Iowa State Fair- Your #1 destination for summertime fun

This post has been sponsored by Travel Iowa. All opinions are my own.

Iоwа is full of hidden gems and adventure. Iowa tourism is on the rise, and the fact that Iowa has a variety of activities for each season is a huge contribution to this. If уоu аrе trying tо tаkе a vасаtiоn somewhere nеw and interesting, or looking for a short weekend getaway in the midwest, Iоwа iѕ wоrth checking out.

Every summer, there is a huge fair hosted in Des Moines, Iowa known as the Iowa State Fair. The fair is worth visiting for people who enjoy the outdoors, agriculture, beer, unique and delicious food. The fair offers a variety of livestock shows, entertainment, contests, rides, food and more. There is plenty of fun, excitement, and thrills to be found at the Iowa State Fair!

YES, I will love to share my experience with you, but before we do that lets look at some facts about the Iowa State Fair. The 2019 Iоwа State Fаir ran from Auguѕt 8th to 18th in Dеѕ Mоinеѕ,  and the very first Iowa State Fair ran from October 25 to 27 in 1854. WOW!

Grand Wheel at the 2019 Iowa Fair Grounds

The internationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair is thе ѕinglе largest еvеnt in the state оf Iоwа, and it attracts more than a million people frоm all over the world every year.

My Initial thoughts

I attended the fair on Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17, 2019. From the time the fairgrounds opened around 9am, people were pouring in. Each day, I left around 8pm and I was surprised to see that people were still coming in that late. This shows how popular the fair is because people attend regardless of what time of the day it is.

When I arrived at the fair, the first ride I got on was the SkyGlider so that I could get an idea of what the fair looks like. Since the Iowa State Fair is one of the largest in the country, it came as no surprise that the fairgrounds were HUGE. From the SkyGlider I was able to see several animal buildings, food stalls and fair games which were available to me.


The fair has the most instagrammable food stands

Exploring the fair, food & beer

After getting off the SkyGlider, I tried several foods. The first order on the menu was the apple fritter funnel cake which was a new food in 2019. I accessed the list of new foods and people’s choice best food on the Iowa State Fair website and on the Food Finder app– this helped me navigate my way around things to try because there are so many options.

The stall for the best bacon balls I have ever had!

After eating the funnel cake, I needed to see some animals, so I walked to the rabbit building and I saw the cutest rabbits ever. They came in different colors – mainly black, white and gray – and I immediately wanted to take one home but sadly I could not. A lot of animals at the fair are owned by farmers and they are only for display. Some of the animals are entered in competitions and they win ribbons based on their appearances. This is a fun way for farmers to participate in the fair and the winning animals are displayed with their ribbons.  

Some of the other new foods and beers I tried at the fair include:

  • Berkshire Bacon Balls
  • Beignets
  • Wonder Bar
  • Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake Chimi
  • Funnel Cake Beer
  • Strawberry Sparkle Pony Beer
Apple Fritter Funnel Cake

Craft beers are available every year at the fair. Craft beer is a type of beer which is different from the bigger brands we are used to. Breweries come up with their spin on beer by incorporating different flavors to beer. This year, I tried the funnel cake (sweet) beer, strawberry sparkle pony, jalapeno beer among many others. I especially loved the craft beer tent because you can get several small cups of craft beer for a very affordable price. The reason why several small cups are available is simple – so beer lovers can try a variety of beers.

Craft Beer Tent
More Craft beer
Enjoying a cold beer in the summer heat

Other foods that I ate at the fair include warm chocolate chip cookies which has been a fair favorite for years. I heard so much about it prior to visiting the fair so I decided to try some, and they were the best cookies I have ever had! I also ate deep fried ice cream, a pie shake (imagine a milkshake mixed with a fruit pie), pork belly burnt ends, bacon brisket mac and cheese, bacon wrapped wings, duck bacon wonton and cinnamon donuts. There were so many food options at the fair and I was SO stuffed that I could barely move at the end of the day. On the bright side, the grounds are so big so walking around helped with burning some calories, so I created space for more food that way.

