Don’t miss the first post in series, Doing the Iowa State Fair as a Family, Part One: Getting There
Last year was the first year I had ever considered staying home from the fair. I had a 2.5-year-old (A) and a 2-month-old (J). It’s too hot. Where will I nurse the baby? How can we feed all 3 of us cheap? What will happen at nap time with A? I was a negative Nancy, y’all. But I had NEVER missed a year of the fair before, and wasn’t about to let my babies keep me from going! I am a manic-planner, and we ended up having not one, but TWO successful fair trips last year so I’m sharing with you my tips and tricks for surviving the fair with kids. (This information is mostly opinion based on Little Audrey’s past fair experiences and information gathered from other Moms, like you!)
Walking and Rolling (aka Traveling the Fair with Littles)
Baby Wearing – Baby-wearing truly saved our skin. Anytime my son needed to rest or had taken in too much experience, I moved him from the stroller to my carrier, wearing him snuggled to my chest. He was out like a light, and stayed their happily until his next feeding time! For this practice at the fair, I used a lightweight umbrella, and smiled at anyone who looked at me funnily!
Strollers – We personally own a double stroller, and used it! Each child has an umbrella with this stroller, as well as a tray for a cup and snack. This stroller was essential come naptime for A. As we walked through an air-conditioned building and let her snooze away, we viewed exhibits! However, if I DIDN’T own a stroller, I’m so glad to know the State Fair has my back! Strollers and wagons are available on a first come, first serve 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).
Shoes – Keep in mind you may be involved in water-play as well as walking up and down hills, for many hours in the day! Well-fitted comfortable, quick dry shoes will be your best option!
Diaper-Changes and Nursing
In reality, you can change a diaper wherever you feel comfortable. My son was little enough at the time, one of his diaper changes occurred while on my lap sitting on a bench. We also brought a changing pad and couple of lightweight blankets with us at that time, just in case. If you’re more comfortable with changing a diaper on a changing table, here’s where you should go!
- Animal Learning Center
- Walnut Center
- Heritage Village Restroom facility (adjacent to the Susan Knapp Amphitheater)
- Restrooms behind Ye Old Mill
Nursing Spots – Offered/ Preferred
Once again, I am of the mindset that you are welcome to feed your baby wherever you are. One of my favorite spots to cool off and nurse is the (air conditioned!) hallway just before entering the South Side of the Varied Industries Building. This is the side the tractors are, outside. This hallway has a bathroom, drinking fountain, plenty of space to let an amped-up toddler run sprints, and leads you to the room with the free popcorn! (Satisfy older children and baby at same time!) I nursed here several times last year, and also rested my feet by sitting on the floor against the wall. (Sizzle) You will see others having indoor picnics, resting their young ones, and making bathroom lines.
I personally don’t use a cover, though I have always nursed with a tank top-t shirt combo, and am covered naturally, and have also parked my double stroller in front for extra privacy. This is easier to perform with a younger infant, as the older kids get, the more distractible they become. So, if you’re needing a clean, quiet place to nurse, go here:
- Animal Learning Center has air conditioning, rocking chairs and is a nice sized family room.
- Walnut Center is also air conditioned with rockers.
- First Aid Building (may have to check on this, but I recall there being a nursing station here!)
Keeping it Cool
When I schedule my fair time, I alternate indoor and outdoor activities to give myself a break from the Iowa heat! Some fabulously cool indoor facilities:
- Varied Industries Building – College Reps! Pianos! Beds you shouldn’t lay on without a shower cap! Hot tubs! (quick, wipe Sally’s face off before someone sees you.) Don’t forget to stop in at Barksdale’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies for a bucket full!
- Cultural Center – Doll houses! Hand-crafted décor! Art! Photography!
- Under the Grandstand – Ice Cream! Shoes! Necklaces! Shoe lifts! Massagers! Quick-mops! More!
Splash Ground outdoor areas
- Agriculture Building – Butter cow!! Honey! (Beekeeping) Jelly-tasting! Emu eggs! Weird types of jerky! Newest as seen on TV kitchen blender demonstration! Eggs with Cookie’s seasoning! Vegetable and Fruit contest winners! Be prepared to carry your stroller up 2.5 flights of stairs! Or walk around the building! There is a sneaky drinking fountain located here as well, hiding near a pole.
- Grandfather’s Barn – Not air conditioned, but does have fans throughout the building you can stand in front of and make weird noises in. This is where you come to yodel, cock-a-doodle-do, MOM!, and other silly on-stage contests. Sit and watch fun folk-music, while eating ice cream, drinking some lemonade. Let your older kids rest their feet in the pews and go look through some antiques! (Or better-put “Wait a minute! I played with this!”)
We also will be planning to get wet at the spray ground – located outside of the Grandstand! (drinking fountains nearby) We will be packing extra clothing for this venture. No suits needed, just cool off! Don’t forget to take off socks and shoes!
Another Mom Tip – I bought several battery-operated Water Misting Fans from Walgreens before our trip next year, and a desk fan to attach to the stroller for my infant. These were an absolute necessity. I filled them with ice water before we left home and they lasted my kiddos (and two nieces!) all day!
What to Bring With You
- Cash – Approximately 30 ATMs will be scattered throughout the grounds, including just outside the Robert G. Horner & Sheri Avis Horner Service Center and just inside the Grandstand entrance. These locations are marked on the fairgrounds map. (We typically arrive at the fair with around $200 to spend freely.)
- Hand Sanitizer – Probably an 80 oz. bottle should get you and your family through a fair day.
- Extra Clothes – Spray ground! Over-eating! Messy eating! So many possibilities. You’ll never regret using your Pinterest skills and rolling up a couple extra clothing items for your family. (But not your husband, because he is definitely going to buy the $20 t-shirt. Just plan on it.)
- Food and Snacks – I personally always bring my kiddo’s sippy cups along because they are bound to drop the lidded cup, and with free refills and drinking fountains I can fill their cup up all day long with no extra cost! They say no food from home, but I’ve found with littles they allow you to bring snacks. If you are not planning on your child eating you out of $100 faster than you can say “on-a-stick:” bring them snacks!
- Itinerary – More on this in Part 3, but I am telling ya, even a LITTLE planning can go a long way at the fair! Especially when you brought a stroller, and forgot to get a pickle. Is it worth the round-trip fare on the Sky-Glider to cross the entire fair in the air? YES! Plan out your trip ahead of time for a seamless day of food, fun, and f-laughter! (Okay, I’ve taken this too far!)
Sincerely, Little Audrey
Other posts in this series: