Enjoying the Iowa State Fair with Littles


Some of you are probably thinking this post is a joke. “Enjoying” the Iowa State Fair with Littles?? Impossible! Well, I am here to tell you that you CAN conquer, and even enjoy, the Iowa State Fair with your family!

Phil and Angie celebrating their 5 year anniversary at the Iowa State Fair
Phil and Angie celebrating their 5 year anniversary at the Iowa State Fair

I had the privilege of interviewing a dear friend, Angie, about her experience with the Iowa State Fair. To give you a little insight as to why I chose her to interview, you should know that she is the proud mama to three little go-getters ages 3 years, 18 months, and 3 months! Angie has also been faithfully attending the fair since 1993! This year will be her 20th year of attending, and she feels just as confident going with her 3 little ones as she did 20 years ago. Angie and her husband, Phil, have been known to peruse the fair for 9-12 hours a day, at least 3 or 4 days during the fair. She is convinced that you cannot possibly see all that the fair has to offer in just one day, and I fully agree. Thanks to her double stroller and Ergo baby carrier, they are ready to go!

What is your favorite part of the Iowa State Fair?

Nolan, age 2, at Little Hands on the Farm
Nolan, age 2, at Little Hands on the Farm

#1: My favorite thing right now is seeing our oldest, Nolan, do the Little Hands on the Farm. (That’s our favorite too!) It’s open 9 a.m. til 7:30 p.m., and it’s free! Nolan loved it last year, and it was a great way for him to start learning about agriculture. It is an interactive journey for young ones ages 2-10. Nolan loved going along the paved path to see what building he would come upon next. He helped pick up an egg in the chicken coop and also enjoyed pretending to milk a cow in the dairy barn. He got to pick out some of his favorite fruits and veggies and gather them all into his little basket. His favorite thing to do was the tractor ride! He loved it and still talks about to this very day. In the end after he had gathered all of his produce items, he had to sell them at the market. After “selling” all of his items, they gave him a dollar which he could spend at their general store. He could choose from an ice pop, ice cream, granola bar… chocolate milk…. He chose a banana!
#2: For an inexpensive date night, Phil and I love to watch the evening shows at the different stages. Sometimes grandparents will help watch the kiddos while Phil and I just sit and relax, listening to a band. If our boys are along, they love to clap and dance! It’s easy to find a place on the grass to watch and listen.
#3: Another favorite is the Agriculture building where we can get an egg on a stick, taste test yummy pork, and see the Butter Cow. Waiting in line for 10 minutes to get an egg on a stick is a family memory for sure.

You mentioned listening to music. Are there any other shows you like to attend? Any specific ones for your kids?

We enjoy watching the different musicians at the Pioneer Hall building. The kiddos don’t have a preference–they just love to dance to music in general. The Fun Forest Stage by the AE Dairy stage always has loads of kids’ shows.

As a mama with two in diapers and a boy in the midst of potty training, are you at all nervous?

Moms shouldn’t be at all nervous. (I am not nervous!) There are lots of restroom areas all around with child changing stations. There are actually family restrooms and diaper changing areas near the Susan Knapp amphitheater, behind Ye Old Mill, and in the Varied Industries building. However, some of the older bathrooms, such as in the Agriculture building and underneath the grandstand, do not have diaper changing stations available.

With all of the awkwardness that can occur while nursing in public, how do you handle having to nurse your baby while at the Iowa State Fair?

I have no problem at all nursing in public, and thank God for giving me the ability and freedom to do so in public. I try to be as discreet as possible, so I always use my nursing cover. If you have a stroller, you can find an air conditioned building and just sit behind the stroller (I did that with Brendan (now 18 months) a lot last year). If you would prefer some privacy, there are two Diaper Changing/Nursing Stations on the fairgrounds. One is located in the Animal Learning Center and one in the Walnut Center. I visited both of these stations and they were awesome! Plus, they were air conditioned and provided an area where privacy was ensured and you could just relax with your nursing baby. Rocking chairs and an area for diaper changing with diapers and wipes as well as formula samples were there if needed.

Where do you park so the kids don’t get worn out just walking to the fairgrounds?

We usually just park outside the fairgrounds and have our trusty stroller in tow! However, there is a bus that goes from a few locations (including three FREE park & ride locations!) to the Iowa State Fair from 8:30 a.m. to midnight.

What is your favorite food at the fair?

The cup of amazing, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies! But I also love Cajun chicken on a stick.

Are the fairgrounds stroller-friendly?

Brendan, 7 months, happy as ever in his stroller.
Brendan, 7 months, happy as ever in his stroller.

Yes and no! The fairgrounds overall is a stroller-friendly place, but be aware that the Varied Industries building and the Grandstand vendors can be difficult to maneuver through with strollers. Just be patient and aware that those areas can be highly congested with people. If you don’t want to bring your stroller, you can rent a stroller or a wagon. They are available on a first come, first served basis inside the Grand Avenue Gate #11 and Gate #15. Stroller rental is $8 per day, wagon rental is $15 per day (deposit of driver’s license is required for rentals).

State Fair on a budget- Does it break the bank? Do you pack a meal, snacks, drinks, etc.?

We always go on a budget…. There are ways for it to not break the bank. Buy tickets ahead of time. Bring lots of snacks for your little ones and lots of water!!! Eat a big breakfast before entering the fairgrounds–that way you can push back lunchtime if needed. We will be packing picnic lunches, but we do spend some money on fair food. How can anyone not like anything on a stick?!

What are some *must see* attractions at the fair?

  • Little Hands on the Farm
  • Pioneer Hall, where the kids get their name stamped on a newspaper, along with lots of learning about hands-on machinery and basket weaving
  • Grape Stomping- GrandFather’s Barn
  • Picture ops everywhere!!!
  • Free sample of ice cream underneath the Grandstand- you get a little sample but it is oh so yummy!
  • Agriculture building- the egg on a stick and free samples of jam and pretzels, free sample of pork
  • Taste of Iowa- in the Varied Industries building, free samples like popcorn, jam and pretzels, salsa
  • DNR building- Huge fish tank with lots of different species of fish and other outdoor learning activities.

Overall, I just want to encourage mommies with little ones to go to the fair! There are endless things to do as a family and so many {free} things for your kiddos to do and enjoy. HERE’S TO OUR FIRST YEAR OF BRINGING 3 LITTLES TO THE FAIR!!

Thank you, Angie, for sharing all of your Iowa State Fair love and knowledge with us! For more great resources on the Iowa State Fair, visit their website (iowastatefair.org). Also, our very own Jody Halsted has some great advice on visiting the Fair on her blog Family Rambling. Take advantage of living so close to something this fun and go! Whether it’s Date Night at the Grandstand, making a memory with the kids, or checking out the rides, the Iowa State Fair has something fun and enjoyable for everyone.

We love going to the fair and are always looking for new things to check out or new foods to try there. I’d love to know- What is your favorite thing at the fair??



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