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 201, more than ONE MILLION people visited the Wisconsin State Fair. That’s a lot of cheese curds.
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.
How to Get There and 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!
Zoo Interchange Construction Project
As everyone in Milwaukee is well aware of, the Zoo Interchange is very much still under construction and this is causing some challenges in accessing the most popular fair access points. Here’s what you need to know to get to the fair with minimal traffic headaches!
If you are coming from the West on I-94, keep in mind that the 84th Street exit is CLOSED. Instead, follow I-94 East to WIS 100 exit, south on WIS 100 to Greenfield Ave., east on Greenfield, north on 84th St.
For the most up-to-date info on the project, visit https://projects.511wi.gov/zoo-interchange-project/.
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!
The Giant Slide: It’s iconic. It’s cheap. Kids and adults alike love it. In 2016 alone, the Giant Slide had more than 150,000 rides! This year is extra special for Giant Slide fans since this beloved attraction is celebrating its 50th Anniversary!
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 this is worth a post on its own. 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 2017:
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!
Meat on a Stick
Really, this could mean so many things. Foot long corn dog. Kabobs. Bacon-wrapped shrimp tempura on a stick. BBQ Pork Chop on a stick. Beer-battered, bacon-wrapped Cheddar Sausage on a stick. Seriously….the list goes on and on. And yes, there is a list. The Wisconsin State Fair has a seriously impressive selection of on-a-stick delicacies and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into them!!
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!
New Foods at the 2017 Wisconsin State Fair
You can find the whole list of brand new fair foods RIGHT HERE, but these creations really have piqued our interest:
All American Grilled Breakfast Sandwich: Dieters, avert your eyes. This sandwich takes the best of your favorite day-starting sammy (eggs, bacon, cheese) and puts it between two hash brown patties. OMG yum. Find it at Siggy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.
Budweiser Pavilion Triple Threat: A tower of sliders….on a stick. The Budweiser Pavilion Triple Threat includes 3 savory sliders – one Smoked Jalapeno, Bacon and Cheddar Brat Slider, one Budweiser BBQ Pulled Pork Slider, and one Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger Slider – stacked and skewered. I can’t even.
Cricket Nachos: What the what now? The State Fair website describes these as having “all the flavor of regular nachos but are high in protein and gluten free! ” So, they are bugs. On chips. With cheese. But they sound sort of healthy, so we’re down!! Found at All Things Jerky.
Sangria On-a-Stick: Say no more. Sold. Found at Leadfoots Race Bare & Grill.
Unicorn Twinkie: A deep fried Twinkie with cotton candy filling and topped with glitter. Can’t make this up! Found at 3B Smores.
Again, there are SO MANY more amazing foods to try!!
Insider Tip: Check out Crazy Grazin’ Day at the Fair. On August 8th, 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 7th. It’s Kohl’s Family Value Day, so adult admission is only $5 and kids under the age of 11 are FREE!
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.
Take your family on an adventure through Exploratory Park! This oasis on the south side of the Fair Park features hands-on stations for kids of all ages! UW-Extension will bring you daily activities to spark your creativity, including wildlife education and button making. Learn about state parks, forests and natural areas from the DNR. Plus, you can still get your DNR state parks and trail passes to keep the exploring going all year long!
Have a seat and relax while the kids play on in the NEW Playground area located in the center of Exploratory Park.
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.
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!
New This Year — The WonderWheel
This is not your average Ferris wheel. The WonderWheel makes its debut at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2017 and this is an attraction you will not want to miss! Located on the west side of State Fair Park, the WonderWheel features 36 fully enclosed, brightly colored gondolas. Each gondola has a capacity of six people, and one gondola offers accessible seating. Rides cost $5 per person.
The ride stands 15 stories high and featuring 528,000 vibrant LED lights, offers a breathtaking view of the city, with visibility of 10 miles or more from the top of the wheel. Wisconsin State Fair is one of only three fairs at which the ride will be featured in 2017.
Wisconsin State Fair – 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 3: Wells Fargo $2 Day
- August 4: Celebrate Wisconsin Day
- August 7: Kohl’s Family Value Day
- August 9th: Meijer Day
- August 13th: Veteran and Military Recognition Day
Join the Fun!
We’ve got a couple fantastic opportunities for you to join us in celebrating and having a blast at the Wisconsin State Fair.
MKE Moms Blog LIVE at the Fair :: August 8th
A few of our MkeMB team of moms will be out and about at The Wisconsin State Fair on August 8th to give you a LIVE peek at some of these fabulous attractions! 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!
Wisconsin State Fair Instagram Scavenger Hunt
Follow along with our Instagram Challenge – we’re hosting a State Fair Scavenger Hunt and you could win a fun prize! Up for grabs are a $20 Scout & Molly’s Gift Card, Free Coffee, a 6-pack of Original Cream Puffs, State Fair Admission tickets 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.