The Ultimate U.S. State Fair Bucket List

Batter-dipped corndogs smothered with ketchup and mustard, galloping carousel horses worn with age, rows of metal cages holding squawky chickens and never-ending waves of people – if this scenario sounds familiar to you, then you are no stranger to a state fair.

No matter which state you’re from, if you grew up going to the fair every year, then you know that the end of summer means the beginning of something magical: fair time. Sure, nearly all states hold fairs, but not every fair is equal. Check out this smattering of state fairs that definitely deserve your attention:

Minnesota State Fair [St. Paul, Minnesota]

Minnesota State Fair | What's better than a steamy platter of juicy fried green tomatoes and plump corn fritters dripping with warm honey butter? Enjoying your treat while simultaneously taking part in the Great Minnesota Get-Together! Located in St. Paul, the Minnesota State Fair is not only one of the largest state fairs in the U.S., it is also one of the best attended – nearly 1.8 million fairgoers walked through the gates in 2012. And it’s no surprise, considering there are more than 300 drink and food stands jam-packed with an incredible array of delicious, deep-fried fare.

Iowa State Fair [Des Moines, Iowa]

Iowa State Fair | Where can you eat a smoked pork chop on a stick while examining a live, ribbon-winning pig? You guessed it – the Iowa State Fair! While it would be unwise to argue the slogan, “Nothing compares” with a diehard Iowa Fair fan, it is hard to deny that this massive Des Moines event offers anything less than some of the tastiest fair food in the Midwest (batter-fried butter, anyone?). Speaking of butter, don’t forget to salute your corndog to the fair’s beloved butter cow.

Texas State Fair [Dallas, Texas]

State Fair of Texas | Not to sound cliché, but it’s true what they say about everything being bigger in Texas. The State Fair of Texas is the largest fair in the U.S., with more than 2 million visitors annually. Since the 1950s, the 52-foot mascot cowboy named Big Tex has been inviting fairgoers to the Dallas-based fair. The State Fair of Texas is known for its Cotton Bowl, as well as its epic auto show dating back to 1904.

California State Fair [Sacramento, California]

California State Fair | California’s probably not the first place you think of for awesome state fairs. But think again. Not only does the Golden State have great beaches and glorious weather, its state fair is definitely worth a visit. During the gold rush days, the California State Fair traveled from city to city each year until settling in Sacramento in 1859. While you’re sure to find the staple fair fodder like cheese curds and cotton candy, the real excitement happens at the Sacramento Mile, where motorcyclists take part in a series of races.

New York State Fair [Syracuse, New York]

The Great New York State Fair | If you want to sample the best of New York State, head to the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse. The annual 12-day event is the third largest state fair in the nation (behind Texas and Minnesota), with more than a million visitors annually. Many people flock to this fair to see the huge variety of agricultural exhibits – and to pet the horses and other animals, of course. If you want to see the fair from a different angle, try a hot air balloon ride!

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Lauren Elizondo

Autumn foliage, architectural decay, that feeling you get in your stomach when you speed over a dip in the road – these are just a few of Lauren Elizondo’s favorite things she’s had the chance to experience while traveling. When Lauren’s not writing abo