Disclosure :: This post is brought to you by our sponsors at the Wisconsin State Fair. Our love of all things deep fried and on a stick is completely our own.
The Wisconsin State Fair – Families and friends alike look forward to these 11 days of summer all year long.
It’s deep-fried cheese, cream puffs, farm animals, pickles the size of your face, live music and so much more. People from all over our great state and beyond flock to the fair in August each year, but we Milwaukeeans are so blessed to have it right in our backyard! In 2015, more than ONE MILLION people visited the Wisconsin State Fair. That’s incredible.
We can’t wait to hit the fair this year, with kids of all ages in tow, and we would love to help guide you through. If you’ve never gone before, or perhaps this is your first time heading to the fairgrounds with an infant (or a toddler, or a big kid who is suddenly tall enough for Big Rides now, etc), we want to share our favorite must-see spots for your family as well as a few hidden gems you might not know about. Join us as we raise a deep-fried salute with the rest of the great state of Wisconsin to the State Fair, and let’s get this party started!
You could spend all 11 days at the Wisconsin State Fair and still not hit every attraction. So, as much as we want to give you the ultimate guide to every single thing our amazing fair has to offer, including it all would make for pretty much the longest post EVER. Instead, we’ve got the highlights for you, putting the spotlight on the features FAMILIES will want to know about and our “must-see” fair favorites.
Where to Park
Planning on driving to the Wisconsin State Fair? Make sure you have at least $10 cash on hand you don’t want to blow on cheese curds. General Parking ($10) should enter at Gate 1 or Gate 9 and cars will be directed to a parking spot around the Milwaukee Mile. There will be DOT signs directing you along the main roads as you approach the fairgrounds as well. There is also Accessible Parking ($10) available at Gates 1, 3 and 7 and also Motorcycle Parking ($5). Once you are parked, there are shuttles running from 10 am to 8 pm from the Milwaukee Mile infield to the admission gates.
Many residents of the neighborhoods around the fairgrounds will offer up their lawns and driveways to fairgoers for a range of fees, depending on their location. So if you don’t want to go with the General Parking, you could turn into a residential neighborhood, look for a sign or someone ready to wave you in and try your luck!
One thing to note :: Local authorities allow only right-hand turns in and out of the fair gates on S. 84th Street and W. Greenfield Avenue during the fair. Certain gates are restricted for special use, and gates may close if parking lots are full. Vehicles will be charged for re-entry once they have vacated the parking lots. All parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Sure, you can drive to the Fair. Or, you could use the convenient Milwaukee County Transit System or the Fair Shuttle Park & Ride bus options that are set up all over the area. Check here to find the nearest pick-up spot to you as well as the fare information. Skip the traffic and long lines and just park, ride and relax. If you use the transit system, the Stroller Rental is located right where the bus drops off, at Gate 4 (Transit Center).
Insider Tip: Looking to burn off the funnel cake and corn dog calories? FREE bicycle parking is available in lots near the U.S. Cellular Main Gate and Gate 2 at S. 81st Street and W. Greenfield Avenue, so if you don’t live too far from the park, buckle up those helmets and hit the road to score the Fair’s best (and FREE!!) parking spot!
Classic Fair Hot Spots
These are the can’t miss stops that everyone talks about – basically, if you don’t check these off the list, you were never really at the fair.
Original Cream Puffs: One does not simply buy ONE Original Cream Puff. Spring for the 6-pack and never look back. Did you know there is a Cream Puff Drive-Thru? Yup, you can order your favorite fair treat 24 hours in advance and swing by to pick them up from 6 to 8 am inside Gate 6. But sometimes half the fun is waiting in line at the Original Cream Puff Pavilion and watching the famous pastry chefs create these delectable delights right in front of your eyes!
Insider Tip: Make sure you grab a #PuffLove temporary tattoo and share your love of the fair and Cream Puffs on social media for a chance to win free cream puffs and fair admission FOR LIFE.
The Giant Slide: It’s iconic. It’s cheap. Kids and adults alike love it. In 2015 alone, the Giant Slide had more than 121,000 rides!
The SkyGlider: The ultimate in people-watching from a birds-eye view! One-way tickets are $4.50, and round-trip is $7. Tickets are available at each end of the SkyGlider near the Exposition Center and on North Grandstand Avenue.
What to Eat
Yeah, so we’ve devoted an entire post JUST to the food at the Wisconsin State Fair. Seriously. There is so much food to try here that there’s no way to hit it all! There’s even a competition called the Sporkies for the best of the best food at the fair. But, here are just a few of our favorites as well as some of the new options for 2016:
Look, we know it’s cliché that we lead with cheese curds, but doggonit if they aren’t the best fair food in the state! And what’s awesome about the Wisconsin State Fair is that we don’t just do cheese curds ONE way — no, sir — you can get a vast variety of these deep fried beauties. Poutine Cheese Curds at Duke’s Poutine. Leine’s Beer Battered Cheese Curds at Saz’s. Beer battered, pretzel coated cheese curds at Tropics at the Fair. The list goes on and on. All hail cheese curds!
