If the summer just doesn’t seem complete without a trip to the county fair, then mark your calendars as we’ve got eight for you to choose from. Sign the kids up for some mutton busting (where the wee ones ride sheep rodeo-style) and then grab some grub like garlic fries, turkey legs and deep-fried Oreos. Swing by the 4-H arena where kids show off their prized pigs, goats and chickens. The county fair only comes around once a year so make sure you get in on the family fun!

San Mateo County Fair

“Tradition meets Innovation” in San Mateo County. Sounds good, but all your family really needs to know is that it’s a short drive down the peninsula to warm up your fog-chilled bones and lick a soft-serve zebra cone. There are lots of animals, many of them in the petting area. Don’t miss the chance to say “That’ll do, pig” after a popular piglet race.

Tip: Kids get free admission on Monday.

Dates: June 9-17
Hours: Varied, find all hours here
Cost: $15/adults; $10/child 6-12; children under 6 are free. $10/parking (discounts apply when purchasing before 6/3)

San Mateo Event Center
2495 S. Delaware
San Mateo, CA


Alameda County Fair

One of the longest running fairs in the Bay Area (clocking in at a full three weeks), the Alameda County Fair is adding a brand-new, cross-grounds Sky Ride. Highlights include the 4th of July fireworks spectacular featuring the Oakland Symphony, and performances by Shaggy and LeAnn Rimes. Kids will love the STEAM-themed weekends and carnival rides, daily concerts, roving magicians and entertainers. The website’s interactive “food finder” will enable you to use your smart phone to zone in on your favorite deep-fried delights.

Dates: June 15-July 8  (Closed June 18-19, 25-26, July 2-3)
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Cost: $12/adult; $8/child 6-12. Kids under 6 are free. (Prices increase on-site.)
Parking is $10. Discounted pre-fair and packaged tickets available online. Dads are free on Father's Day until 5 p.m. Opening day admission is $1 and $1/ride until 5 p.m.

Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton Ave.
Pleasanton, CA

Solano County Fair

“This Fair's for Ewe!” so head to Solano County for some 2018 fun. From food competitions to a carnival—there’s a ton to keep the whole family happy. Musical acts are included in the price of admission, as well as roving entertainers and good old-fashioned people watching. And while you’re there, know that the fairgrounds just happen to be right next to Six Flags, so if the kids haven’t gotten it all out of their system yet, there’s an entire adventure park to exhaust them.

Dates: June 30-July 1
Hours: Wed.- Fri., 3–11 p.m. Sat. & Sun., noon–11 p.m.
Cost: Free admission
Online: scfair.com

Solano County Fair Grounds
900 Fairgrounds Dr.
Vallejo, CA

Marin County Fair

This North Bay fave includes a 10-foot Ferris wheel, daily juggling shows, barnyard animals and dance contests. Admission includes 28 free carnival rides along with the concerts, exhibits, puppet theater and nightly fireworks.

Tip: Bicycle valet parking is available at the Main Gate. Take Golden Gate Transit and Marin Transit to stops at Marin County Civic Center campus. Carpooling available from Marin Center and Marin County Civic Center.

Dates: June 30–July 4
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m. every day
Cost: $20/adults; $15/child 4-12; children under 4 are free. $10/parking. Discounts apply when purchasing in advance. July 2—kids 12 and under are free. 

Marin County Fair & Exposition
10 Ave. of the Flags
San Rafael, CA

Sonoma County Fair

The 2018 theme for the Sonoma County Fair is "Salute to Heroes." There are endless contests, live music, The Great American Petting Zoo—featuring potbellied pigs and Sicilian Donkeys—and a lot more. Vehicle fanatics will love the destruction derby and monster truck show. True to form, Sonoma offers a wide array of creative fair food: barbecue sliders, ceviche tostadas, cinnamon rolls, kabobs, curry and more. Weary parents take a load off: inside the shady Kids Area is a rest station that offers a quiet place to nurse and change your little ones.

Tip: Kids 12 and under are free on Thursdays. Check the website for discount days.

Dates: Aug. 2-12
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Cost: $15/general, ages 13 and up; $7/child 7-12; children 6 and under are free. Parking is $9-15.
Online: sonomacountyfair.com

Sonoma County Fairgrounds
1350 Bennett Valley Road
Santa Rosa, CA

photo: Santa Clara County Fair

Santa Clara County Fair

"Fun for the whole herd" is the theme for this year's Santa Clara County Fair where the area's agriculture and technology history will be the focus. Tinker with robots and make butter at the Little Hands on the Farm area. Imaginations can run as wild as a pig released from the poke. Clowns, and illusionists, Twinkle Time and Bay Area’s favorite scallywag Captain Jack Spareribs will tickle your kids’ fancies. There are also carnival rides, live music and adorable animals. This fair has an abundance of kiddie rides and a relatively small footprint compared to some of the others, so it’s definitely easier to navigate with the smallest in your crowd. 

Tip: You can take VTA light rail or bus right to the fair; short walk from Caltrain.

Dates: Aug. 2-5
Hours: Thurs. 1–10 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Cost: $10/adults; $5/child 5-11; children under 4 are free. Parking is $5/car.

Santa Clara County Fairgrounds
344 Tully Rd.
San Jose, CA

Monterey County Fair

Shake your tail feathers down to Monterey for this year's county fair! Enjoy amusement park rides, mutton busting, free concerts, 4-H presentations and daily cooking contests. Ride the Monterey-Salinas Transit to the fair from any stop for free.

Tip: Reserve a campsite near the fair for some extra fun!

Dates: Aug. 30-Sept. 3
Hours: Thurs. - Sun. noon-11 p.m.; Mon. noon-10 p.m.
Cost: $8/adults; $4/child 5-11 ($2 more per person when you buy on-site); children 5 and under are free. Parking is $10/car. Kids are free on Monday, Sept. 3. 

Monterey County Fair
2004 Fairground Road
Monterey, CA

photo: Santa Cruz County Fair

Santa Cruz County Fair

Enjoy the "Bounty of the County" at this year's Santa Cruz County Fair! With 105 acres of annual favorites, there will be quilts, jams and jellies, giant pumpkins, award-winning photographs and artwork, giant animals and a wide array of opportunities to buy the latest gadget for your home. Bring your little ones to the Kiddie Korral for a safe place to relax with green grass, shade trees, activities, toys, rocking chairs, picnic tables and a changing area. 

Dates: Sept. 12-16
Hours: Wed.-Fri. noon-11 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $12/adults; $6/child 6-12; children 5 and under are free. Parking is $7/car. 

Santa Cruz County Fair
2601 East Lake Ave.
Watsonville, CA

What’s your favorite county fair? Let us know below! 

—Kate Loweth, Erin Feher & Shelly Hausman