The Wisconsin State Fair is arguably the Milwaukee area’s most kid-friendly summer festival—from plenty of free things for kids to do to affordable food to enjoy with plenty of rides and games.
If you’re planning a trip to the state fair this summer, here’s what you need to know.
Opening hours, baggage policies and stroller rentals
This year’s State Fair dates are August 4-14, and general admission hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday. SpinCity, the midway district of rides and games, opens every day at 11am; Closing times vary.
At the gates, all bags are subject to inspection and metal detectors will be used. Visitors are allowed to carry food, although cans and bottles are not allowed.
Strollers and buggies are allowed on the fairgrounds, and are also available to rent. Single strollers $12, buggies $17, wheelchairs $25, and electric scooters $60 ($40 after 4 p.m.).
Accessible restrooms are available at the Exhibition Center, in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, at the corner of Grand Stand and First Street and at the corner of Central Avenue and Second Street. There is a family restroom in the north lobby of the Expo Centre.
Free things for kids to do at the State Fair
There are plenty of things you can do for families looking to keep their kids entertained for free.
The Youth Art Gallery in the Foyer of the Exhibition Center is an exhibition of artworks by students in grades six through twelve throughout Wisconsin. There is also a free take-and-take art area for the kids to enjoy.
There is a theater with performances by youth groups and project exhibits for Wisconsin youth ages 12-19 in the Youth Gallery Hall on Grandstand Avenue and Fifth Street.
There are children’s farm animals and family activities at Compeer Financial Discovery Barnyard, in the village of Ag in Sue Wetley Court, south of the lower cattle barn.
Practical activity stations for kids and outdoor activities such as hopscotch playgrounds, a water feature, a dragonfly bench, and a toad lair are located at Exploratory Park, on the south side of Main Street across from the Original Cream Puff Pavilion.
Dog shows and demos, including dog pool diving, Frisbee and agility courses, will be held at the K-9 Sports Arena in the Big Backyard.
There will be demonstrations of milking cows and goats, as well as story time with Alice in Dairyland at the Milking Parlor located in Ag Village on the southeast corner of Livestock Horse Barn on Central Ave.
We Energies Energy Park, on Whitley Way on Center Street, is a relaxed, family-friendly place that features interactive games that teach how to stay safe around electricity and natural gas, plus game shows that challenge energy knowledge, kids’ wristbands and solar powered car races.
The Wilderness Resort Family Variety Theatre, located on Wetley Way in the Big Backyard, features family entertainment, such as jugglers, comedians, magicians, and music.
Saz Race Hogs, on Second Street and Badger Avenue, race every day at 11:15 a.m., 12:30, 1:30, 3:30, 4:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The Giant Slide, SpinCity and other games at the state fair
From the iconic Giant Slide to Midway District, SpinCity, there are plenty of rides at the State Fair.
The Giant Slide has been a tradition in the gallery for over 50 years. Located on Second Street on Central Avenue, each ride down the 200-foot slide costs $3.
The Pig Slide, in Sue Wetley Court near Compeer Financial Discovery Barnyard, bills itself as the world’s largest piggy bank. Two trips down the slide cost $1.
There are pony rides for $10 at Sue Wetley Court near Compeer Financial Discovery Barnyard.
There are several locations for Salto Power Jump – a trampoline with a bungee that kids can jump on for $10. One at Wheatley Way across from the K-9 Sports Arena, one at Sue Wetley Court and one at the Expo Center.
People can ride the Sky Glider for $5 one way and $8 round trip. Tickets are on sale near the Exhibition Center and near the entrance to SpinCity.
WonderFair Wheel is North America’s largest travel Ferris wheel, at 15 stories tall. It’s located in Wetley Way on Second Street, and the ride costs $6.
SpinCity is the fair’s arcade and gaming zone, with nearly 50 rides, and over 25 rides with prizes and perks. You must pay for ride tickets, and the cost of each ride and game is between three and seven tickets. A $40 wristband allows people to ride on unlimited rides. The ticket booth is located on the Grand Walkway, south of the main US Cellular entrance to the gallery. For younger children, the west side of the Grand Walkway has many toys that are less than 48 inches high. New this year, there will be the sensory-friendly SpinCity Morning from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, August 8, when lights and sounds will be reduced.