Deep Fried Oreo
Part of the fun of fair food is sometimes throwing the rules out the window and just letting the kids eat the crazy things you would never allow at home. It’s probably safe to say that a Deep Fried Oreo falls into that category.
Mac & Cheese Dog
Speaking of breaking the rules, Siggy’s Wild Dogs Saloon has a fun food we dare your kids not to love. A Mac & Cheese Dog. It’s just what you would expect — a hot dog topped with creamy mac & cheese. It’s available in both regular and foot-long, just in case the kids don’t want to share and you want your own.
Roasted Corn on the Cob
A trip to the fair just isn’t complete without a butter-dripping, husk-holding, tender, sweet roasted corn on the cob. For many families, this food stop is non-negotiable.
Milwaukee Bucks Milk House
Make sure you meander over near the Expo Building to check out the new flavors at the Milk House! Kids always love the Root Beer flavor milk, but there always seems to be a new, surprising flavor for you to sample. The line moves quick and this is a great stop for families with small kids! And don’t forget to grab a photo with Bango!
You can find the whole list of brand new fair foods RIGHT HERE, but these creations really have piqued our interest:
Deep-Fried Fruit On-a-Stick: So, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Fruit, the healthy food our kids already love, deep-fried and served on a stick! You end up with a treat that’s almost like a berry pie on a stick! Sprinkled with powdered sugar, cinnamon or chocolate.
Door County Surf and Turf On-a-Stick: This just sounds like a meal on its own! Shrimp is complimented with Black Forest Prime Rib topped with Door County cherry horseradish sauce, lemon juice, and shrimp cocktail sauce.
Elvis Chicken and Waffle Sandwich: Someone PLEASE try this and Tweet us to tell us what you think. We are so curious!! This is a homemade peanut butter, banana, bacon waffle that sandwiches a deep-fried, buttermilk-marinated and hand breaded chicken breast. Chicken is topped with Sriracha maple syrup and powdered sugar is sprinkled over the waffle.
Again, there are SO MANY more amazing foods to try. Definitely check into our Fair Food post where we go into even more detail!
Insider Tip: Check out Crazy Grazin’ Day at the Fair. On August 9th, you can sample a variety of Fair foods from more than 50 food vendors who offer smaller sizes of your favorite items at reduced prices! Check out the lineup to make your plan of attack!
Best Attractions for Kids
Kohl’s Activity Zone
The Kohl’s Activity Zone is just full of enjoyable and interactive activities that are perfect for families. By popular demand, this area will open an hour earlier this year, at 9 am, and will close at 5 pm daily. You can find it on South Grandstand Avenue.
What can you expect at the Kohl’s Activity Zone?
- Kohl’s Color Wheels, an art-making experience presented by the Milwaukee Art Museum
- Kohl’s Design It! Mobile Lab, create unique hands-on projects highlighting design with Discovery World
- Kohl’s Wild Theater, conservation-themed theatrical performances from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee
- Kohl’s Building Blocks Program, a Penfield Children’s Center program that promotes the health and positive development of children and celebrates their unique abilities
- Kohl’s Cares Grow Safe & Healthy Program, an educational display teaching children and families how to keep safe and healthy with help from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Insider Tip: If you can only make it to ONE DAY of the fair this year, make it Monday, August 8th. It’s Kohl’s Family Value Day, so adult admission is only $5 and kids under the age of 11 are FREE! It’s also Jelly Belly Day so there will be free jelly bean samples at Central Park until 4:30 pm. And as a bonus, you can join us for our Milwaukee Mom’s Meet-up at the Fair from 10 am to 1 pm to enjoy some grown-up conversation and the chance to win fun prizes!
We Energies Park
If you are coming to the Fair with toddlers or young children, make this your very first stop upon arrival. You can pick up a safety wristband to help keep your child safe while you and your family enjoy your day. There will also be fun demonstrations about electricity and teaching kids about energy. Cooking and grilling presentations, gardens, up close and personal encounters with eagles, hawks, owls and other birds and so much more make this attraction on the west side of the Fair Park on Wetley Way at Center Street an absolutely must-see for families.
Sea Lion Splash
Have an ocean-lover in the family? This attraction will teach valuable lessons about marine wildlife and conservation while entertaining crowds of all ages. The sea lions will amaze as they balance balls, shoot hoops and even perform handstands! This is the only traveling sea lion show in the U.S. with 30 minute shows running throughout the day. Find it at South Grandstand Avenue.
This is another one of those Wisconsin State Fair staples that you just can’t miss. With races running throughout the day, it’s easy to find a race that fits your family’s schedule. The presenters always do an amazing job of getting the crowd involved and the pigs are just so stinkin’ cute! Pick a pig and get cheering! Found at the Racing Animals Arena.
Paw Patrol Tour :: August 5th
A must-do for families with small children, the wildly popular Paw Patrol “Roll Patrol Road Tour” will stop at State Fair for one day only. Central Park will be filled with “Pawtastic” surprises like a lookout towner, play area and photo opportunities. It will be non-stop fun from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.! For more information and to keep track of the tour, visit PAWPatrol.com/Tour and follow the adventure using #PAWPatrolTour.