Fair Attractions

The animals and vegetable displays are a huge attraction at the Iowa State Fair. There were contests for the vegetables displayed at the fair, and it was quite shocking to see how big some of the vegetables we eat daily like zucchini could grow.
I also was able to see cows, sheep, goats, horses and ponies (a crowd favorite) and the Budweiser Clydesdales which are a group of horses used for promotion by the Budweiser company. The Budweiser Clydesdales are HUGE! They are the biggest horses I have ever seen, and it was so awesome to catch a glimpse of them at the fair. I also visited the llama building which was a little removed from the fair, but I promise it is worth viewing.

A horse at the Iowa State Fair
Biggest vegetable winners

Another favorite part of the fair for me were the rides in Thrillville. Tickets for Thrillville can be exchanged for wristbands which have credits on them. The credits can be used on the rides, and I really liked the fact that the lines were not too long. I got on the rides that I wanted quickly, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the fair without spending too much time waiting in line. I got on so many rides that I was dizzy at the end of it, but it was worthwhile.

Thrillville from the ferris wheel
Games at thrillville
Fairgoers at thrillville

Another major attraction at the Iowa state fair is the giant slide. This activity is a must do. Do you remember getting on a slide in kindergarten as a kid? Well imagine a slide at least 20 times the size of the one from your kindergarten. This is exactly what the giant slide is. The slide is so popular that the line to get on wrapped outside of the attraction, but it was so worth it!

Giant Slide (Credit: www.huffpost.com)

Many people visit the fair mainly to see the butter cow. The butter cow is a sculpture and this year it was done by Sarah Pratt using about 600 lbs. of low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter. Sarah Pratt became the fifth butter cow sculpture after apprenticing with Norma Lyon who began sculpting the butter cow in 1960! I will continue to be impressed by the line of talented women who carve the butter cow. Apart from the butter cow, there were other butter exhibits carved by Sarah Pratt. The theme of this year’s exhibit is Sesame Street and it was definitely a highlight for me!

Butter Cow (Credit: www.iowastatefair.org)

Final thoughts

What is my favorite part of the fair? The people of Iowa! Everyone at the fair was so nice and welcoming. Some people would photobomb me playfully as I tried to get a perfect shot and we would joke about it. I enjoyed how people made compliments about my outfit, my purse or asked questions about where I lived and what brought me to the fair. The warmth, the food and the overall experience makes me look forward to visiting the Iowa State Fair in 2020.

Fairgoers at the 2019 Iowa State Fair

Things to note about the fair:

  • Wear comfortable shoes, the fair requires a lot of walking!
  • Bring enough cash for food. There are ATMs on the fairgrounds but among the crowd of people, they are not so easily accessible.
  • Bathrooms are located around the fairgrounds.
  • The fair has some hidden gems like animal wood carvings and an antique shop. This can be found at the end of the SkyGlider on the east side.
  • Come early because the fairgrounds fill up quickly.
  • Use the Food Finder app because this was extremely helpful with pre-selecting what I wanted to eat and navigating the food stalls.
  • I got ideas of food to eat from the official Iowa State Fair page on Instagram and also the fair website.
  • It is a good idea to have a planned itinerary, but I realized that it was much better to go with the flow.

Above all, be nice to people and have a fun time!

Portraits from the Grand Wheel

Exploring Des Moines

After the fair, I spent Sunday exploring Des Moines, Iowa. My favorite part of this city was the capitol building with the shiny roof and the views of the city from the capitol building. I also loved the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines which displayed sculptures from different artists all over the world.

Capitol building in Des Moines
View of Des Moines from the Capitol

My Personal View About Des Moines:

  • Dеѕ Moines is еmеrging and progressive.
  • Dеѕ Mоinеѕ is a collection of all the dеѕirаblе fеаturеѕ of а big city without thе crowd, hustle and bustle that comes with other big cities.
  • Dеѕ Mоinеѕ iѕ аuthеntiс, ассеѕѕiblе and ѕurрriѕing.

Will I visit the Iowa State Fair and Des Moines again? YES!

If you are a Fairgoer or a tourist, I can attest to the fact that there’s adventure and excitement waiting for you at the Iowa State Fair!

See you in 2020!

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