Between rides, food, and souvenirs, fun at the fair can add up fast. But there's no need to avoid this summer tradition in fear of overspending when you can visit a state fair that offers more for the money. These 18 fairs have fun freebies and features that are included with the price of admission -- generally under $15. (This does not include food or rides, just the special entertainment options noted.) Also on the list are fairs with special days when groups such as kids, seniors, and military personnel can get in for free.
Related: Great Summer Festivals in All 50 States (and D.C.)
General admission to the Ohio State Fair (July 27 to Aug. 7) costs $10 for adults and $8 for kids, but many attractions inside are free. They include a natural resources park with free fishing, kayaking, archery, a butterfly garden, and a watercraft simulator, as well as a petting zoo with more than 50 animals from around the world including goats, llamas, zebras, antelope, camels, and kangaroos.
The New Jersey State Fair (Aug. 5 to 14) charges $13 for adult admission and $6 for children, but prices are cheaper in advance -- and inside are plenty of free attractions. They include an agricultural area with a full farm experience, complete with cow milking, tractor rides, and plenty of animals to view; a separate petting zoo; daily chainsaw art exhibitions; racing pigs; and more.
General admission to the Illinois State Fair (Aug. 11 to 21) is $10 but only $5 on Aug. 11 and Aug. 21 and free for kids 12 and under. There are many free options inside, including canoe rides, fishing clinics, and lumberjack shows in the 30-acre Conservation World, as well as an "Ethnic Village" showcasing the cultures of 13 other countries, a "Kids Korner," and more.
Kentucky State Fair tickets are usually $10 for adults (Aug. 18 to 28), but promotions reward mass transit riders with $6 admission, military personnel with free admission on Aug. 21, seniors with free admission (before 5 p.m.) on Aug. 23, and carloads of fairgoers with $20 admission per vehicle on Aug. 24. Inside, free fun includes Discovery Farm, with cattle, goats, llamas, sheep, poultry, and a sow and her litter; a trained-dog show; and the magic of Lady Houdini.
There's free admission to the Alaska State Fair for children 12 and under Aug. 26 and 27, and tickets drop to $2 between noon and 2 p.m. on Aug. 25. Ticket prices are normally $13 for adults on the weekend or $11 during the week, and kids' tickets are $8 on the weekend and $7 during the week (Aug. 25 to Sept. 5). There are plenty of arts and crafts, animals, and contests inside.
The Minnesota State Fair (Aug. 25 to Sept. 5) features a number of free extras with admission of $13, including skater performances, dancing dogs, and various musical acts, and the price is $10 in advance. There are additional deals, freebies, discount days, and hidden bargains -- including deals on food and beverages -- posted online and at information booths throughout the fair.
The Great New York State Fair (Aug. 25 to Sept. 5) features a full range of free musical performances, from country to nostalgia to pop, from artists such as Kesha, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Dashboard Confessional. Children under 12 are admitted free, and there are plenty of other ways to save: The regular admission of $10 drops to $6 with advance tickets; Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 are $3 admission days; and entry on Labor Day, the fair's final day, is $1.
Visit the Colorado State Fair (Aug. 26 to Sept. 5) with admission of $10 on weekends or $7 on weekdays for adults and $7 for kids any day to see trained sea lions and monkeys, wizard-themed science shows, and sporting events such as pole-vaulting and the Southwest Weightlifting Classic for free.
The Washington State Fair (Sept. 2 to 25) lists 101 free attractions at the fair, from newborn animals to more than 50 unique collections in the Hobby Hall. A food donation wins free admission to the fair on Sept. 11; people under 18 get in free Sept. 12 and 13; and fairgoers who bring a carved pumpkin to enter in a contest get free admission on Sept. 20.
The Oklahoma State Fair (Sept. 15 to 25) has free events ranging from poetry-to-go by the Short Order Poets to art classes and musical performances. Buy tickets in advance to cut the usual admission prices of $10 for adults and $5 for children to $7 and $4, respectively. Or go on special days such as Sept. 19, when kids through grade 12 get in free; Sept. 21, when senior citizens get in free; and opening day, when all tickets are only $2.
The Tulsa State Fair (Sept. 29 to Oct. 9) provides free access to a number of events along with the admission prices of $10 for adults and $6 for children on weekends, and $8 for adults on weekdays. Some of the freebies include dog and cat performances, a pirate show, pony rides, and a petting zoo.
Taking place in Dallas, the popular State Fair of Texas (Sept. 30 to Oct. 23) offers free concerts with well-known musicians with the price of admission, which is admittedly on the steeper side -- general admission is $18 for adults and $14 for children. But the price may be worth it to see performers such as rapper Nelly, country singer Kacey Musgraves, and Colton Dixon from "American Idol."