A Different Kind of “Trip” to the Iowa State Fair


It’s not too many years ago that I would have told you I’d never been to a State Fair in my life. In the last several years since being introduced to the “amazingly amusing” Iowa State Fair, I’ve experienced it in a number of ways: as the freshman Fair-goer getting sick on fried food, as the stroller-pushing parent coaxing the toddler to nap, and as the breastfeeding mom of newborn twins frequenting the nursing station. Indeed, my family’s Iowa State Fair trip has looked a little different each year as the kids keep growing older. And with all four of them now school-age, I experienced this year’s Fair in another way yet: as a homeschooling mom leading a field trip.


It was only recently that I learned of the Iowa State Fair’s field trip program which is available to schools, daycares, homeschool groups, and individual families alike. As our kids have grown older, we’ve always enjoyed the educational aspects of the Fair, but never “on purpose.”

Saturday, with a little help from my Iowa State Fair field trip guide, we did just that.

Listing 31 different learning destinations around the fairgrounds and 2 possible agendas for hitting many of them up, the guide was a nice companion to our day at the Fair. Though we didn’t follow the guide’s schedule exactly, we did find it to be a useful tool in organizing and prioritizing our educational stops. And reading through its included lesson plans was a great way to pass the time as we stood in Saturday’s long lines.

Seeing the animals is always my family’s favorite part of the Fair, and I, especially, was more than excited to start the livestock portion of our day in the Horse Barn. I grew up on horseback—taking leisure rides with my family, herding cattle with my dad, competing in the 4-H Horse Show with my four-legged friends—and though I’m removed from that lifestyle now, I still have a soft spot in my heart for horses. And it makes me feel good that my kids like them, too.


While we were milling about the Horse Barn, we caught wind that the Horsemanship class was competing in the arena, so we even got to see a bit of the show.


After swinging by the Big Boar and Super Bull Displays for Abel (what is it with boys and large male animals?), we next made our way through the Avenue of the Breeds. This is always another favorite stop of ours because we can see so many different types of animals all in one place. My husband seems to favor the cattle (his 4-H show animal), Elliana adores the bunnies, and I, of course, prefer the horses.


And this pony preferred us! The friendly little guy kept sticking his head through the fence, giving the kids a fun chance to get up close and personal.


Another one of our favorite animal stops was the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. The kids love to see baby anything, so it’s just the place for some cute, furry fixes.

The baby chicks were so funny. Some of them were so full of energy, and they just ran around that little pen like fuzzballs on wheels! But somehow, Amariah was able to catch their busy attention without saying a word. She just squatted down, patted the ground, and these two came running. Aren’t they sweet?!


As precious as those chicks were, though, I have to say… there is something about baby pigs that makes my heart giggle. Only one litter had been born as of Saturday, so the line to see them was long. But it was worth the wait. (And thanks to our field trip guide, we were able to pass the time by reading a little Hog History!)


And, okay, the momma pigs are pretty cute themselves. This sow was up getting a drink as we passed by, and she looked right at me for the longest time. So much personality in that face! Hey, she deserves some loving attention, too. She’s about to give birth to 8-12 babies… for the second time this year!


By this time, the kids were ready for snack. What’s a trip to the Fair for littles without a stop at Little Hands on the Farm, right? Let’s be honest, though: I think this one loses its educational flair as soon as kids find out there’s a free treat at the end. But hey—it’s fun, and it makes for some cute photo opportunities.


The Iowa State Fair is full of learning opportunities for kids of all ages. These were just some of our favorites.

What about you? Have you been to the Fair, or are you planning to go? What are some of your favorite educational stops to make with the kids?

Travis "learning" about a Bacon-Wrapped Rib on a Stick
Travis “learning” about a Bacon-Wrapped Rib on a Stick

Disclosure: I was given a free Iowa State Fair field trip package in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.


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