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. The county fair only comes around once a year so make sure you get in on the family fun!

San Mateo County Fair

It’s a short drive down the peninsula to warm up your fog-chilled bones and lick a soft-serve zebra cone at the San Mateo County Fair. 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. New for 2019: Aussie Kingdom animal show, Selfie Museum and Family PRIDE Day on June 10 (with free admission for kids 12 and under). 

Dates: June 8-16
Hours: Varied, find all hours here
Cost: $15/adults; $10/child 6-12; children under 6 are free. $15/parking
Onlinesanmateocountyfair.com

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

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photo: Alameda County Fair

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 new thrill ride called Mega Flip, which lifts riders high in the sky from four different swinging booms while simultaneously spinning and twisting. Also new this year are a series of cultural festivals, including Bollywood at the Fair, Fiesta a la Feria, and Asian Pacific Celebration at the Fair, honoring the deep multicultural roots of the Bay Area. The fair will also be celebrating LGBTQ Pride with Out at the Fair on June 22. Highlights include the 4th of July fireworks spectacular featuring the Oakland Symphony and performances by Ashanti and Gin Blossoms. 

Dates: Wed.-Sun., June 14-July 7
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Cost: $12/adult; $8/child 6-12. Kids under 6 are free. (Prices increase on-site.)
Special days: Kids are free on Thursdays. Dads are free on Father's Day until 5 p.m. Opening day admission is free until 3 p.m.
Parking is $10. Discounted pre-fair and packaged tickets available online
Onlinealamedacountyfair.com

Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton Ave.
Pleasanton, CA

photo: Solano County Fair

Solano County Fair

"Cheers to 70 Years" of the Solano County Fair. From food competitions to a carnival—there’s a ton to keep the whole family happy. Enjoy musical acts 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 27-30
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: July 3-7
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. On July 3 kids 12 and under are free. 
Onlinemarinfair.org

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

Sonoma County Fair

The 2019 theme for the Sonoma County Fair is "Back to Our Roots in Cowboy Boots." 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. 1-11
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

Celebrate 75 year at this year's Santa Clara County Fair. 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. 1-4
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.
Onlinethefair.org

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. 29-Sept. 2
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. 
Onlinemontereycountyfair.com

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. 11-15
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. 
Onlinesantacruzcountyfair.com

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

—Kate Loweth, Erin Feher & Shelly Hausman