, Frisbee and agility courses, will take place in the K-9 Sports Arena in the Big Backyard.
There will be cow and goat milking demonstrations, as well as storytime with Alice in Dairyland in the Milking Parlor located in Ag Village at the southeast corner of the Livestock Horse Barn on Central Ave.
We Energies Energy Park, on Wetley Way at Center Street, is a relaxed family-friendly setting that has interactive games that teach about staying safe around electricity and natural gas, as well as game shows challenging energy knowledge, ID wristbands for kids and races of solar-powered cars.
The Wilderness Resort Family Variety Stage, on Wetley Way in the Big Backyard, has family entertainment, such as jugglers, comedians, magicians and music.
The Saz’s Racing Pigs, at Second Street and Badger Avenue, race every day at 11:15 a.m., and 12:30, 1:30, 3:30, 4:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The Giant Slide, SpinCity and other rides at State Fair
From the iconic Giant Slide to the midway area, SpinCity, there are tons of rides at State Fair.
The Giant Slide has been a tradition at the fair for over 50 years. Located on Second Street at Central Avenue, each ride down the 200-foot slide costs $3.
The Pig Slide, at Sue Wetley Court near the Compeer Financial Discovery Barnyard, bills itself as the world’s largest piggy bank. Two trips down the slide cost $1.
There are pony rides for $10 at Sue Wetley Court near the Compeer Financial Discovery Barnyard.
There are several locations for the Salto Power Jump — trampolines with bungees that kids can jump on for $10. One is at Wetley Way across from the K-9 Sports Arena, one is on Sue Wetley Court and one is in the Expo Center.
People can ride the Sky Glider for $5 one-way and $8 round-trip. Tickets are for sale near the Expo Center and near the SpinCity entrance.
WonderFair Wheel is North America’s largest traveling ferris wheel, at 15 stories high. It’s located on Wetley Way at Second Street, and rides cost $6.
SpinCity is the fair’s amusement ride and games area, where there are nearly 50 rides, more than 25 games with prizes and concessions. You must pay for tickets to ride, and each ride and game costs between three and seven tickets. A $40 wristband allows people to go on unlimited rides. The ticket booth is located at the Grand Walkway, south of the US Cellular Main Entrance to the fair. For little kids, the west side of the Grand Walkway has several rides with minimum heights of less than 48 inches tall. New this year, there will be a Sensory-Friendly SpinCity Morning from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, when lights and sounds will be reduced.
State Fair buildings for shopping, food and air conditioning
At some point in a typical State Fair visit, you’re likely to find yourself needing some shelter from the weather — either to avoid rain or to cool off. In addition to the various animal barns and a few other smaller buildings, here are the main buildings you can hang out in while also shopping, eating or admiring exhibits.
The Expo Center is the biggest building. It has food, free samples, activities, official merch and aisle upon aisle of vendors.
The Original Cream Puff Pavilion is the central location for cream puffs. There are also other treats, such as brownies and cookies, for those who aren’t into cream puffs.
The Wisconsin Products Pavilion is a great stop for baked potatoes, treats featuring apples, cranberries and ice cream, pretzels and a few Christmas tree displays.
Corn on the cob, cream puffs, flavored milk and other kid-friendly food options
For a lot of people, a State Fair exhibit is all about the food. There are more than 200 locations for food spread out among State Fair Park, with more than 800 dishes. Here are some kid-friendly must-haves.
The iconic Milk House is back after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus. Located near the Expo Center, at South Grandstand Avenue at Main Street, this is where people can buy their favorite flavored milk for $1 a cup.
Cream puffs have been sold at the fair since 1924 and are State Fair’s most popular food item. They can be bought at the Original Cream Puff pavilion by waiting in line inside the building (the line is long but typically fast-moving) or at the express window at the north end of the pavilion. There are also two to-go kiosks for quick cream puff-getting along Grandstand Avenue. A cream puff costs $5, with 3-packs available for $14 and 6-packs for $25.
For people who must have food-on-a-stick at the Fair, there are your typical corn dogs and caramel apples as well as deep fried candy bars, Oreos and Twinkies. Here are a few of the more unusual offerings.
- The Brownie Waffle Stick is a Belgian waffle baked around a brownie with white chocolate chips, served on a stick, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup. This is at Waffle Chix on South Grandstand Avenue.
- At Fried Fruit & Fried Olives on Grandstand Avenue between Main Street and Benno’s Micro Alley, visitors can buy their choice of fruit, in a batter and then deep fried, and sprinkled with powdered sugar, cinnamon or chocolate. The treat is billed as “healthy inside, fun outside.”
- For those Wisconsinites who are tired of the typical cheese curds, Lakefront Brewery Beer Garden on First Street (in the Big Backyard) sells a Footlong Cheese Curd on a stick.
- And for those who can’t decide between their favorite carnival-inspired foods, pickle-flavored cotton candy is available at Pickle Barrel, which has several locations in the Expo Center and one in the Original Cream Puff Pavilion.
State Fair will be offering more than 80 new foods this year. Here are some that look good for kids.
- Apple fries are sliced apples, deep-fried and coated with sugar and caramel. They’re available at Handmade Burgers in the Big Backyard.
- Cookie pie slices are just what they sounds like (pieces of a giant cookie). They’re for sale at the Milk House and are in Cow Pie Brownie and Cookies & Cream flavors.
- It seems weird that this has never been offered before, but according to the State Fair, this is the first year frozen custard has been available. You can get vanilla or chocolate, in a cone, dish or with toppings to create a sundae, at Camp Bar at Central Avenue and Center Street (on the west side of Central Mall).
- A Gummy Bear brat, with a Gummy Bear infusion and topped with honey mustard and Gummy Bears, will be at Leadfoots Race Bar and Grill on Grandstand Ave. between Second St. and Benno’s Micro Alley.
- Cedar Crest (located in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion) is selling an ice cream flight — your choice of 4 different flavors.
Giant pickles can be found at Pickle Barrel locations in the Expo Center and the Original Cream Puff Pavilion.
Roasted corn on the cob is available at a few different locations, including the most popular — New Berlin Lions Club Corn Roast at Central Ave. & Second St.
The State Fair Food Finder is available on the Fair’s website and allows you to search for your favorite food, or filter by many useful topics such as gluten-friendly, vegetarian items, kid’s portions and Wisconsin staples.
Contact Amy Schwabe at (262) 875-9488 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @WisFamilyJS, Instagram at @wisfamilyjs or Facebook at WisconsinFamily.