To say the Florida State Fair had humble beginnings is an understatement. When it started there were just five races to bet on and one building. Today the fair boasts more than 100 rides, craft shows, musical acts and much more.
Every February the Florida State Fair comes through Tampa Bay. With wild new foods to talk about and tales of which ride will make you throw up the fastest, everyone in the city of Tampa gets a little fair crazy.
Fair Admission Prices
Monday through Friday at the fair admission for adults is $10 and $5 for children. Saturday and Sundays the fair admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children. A child is considered age 6 to 11 and an adult is age 12 and up. Kids that are 5 and younger get free admission everyday. (prices as of 2011)
What's Included With Admission
With admission visitors are allowed to walk through the Expo Hall to check out exhibitors and concessionaires, see nightly entertainment, walk through Cracker Country, and view the craft show and other free shows throughout the day.
Fair attendees have been able to do everything in the Expo Hall from get their shoes shined to watching cooking shows, shopping for knick knacks to signing up for subscriptions to their favorite newspaper. The freebies and giveaways available to folks willing to listen to a sales pitch can be as small as a piece of candy or as big as a bag filled with toiletries.
On Fridays and Saturdays there are firework displays. Each day of the fair there are acts and shows in the Entertainment Hall, the International Stage, the Family Theater, the Americraft Florida Center, the Waterfront Café, the Special Events Center and some acts that stroll through the walkways of the fair. See website for show details.
There are more than 100 rides every year at the fair. Each ride costs more than one ticket to get on and ticket prices are $20 for 20 ride tickets or $5 for 4 ride tickets. Check the website when the fair is in town for a full list of current rides. The big slide is always a huge hit and watching moms and dads "fly" down the yellow hills on potato sacks is a must see.
If it can be deep fried, it's at the fair. Everything from deep fried Twinkies to Oreos, to corn and even ice cream has been found deep fried at the Florida State Fair. Some of the craziest concoctions become the stars here and vendors often try to outdo each other to grab people's attention. Some of the weird foods include the doughnut cheeseburger and garbage French fries. Most fair foods are between $4 and $10. Just make sure not to indulge into much fair food before trying out the rides.
Even though some of the food is weird at least all of the drinks are normal. The cheapest drink for sale is usually the sweet tea. Other drinks include sodas, coffee, iced coffee and tea, frozen drinks, cocktails and beer. The most expensive drink is the frozen Pina Colada at a cool $10 for a hurricane cup of the nonalcoholic beverage.
Cracker Country is a staple of the Florida State Fairgrounds year round but during the fair visitors can walk through it without an additional admission fee. The best way to describe Cracker Country is a living museum. According to the Cracker Country website "The museum recreates an 1890s rural Florida town."
Visitors learn how things were done in the old days. The people that work in Cracker Country are dressed in historic clothing and tell the tales of the past. Visitors will get to see a Blacksmith Shop, a Caboose, a Cane Mill, the Carlton House, a Cemetery, a Church, a Farm Site, the Governors Inn, a Kitchen Garden, the Murphy Kitchen, a Post Office, the Rainey Building, a School House, the Smith House, a Smoke House, the Terry Store and a Train Depot.
How to Save Money at the Fair
Buy tickets in advance. Tickets to the fair go on sale at least a month prior to the opening day. Tickets are discounted by as much as $4 per person and sold through local grocery stores. Check the fair's website for details.
Buy the coupon value book at the gate or inside at the ticket booths. Most years the fair offers a coupon book that offers visitors savings on food, products and services from vendors at the fair. As of 2011 this coupon book is $5
Wait until Armband Day to go to the fair. Every year there are special Armband Days that allow visitors to ride as many rides as they want to for just $30 (2011 pricing). Once the fair starts armbands can be purchased at any entrance gate or ticket booth. The armbands are only valid for one day.
Driving Directions to the Fairgrounds
The physical address of the Fairgrounds is 4800 Highway 301 North, Tampa, FL 33610
From Tampa or St. Pete/Clearwater via I-275 to I-4 Eastbound
1. U.S. Hwy. 301 Entrance Gate: Travel on I-275 North toward I-4/Orlando and merge onto I-4 East via Exit 45B. Take Exit #7 (U.S. Hwy. 301 South) and stay in the right lane heading south for 1/4 mile. Turn right into the Fairgrounds entrance.
2. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Entrance Gate: Travel on I-275 North toward I-4/Orlando and merge onto I-4 East via Exit 45B. Take Exit #5 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd./SR-574 West) and turn right off the ramp. Proceed past the Orient Rd. light and the Fairgrounds entrance is on the left-hand side.
3. Orient Rd. Entrance Gate: From I-4 Eastbound only, take Exit #6 for Orient Rd. and turn right off the ramp. There will be a sign for the Fairgrounds entrance immediately on the left-hand side.