We know when it’s time for the fair, around here. The rhubarb leaves are big enough to sleep under, my car windows fog up in the morning on the way to school, and I only need to cut the grass once a week. Yep, it’s time. The 2014 Alaska State Fairbegins tomorrow, and as always, AKontheGO families are anxious to drive to Palmer and a bounty of Last Frontier food and fun.
I like the theme this year: ‘Good Time Fun.’ It brings us down to earth, connected to the real reason our fair started in the first place some 78 years ago – to celebrate mother nature’s kindness of a good harvest. Okay, to have a bit of family frolicking too, I suppose. The Alaska State Fair is as much about this as anything else, and with the arrival of another long winter just in front of us, it’s nice to get out and about in one of the most beautiful parts of Alaska.
Below are a few tips for enjoying the Alaska State Fair with kids. Simple stuff, really. Know before you go, and perhaps we’ll see you out there!
1. Pre-check. We love that the Alaska State Fair has a handy app with all sorts of great information. Find it in your device’s Play Store, or go HERE for a link. If you don’t want the app, do peruse the fair’s re-constructed website, with all kinds of need-to-know stuff at your fingertips. You can buy tickets via both.
2. Know how you’ll get there. It’s frustrating, isn’t it, to sit on the Glenn Highway interchange, waiting in a miles-long line to get to the fairgrounds? We understand, and this is why we have a few ways to mitigate the traffic jam.
Try the Old Glenn Highway exit a few miles earlier, and take the extra 10-mile scenic route to Palmer. Why not? You probably don’t travel this way every day, and it’ll get you in the country fair mood.
Take the Alaska Railroad’s State Fair Train. Tickets are just about sold out, but my contacts there told me a few spots are available on the 4:30 p.m. departure from the Anchorage Depot, arriving around dinnertime at the fair. Tickets are $12/adults, $8 kids (3-11), with 2 and under free. Returns are open-ended, with the last departure from Palmer leaving at 10:15 p.m. from the fair’s Green Gate. FYI – here are the dates with available 4:30 p.m. departure seating: 8/22->8/24; 8/29->8/31. NOTE: The train has no services on board, so bring snacks, drinks, and anything else you’ll need to keep kids comfy.
If you can’t get on the train, try Valley Mover bus service from Anchorage, departing Northway Mall at 9:10 a.m. and arriving back in Anchorage at 5:15 p.m. The bus is $10 CASH ONLY, and takes a bit over two hours, so be prepared for restless kiddos.
3. When should you go? You didn’t hear it from me, parents, but why not sneak the kids out of school tomorrow for $2 Thursday on opening day? Or Friday for Kids’ Day, when all youngsters 12 and under get in FREE with two cans of food. Hey, if you must wait until the weekend, Saturday is Family Day with 12-under getting free admission again, as long as they bring two non-perishable food items. Find other special admission rates HERE.
Can’t make those days? Arrive at the fair gates right at opening time (noon M-Th; 10 a.m. Sat/Sun & Labor Day). You’ll find few lines, lots of fresh food items, and happy animals. Ride the rides first, then nosh on some old-fashioned fair food, then peruse the barns and exhibits, all while knowing you’ve already fought the good fight against the crush of people waiting to get on the Gravitron.
4. Other tips? Be sure to explore the newest exhibits along the Yellow Trail. The Gathering Place will be constantly in motion with Native Alaska-themed performances, artisans, crafts, and amazing, fresh Alaska seafood prepared at the new Fish On! Camp Grill. I’m thrilled to see this new addition, and they’ll be hosting a Grand Opening Celebration on Friday, August 22 from 4-6 p.m. Don’t miss it.
If the kids need a break, try the Family Rest Stop inside Raven Hall. Let toddlers toddle, babies eat and nap, and parents sit down for a few minutes. Whew.
Bring snacks, drinks, and some wet wipes for sticky hands, faces, and whatever else. Bring a jacket for chilly moments, and comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes for bigger kids, especially those who want to tackle the big rides. Should the weather continue to be sunny (YAY!), don’t forget sunscreen and a hat; there’s little shade out there.
Our Alaska State Fair is a great state fair, so be sure not to miss a 2014 of Good Time Fun, Alaska-style.
Find a complete fair schedule HERE.