California State Fair: The Inside Scoop

Navigate the CA State Fair Like a Pro

California State Fair at Cal Expo
The California State Fair at Cal Expo. AlessandraRC / Getty Images

The California State Fair is happening this month, and even though its tagline is “big fun”, many fairgoers will experience anything but. Which really is unfortunate, as the CA State Fair is one of the best events in Sacramento and should bring nothing but thrills and smiles. How can you ensure you have a great time and get the most bang for your buck? Take some helpful tips from insiders – aka those who have been crazy about the 17-day celebration for years.

The Basics

Formerly in action every August, the California State Fair has switched to July in recent years, which has improved both attendance and quality of the fair itself. If you are a native Sacramentan but haven’t been to the fair in years, then you may miss it if you’re still expecting big fun in August!


Regular Hours
This year’s CA State Fair is happening July 12-29th. With over 80,000 attendees expected, Cal Expo is adding new and improved hours to come out and play.
Monday-Thursday: 11am-10pm
Friday-Sunday: 10am-10pm

Bonus Fun

This year’s fair features “Magical Midway” hours, which run from 2-11pm Monday and Thursday; 11am-11pm on Tuesdays; Noon-11pm on Wednesdays; 11am-12am Friday-Sunday.


The CA State Fair loves the community, and so it really is practically impossible to show up at the fair and pay full price. This is great news for the many families hoping to enjoy the fair without spending a fortune.

Discount Days

Tuesdays: Kids Days – Admission is FREE for those aged 12 and under. $1 carnival rides for all. This special is only available at the gate.

Wells Fargo Wednesdays: $6.00 admission for everyone aged 5+ (kids under 4 are free every day) and $15.00 Unlimited Ride Wristbands. Available only at the gate.

62 & Better! Days: Adults over the age of 62 get into the fair for only $8 on Fridays. Again, this is not an online offer.

The fair also offers special discounts on select days for active duty military and law enforcement, designated drivers in a group and provides a large array of discount fair combo packages if you order early in advance.

Standard Admission

If you choose to purchase your fair tickets at the gate, or after July 12th, you can purchase individual tickets at the following prices:

  • General Admission - $12.00
    Senior Admission (62+) - $10.00
    Youth Admission (5-12) - $8.00
    Children under 4 are free

Unlimited ride wristbands are also available for purchase, pricing out at $30 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; $15 on Wednesdays and $35 on Saturday and Sunday. Remember that a ride wrist band does not include the standard fair admission fee.

The fair box office is open from 10:30am-10pm on weekdays, and opens at 9:30 am Friday through Sunday.

What to Bring

If you have babies or small children heading to the fair with you, be sure to bring snacks and plenty of water. The majority of the CA State Fair is outdoors, and Sacramento temperatures this month have reached into the low 100s. If you or a loved one is particularly sensitive to heat, hit the fair in the evening, where everything is aglow and it's quite a bit cooler outside.
It's also a good idea to bring plenty of cash - parking is $10 and you'll also want money on hand for food, souvenirs, and rides. While most fair venues take plastic, it will be easier to keep track of what you spend and stick to your budget if you have an appropriate amount of cash with you ahead of time.

Where to Go

There is so much to see at the California State Fair, it can be an overwhelming decision when it comes to what you'll spend your time doing and what date(s) to attend. There are plenty of headliners this year in the concert series, including Rick Springfield on July 19 and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on July 27. All concerts are free with general fair admission, and you can enjoy them at the Golden1 Stage or else on the big screens viewable from the lagoon and lawn portions of the fairgrounds.

This year, take your kids to see the farmyard babies at The Farm, including a chance to feed them.

Tony Hawk will be performing at the Miller Lite Grandstand on July 16, and on July 13 watch people attempt to break the current world record for the largest cocktail.

Once at the fairgrounds, you can hop on the monorail located at the main gate. It's free and takes you to everything from rides and exhibits to all of those famous fried food kiosks. With your feet aching and your bags heavier at the end of the day, the monorail is a welcomed site for many.

The best way to experience the CA State Fair and find out what you love and what you don't is to just go. With so many discounts available and an entire 17 days of fun to enjoy, you're sure to have a great time with friends, family or even on your own.

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