It’s that time of year again. Sweaters are (maybe, slowly) starting to make their way out of storage. Pumpkin spice everything can be found around every corner. The first leaves are beginning to turn beautiful shades of red and orange. And the smells of fried dough and cotton candy and the sounds of children shrieking in delight are wafting through the autumn air. It’s time for the South Carolina State Fair to make it’s appearance Oct. 10 – 21!
The fair is a treasured fall tradition in the Midlands, and something our little family looks forward to every year. But as your family starts to grow, an outing to the fair can really start to add up! Between tickets, rides, and delicious deep-fried treats, it’s easy to quickly spend more than you were planning to! But fear not! There are countless ways to enjoy the State Fair while saving some dough! Here are a few top tips to make the most of your visit:
1. Buy Your Tickets Early
If you purchase tickets ahead of time, you will save. Admission at the gate is $10, but buy before the fair starts and it’s only $7. Pay-one-price (POP) ride vouchers are $25 before the fair starts, and cost $30 after the fair starts. You can get your tickets online at the SC State Fair website, at participating Circle K stores, or at the fair’s Early Bird Ticket Window.
(Pro tip: POP vouchers can also be exchanged for 30 ride tickets. Tickets can then be split between family members and everyone can choose a few favorite rides to enjoy!)
2. Kids 5 and Under ALWAYS Get in Free
Even if your family resembles the Duggars, don’t fret. Children 5 and under get free admission every day of the fair!
(Pro tip: Take advantage of the free exhibits like the petting zoo, horses, farm animals, sand sculpture, balloon display and more for a fun-filled visit that won’t put a strain on your wallet.)
3. Find FRED
FRED is the State Fair’s roving ticket booth. FRED will be making 17 stops this year selling discount fair, ride, and concert tickets all over town. You can spin the wheel at FRED and win prizes or even free admission tickets! Every 50th person that buys a ticket at FRED gets a free admission ticket. And if you sing a song from one of their Pepsi Grandstand artists, you can win a pair of concert tickets! See findfred.org for more details.
4. Football Fans, Runners, and Military All Get Perks!
If you are going to the Texas A&M football game and you have a ticket, you can get into the fair for free before the game. When you leave, get your hand stamped because that will allow free entry again upon your return after the game.
If you participate in the Palmetto Health Foundation’s Walk for Life and Famously Hot Marathon, come to the fair in your official race shirt on Saturday, Oct. 13 or Sunday, Oct. 14 and get free entry into the fair. And as always, active duty military, retirees, and their dependents get into the fair free every day with valid ID.
5. Visit the State Fair on “Dollar Day”
The first day of the fair (Oct. 10) features $1 admission for everyone! The first day of the fair has a fantastic FREE Pepsi Grandstand concert: Tokyo Joe doing Rocketman, a tribute to Elton John.
(Pro-tip: if your kids are preschool age, beat the crowds by visiting the fair before school gets out!)
6. Have Lunch at the Fair and Get Free Admission
Between noon and 2 p.m. each weekday, fair visitors can exchange $10 (cash only) for a Lunch Bunch ticket, enjoy all that the fair has to offer, and receive a $10 refund when they return to the ticket booth by 2 p.m.
7. Check to See if Your Student or Civic Group Offers a “Free Day”
Many organizations around town offer free admission days for their members. Determine if a group you are a member of is listed below and bring the necessary requirements to enjoy free admission.
- Thursday, Oct. 11 – SC Farm Bureau Day (bring your SC Farm Bureau membership card)
- Thursday, Oct. 11 and Sunday, Oct. 20 – 4-H Alumni Day (bring your registration certificate)
- Saturday, Oct. 13 – Scout Day (currently registered Boy Scouts & Leaders must wear the Official Boy Scout UNIFORM or Boy Scout Cap and T-Shirt; currently registered Girl Scouts & Leaders must wear the Official Girl Scout Tunic, Sash, or Vest and Membership Pin)
- Saturday, Oct. 13 – American Heritage Girls Day (members must wear the Official American Heritage Girls Membership Pin)
- Monday, Oct. 15 – College Day (bring a current valid college ID)
- Tuesday, Oct. 16 – Future Farmers of America Day (all FFA students must show their FFA membership card)
- Thursday, Oct. 18 – Exceptional Citizens Day (all persons with lifelong disabilities, developmental or physical, admitted free)
8. Have Lunch/Dinner Before You Go to the Fair
Want to save some dough on your fried dough? Eat a light, healthy meal before you head to the fair. Then spend your snack budget on a few favorite treats rather than full meals.
9. Enter to Win Our Giveaway for Free Tickets and Ride Vouchers
The best savings of all is FREE! We are excited to offer one lucky reader the a family 4-pack of free admission tickets and 2 ride vouchers (good for unlimited rides)! Enter below for your chance to win!