Is your brood looking for a fun family-friendly Seattle fair experience, but aren’t willing to brave the Puyallup? Head north to Lynden, Washington for the Northwest Washington Fair! The Lynden Fair (as it’s known to locals) is large enough that the two-hour drive from Seattle will certainly be worth it, but it’s not so big that you’ll be overwhelmed taking the kids. This year, the fair runs from August 13-18, 2012. While you’re there, spend some time checking out the cute Dutch town of Lynden as well!

Insider Tip #1: Do your fair homework.
If you go to the Fair without some sort of a game plan or idea about what they have to offer, you’re sure to walk in the front gates and stop dead in your stroller tracks. Check out the NW Washington Fair website before your visit or even better, their Facebook page, for up to date information, maps, schedules and more.

Insider Tip #2: Plan ahead for the best ticket prices.
You can easily buy Fair tickets in advance for a savings — $1.00 off each admission if you purchase by August 13th (The fair runs from August 13-18). Go on their website to purchase tickets, which we recommend rather than buying at the gate to avoid the lines. Children age five and under are free!

Insider Tip #3: It’s easy to find free parking.
Unless you’re hitting the fair in the evening, during one of the big grandstand shows, it’s easy to find free parking at the NW Washington Fair! The Fair grounds are surrounded by residential neighborhoods so we suggest that you drive straight to the fairgrounds so that you know how close you can get and then start trolling those little streets for a spot! Can’t find one? There is inexpensive pay parking on the west side of the main entrance.

Insider Tip #4: You’ll need the double stroller. Bring it.
Do you still have that double stroller hidden away that you rarely use and that you’ve considered putting on Craigslist? Well, it’s time to bust it out! Not only will little ones appreciate somewhere to rest their tired legs, but you can load it up with fair supplies! Your Fair packing list should include extra clothes for after their first cotton candy experience, baby wipes for sticky ice cream hands, hand sanitizer to use after walking through the animal barns and sunscreen.

Insider Tip #5: Hit the fair when the gates open at 9:00 am.
There’s no doubt that going when the Fair opens is the best time for little ones. If you’re coming from Seattle, jump in the car early in the morning and head north to get there ASAP – you’re up anyway, right? We love visiting early when the sun isn’t blazing and the barn animals aren’t too annoyed with visitors. Plus, the crowds will be quieter so you can explore the Fair with ease and actually let your little one wander without fear of losing them amongst all the people.

Insider Tip #6: Before you invest in a million ride tickets…
Make sure your little one will actually go on the rides! Buy a couple of single tickets for a test run and then see how it goes – if they love it, go for a wristband that will give them unlimited rides all day. The NW Washington Fair has a separate section for tot rides, which we love – they are in their own area, away from the crazy rides, which we think is fantastic! If you know that your kiddo already loves the rides, go online before August 13 and buy a wristband – you’ll save $7.00!

Insider Tip #7: Where you really want to eat.
There is food everywhere at the fair and most of it is pretty darn good! When you’re ready to eat a meal, head to the huge dairy barns on the east side of the Fair next to the vendor barns. It is like a food court of Fair food, plus they have clean tables for setting up the kids to eat. Don’t miss the hot mini-donuts that are right outside this spot too! YUM! An extra tip about food at the fair: Bring your own waters and drinks for the little ones because there isn’t much for them to drink here but soda and sugar-laden lemonade.

Insider Tip #8: The vendor booths will bore your children.
Dads, we know how you love those vendor booths. The demonstrations are mind-blowing. But, if you take your little ones into the vendor barn, they will start to misbehave – take our word for it. Our suggestion: skip it. Or, if you’re super intent on hitting those vendor booths, get the kiddos a treat to snack on and settle them in the stroller while you watch this year’s Sham-Wow presentation.

Insider Tip #9: Skip the big events.
The NW Washington Fair has a great main stage with some fantastic acts, but they typically aren’t family friendly.

Insider Tip #10: Don’t miss the bunny house!
Consult your Fair map closely so that you don’t miss the little barns with the bunnies and cats, which is located on the northeast side of the Fair grounds! It’s an easy overlooked spot that little kids love!

If you’re looking for other spots to explore near the Northwest Washington Fair check out Bellingham, Camano Island and Standwood, or a super awesome kid-friendly Kangaroo Farm!

Calling all Whatcom County Families! Share your Lynden Fair favorites with us! Where does your family love to eat, play and explore at the fair? Any tips you’ve found make the experience better with young kids?

— Katie Kavulla

photo credit: Northwest Washington Fair website & Waldo Jaquith