Barns & Animals
A trip to the State Fair just isn’t complete without visiting the animals. Introduce yourself to cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats and more! You can also check out the House of Moo in the southeast end of the Cattle Barn and the Milking Parlor in the southeast corner of the Horse Barn to learn about Wisconsin’s vibrant dairy industry. Milking demonstrations take place daily at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm.
Don’t miss the Discovery Barnyard where the entire family will enjoy discovering animal agriculture and experiencing agricultural exhibits and demonstrations daily from 9 am – 9 pm. Plus, BABY ANIMALS. Located in Ag Village, east of the Farm and Family Building on Sue Wetley Court and Third Street.
Insider Tip: Put your visit to the barns at the early end of your day. As the temperature climbs outside, the barns also heat up quickly so it’s better to check them out early. Kids enjoy watching competitors – many of them kids themselves – working hard to bathe and prepare their animals for competition.
More Cool Kid Stuff
The list just keeps on going! There are more kid-friendly activities and things to see than we have room to share here. Here are a few more activities and features you might want to check out.
- Daily Parade, a fair tradition that kicks off at 3 pm daily with street entertainers, marching bands, tractors, and more. Visit any Fair Information Center for the parade route.
- Spin City, with more than 50 amazing rides and attractions, plus a Kiddie Area for the younger fairgoers. Insider Tip: If your kid lives to ride the rides, spring for the unlimited daily rides wristband or you will go broke buying a la carte ride tickets.
- K-9 Sports Arena, located in the Big Backyard, features shows and demonstrations hourly on the half-hour on weekdays with additional shows on weekends. See dog dock diving, frisbee, agility courses, Police K-9 units and much more!
- Pig Slide, located on Wetley Way by the Swine Barn. Everyone knows about the Giant Slide, but there are photo-ops galore at the Pig Slide. Moms and Dads, consider yourselves challenged to do it too. The kids will LOVE it!
Good to Know
Forgot your sunscreen? You can still enjoy the sunshine safely. Look for one of three FREE sunflower sunscreen stations conveniently located throughout the Fair Park (in SpinCity, near the Guest Services Pavilion and in front of We Energies Energy Park). Sunflowers will be stocked with SPF 30, suitable for fairgoers ages one year and older.
Free ID Bracelets
Stop by the We Energies Park to grab a safety bracelet to help keep your kids safe throughout your fair experience.
Nursing Stations and Baby Care Areas
Families can visit one of three private, comfortable areas designated as Family/Baby Care Centers; one in the Exposition Center, one in the Guest Services Pavilion and one of North Grandstand Avenue next to Bell Ambulance. Each center offers an area for nursing mothers as well as a diaper changing station.
Stroller and Wagon Rental
If you’d rather leave your stroller at home (on account of the livestock barns, perhaps?), it’s easy to rent a single stroller or wagon at the Guest Services Pavilion or Transit Center.
Missed the pre-sale discounted tickets? No worries! Check out these Admission Deals for more info on how to save on regular admission prices. Discounts vary by day. See website for more details.
- August 4: Wells Fargo $2 Day
- August 5: Celebrate Wisconsin Day
- August 8: Kohl’s Family Value Day
- August 9th: Humana Senior Recognition Day
- August 10th: Meijer Day
- August 14th: Veteran and Military Recognition Day
Join the Fun
We’ve got two fantastic opportunities for you to join us in celebrating and having a blast at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Milwaukee Moms Meet-Up :: August 8th, 10 am to 1 pm
Our MkeMB team of moms will be at the US Cellular Terrace Seating Area at the State Fair from 10 am to 11 am on August 8th to hang out with YOU and your family. There will be free snacks for the kids, some fun activities and giveaways and some time to just relax a bit and connect with other parents. You’ll also get a sneak-peek into the fun activities and giveaways on the scheduled for the day.
At 11:00 am, we are ready to hit the Fair! Our team is on the street, sharing the insider scoop for families who visit the fair. If you see our team out and about, be sure to stop and say Hello! We’ll be handing out fun prizes to surprise & delight Milwaukee Moms from 11 to 1!
The best part?? This whole meet-up is happening on Kohl’s Family Value Day, when you get an amazing discount admission to the State Fair! Adult admission is only $5 and kids under 11 are FREE!
***Plan to join us at the US Cellular Terrace for the Mom Meet-Up? PLEASE REGISTER so we know how many to expect. You WILL still need to purchase your admission to the fair at the gate.
Instagram Scavenger Hunt
Follow along with our Instagram Challenge – we’re hosting a State Fair Scavenger Hunt and you could win a $30 Colectivo Coffee Gift Card, a 6-pack of Original Cream Puffs, and more for joining in. It’s simple!
Find us on Instagram (and be sure to follow @WiStateFair too) using #MKEmomsAtTheFair to find our posts. Follow the schedule, snap a photo and share it on Instagram with the hashtag #MKEmomsAtTheFair, tagging @MKEmomsblog and @WIstatefair to be entered to win.