State Fair Buildings for Shopping, Food and Air Conditioning
At some point in a typical state fair visit, you’ll likely find yourself needing some shelter from the weather—either to avoid the rain or to cool off. In addition to the various animal pens and a few other smaller buildings, here are the main ones where you can spend time while shopping, dining, or enjoying exhibitions.
The exhibition center is the largest building. It has food, free samples, activities, official merchandise, and a pass on the vendors aisle.
The Original Cream Puff Pavilion is the central location for cream puffs. There are also other desserts, such as brownies and cookies, for those who aren’t into cream puffs.
The Wisconsin Products Pavilion is great for baked potatoes, apple and cranberry desserts, ice cream, pastries, and a few Christmas tree displays.
Corn on the cob, cream, milk flavor and other baby food options
For many people, the State Fair is all about food. There are more than 200 foodie locations dotted among State Fair Park, with more than 800 dishes. Here are some things that are suitable for children.
The famous Milk House is back after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Located near the Exhibition Center, on South Grandstand Avenue on Main Street, people can buy their favorite flavored milk for $1 a cup.
Cream puffs have been sold at the fair since 1924 and are the most popular food item at the state fair. They can be purchased at the Original Cream Puff by waiting in line inside the building (the line is long but usually fast) or at the express window at the north end of the suite. There are also two easy-to-go kiosks for a quick puff cream along Grandstand Street. Cream puffs are $5, with 3-packs available for $14 and 6-packs for $25.
For the ones who must dine on one piece at the fair, there are the typical corn dogs and caramel apples as well as fried candy bars, Oreos, and Twinkies. Here are some of the more unusual offers.
- Brownie Waffle Stick is a Belgian cake baked around a brownie with white chocolate chips, served on a stick, coated with powdered sugar and covered with chocolate syrup. This is at Waffle Chix on South Grandstand Street.
- At Fried Fruit and Olive Fried on Grandstand Street between Main Street and Micro Alley Pino, visitors can buy their choice of fruit, in batter and then deep-fried, and sprinkled with powdered sugar, cinnamon or chocolate. The treatment is described as “healthy on the inside, fun on the outside.”
- For those tired of typical cheese curds, Lakefront Brewery Beer Garden on First Street (in the Big Backyard) sells a Footlong Cheese Curd pie on a stick.
- And for those who can’t choose between their favorite Carnival-inspired treats, pickle-flavored cotton candy is available at Pickle Barrel, which has multiple Expo Center locations and one at the Original Cream Puff Pavilion.
The state fair will introduce more than 80 new foods this year. Here are some things that look good for kids.
- Apple fries are fried apple slices dipped in sugar and caramelized. It’s available at Handmade Burgers in the Big Backyard.
- Cookie pie slices are just as they sound (cut from a giant cookie). They’re on sale at the Milk House and are available in Cow Pie Brownie and Cookies & Cream flavors.
- It seems odd that this hasn’t been served before, but according to the state fair, this is the first year that frozen custard has been available. You can get vanilla or chocolate, in a cone or plate or with toppings to create a sundae, at Camp Bar on Central Avenue and Center Street (on the west side of Central Mall).
- Naughty Gummy Bear, with Gummy Bear drenched and covered in honey mustard and Gummy Bears, will be at Leadfoots Race Bar and Grill on Grandstand Ave. Between Second St. and Benno’s Micro Alley.
- Cedar Crest (found in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion) sells cruise ice cream – your choice of 4 different flavors.
Giant pickles can be found at the Pickle Barrel locations in the Expo Center and Original Cream Puff Pavilion.
Roasted corn on the cob is available at several different locations, including the most famous – the New Berlin Lions Club Corn Roast on Central Ave. & Second St.
The State Fair Food Finder is available on the Fair website and allows you to search for your favorite food, or filter by many useful topics such as gluten-friendly nutrients, baby parts, and Wisconsin staples.