If the summer just doesn’t seem complete without a trip to the county fair, then mark your calendars as we’ve got seven 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!
Photo: San Mateo County Fair
June and July
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.
San Mateo Event Center
2495 S. Delaware
San Mateo, Ca
Photo: Alameda County Fair
Alameda County Fair
One of the longest running fairs in the Bay Area (clocking in at a full 3 weeks), the Alameda County Fair is celebrating the “best.summer.ever.” this year. Highlights include the 4th of July fireworks spectacular featuring the Oakland Symphony, and performances by Sugar Ray and Clint Black. Kids will love the STEAM-themed weekends as well as Brad’s World of Reptiles. And of course, you won’t want to miss all the carnival rides, daily concerts, roving magicians, and entertainers including Tadpole the Clown. 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 16–July 9 (Closed June 19, 20, 26, 27)
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. Ride tickets are $25 for unlimited single-day wristband when you buy in advance. Discounted pre-fair and packaged tickets available online. Dads are free on Father’s Day until 5 p.m.
Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton Ave.
Photo: Marin County Fair
Marin County Fair
This North Bay fave is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with the theme of “Let the Funshine In!” See what life was like back in 1967 and dress in your gooviest tie-dye gear. There will be virtual reality from VRExpressions where you can visit the Taj Mahal, swim with dolphins, and step back into time as you visit the Summer of Love. Admission includes 27 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.
Marin County Fair & Exposition
10 Ave. of the Flags
San Rafael, Ca
Photo: Sonoma County Fair
August and September
Sonoma County Fair
It’s “Holidaze at the Sonoma County Fair” for 2017. There are endless holiday-themed 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. 3-13
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Closed Mondays
Cost: $13/general, ages 13 and up; $7/child 7-12; children 6 and under are free. Parking is $8–$10.
Sonoma County Fairgrounds
1350 Bennett Valley Road
Santa Rosa, Ca
Photo: Solano County Fair
Solano County Fair
“This Fair’s for Ewe!” so head to Solano County for some 2017 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.
Tip: Thursday, Aug. 3 is free admission for kids 12 and under.
Dates: Aug. 2-6
Hours: Wed.- Fri., 3–11 p.m. Sat. & Sun., noon–11 p.m.
Cost: $10/adult; $6/child 6-12; children under 6 are free. Parking is $12.
Solano County Fair Grounds
900 Fairgrounds Dr.
Photo: Santa Clara County Fair
Santa Clara County Fair
STEAM 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. Keep your eyes peeled for Fire Stryker – the walk around dragon that’s new this year!
Tip: You can take VTA light rail or bus right to the fair; short walk from Caltrain.
Dates: Aug. 3-6
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
Photo credit: Monterey County Fair
Monterey County Fair
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love at this year’s Monterey 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. 31 – Sept. 4
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.
Monterey County Fair
2004 Fairground Road
What’s your favorite county fair? Let us know below!
—Kate Loweth, Erin Feher & Shelly Hausman