This post has been sponsored by Travel Iowa. All opinions are my own.
Iowa, as a state, hаѕ a lоt to оffеr tо juѕt аbоut аnуоnе. Whеthеr уоu аrе thinking of rеlосаting to Iоwа, or if уоu аrе juѕt lооking tо tаkе a vасаtiоn somewhere nеw and interesting, Iоwа iѕ wоrth checking out. Iоwа is full of hidden gems and adventure. Iowa tourism is on the rise, and visitors have a lot to gain from visiting. The fact that Iowa has a variety of activities for each season is a huge contribution to this.
For example, every summer, there is a huge Fair hosted in Des Moines, Iowa. If you enjoy the grеаt outdoors, unique (and delicious) food, the Iowa State Fair iѕ fоr уоu. From livestock shows, entertainment, contests, rides, food and more, there is plenty of fun, excitement, and thrills to be found at the Iowa State Fair! YES, I will share my experience with you, but before we do that lets look at some facts about the Iowa State Fair. The 2019 Iоwа State Fаir ran from Auguѕt 8th to 18th in Dеѕ Mоinеѕ, and the very first Iowa State Fair ran from October 25 to 27 in 1854. WOW!
The internationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair is thе ѕinglе largest еvеnt in the state оf Iоwа, and no tourist should miss out because it attracts more than a million people frоm all over the world annually.
My Initial thoughts
I attended the fair on Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17. From the time the fairgrounds opened around 9am, people were pouring in. Each day, I left around 8pm and I was surprised to see that people were still coming in that late. This is to show that the fair is popular, and people attend regardless of what time of the day it is.
When I got to the fair, the first ride I got on was the SkyGlider so that I could get an idea of what the fair looks like. Since the Iowa State Fair is one of the largest in the country, it came as no surprise that the fairgrounds were HUGE. From the SkyGlider I was able to see several animal buildings, food stalls and fair games which were available to me.
Exploring the fair, food & beer
After getting off the SkyGlider, I tried several foods. The first order on the menu was the apple fritter funnel cake which was a new food in 2019. I accessed the list of new foods and people’s choice best food on the Iowa State Fair website and on the Food Finder app– this helped me navigate my way around things to try because there are so many options.
Berkshire Bacon Ball Berkshire Bacon Ball
After eating the funnel cake, I needed to see some animals, so I walked to the rabbit building and I saw the cutest rabbits ever. They came in different colors – mainly black, white and gray – and I immediately wanted to take one home but to my dismay I could not. I am however looking forward to buying a rabbit in the future. A lot of animals at the fair are owned by farmers and they are only for display. Some of the animals are entered in competitions and they win ribbons based on their appearances. This is a fun way for farmers to participate in the fair and the winning animals are displayed with their ribbons.
Some of the other new foods and beers I tried at the fair include:
- Berkshire Bacon Balls
- Wonder Bar
- Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake Chimi
- Funnel Cake Beer
- Strawberry Sparkle Pony Beer
Craft beers are available every year at the fair. Craft beer is a different type of beer which is different from the bigger brands we are used to. Breweries come up with their spin on beer and come out with different flavors. This year, I tried the funnel cake (sweet) beer, strawberry sparkle pony, jalapeno beer among many others. I especially loved the craft beer tent because you can get several small cups of craft beer for a very affordable price. The reason why several small cups are available is simple – so beer lovers can try a variety of beers.
Other foods that I ate at the fair include warm chocolate chip cookies which has been a fair favorite for years. I heard so much about it prior to visiting the fair so I decided to try some, and they were the best cookies I have ever had! I also ate deep fried ice cream, a pie shake (imagine a milkshake mixed with a fruit pie), pork belly burnt ends, bacon brisket mac and cheese, bacon wrapped wings, duck bacon wonton and cinnamon donuts. There were so many food options at the fair and I was SO stuffed that I could barely move at the end of the day. On the bright side, the grounds are so big so walking around helped with burning some calories, so I created space for more food that way.
Deep fried ice cream Strawberry Cheesecake Chimi Blueberry Pie Shake Duck Wonton Bacon Mac & Cheese + Bacon Wrapped Wings Pork Belly burnt ends Apple Fritter Funnel Cake
The animals and vegetable displays are a huge attraction at the Iowa State Fair. There were contests for the vegetables displayed at the fair, and it was quite shocking to see how big some of the vegetables we eat daily like zucchini could grow.
I also was able to see cows, sheep, goats, horses and ponies (a crowd favorite) and the Budweiser Clydesdales which are a group of horses used for promotion by the Budweiser company. The Budweiser Clydesdales are HUGE! They are the biggest horses I have ever seen, and it was so awesome to catch a glimpse of them at the fair. I also visited the llama building which was a little removed from the fair, but I promise it is worth viewing.
Llama The cutest cow Llama Sheep at the fair
Another favorite part of the fair for me were the rides in Thrillville. Tickets for Thrillville can be exchanged for wristbands which have credits on them. The credits can be used on the rides, and I really liked the fact that the lines were not too long. I got on the rides that I wanted quickly, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the fair without spending too much time waiting in line. I got on so many rides that I was dizzy at the end of it, but it was worthwhile.
Another major attraction at the Iowa state fair is the giant slide. This activity is a must do. Do you remember getting on a slide in kindergarten as a kid? Well imagine a slide at least 20 times the size of the one from your kindergarten. This is exactly what the giant slide is. The slide is so popular that the line to get on wrapped outside of the attraction, but it was so worth it!
Many people visit the fair mainly to see the butter cow. The butter cow is a sculpture and this year it was done by Sarah Pratt using about 600 lbs. of low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter. Sarah Pratt became the fifth butter cow sculpture after apprenticing with Norma Lyon who began sculpting the butter cow in 1960! I will continue to be impressed by the line of talented women who carve the butter cow. Apart from the butter cow, there were other butter exhibits carved by Sarah Pratt. The theme of this year’s exhibit is Sesame Street and it was a sight to see!
What is my favorite part of the fair? The people of Iowa! Everyone at the fair was so nice and welcoming. Some people would photobomb me playfully as I tried to get a perfect shot and their presence in the picture made it much better to me. I enjoyed how people made compliments about my outfit, my purse or asked questions about where I lived and what brought me to the fair. The warmth amongst other things makes me want to visit the Iowa State Fair in 2020.
Things to note about the fair:
- Wear comfortable shoes, the fair requires a lot of walking!
- Bring enough cash for food. There are ATMs on the fairgrounds but among the crowd of people, they are not so easily accessible.
- Bathrooms are located around the fairgrounds.
- The fair has some hidden gems like animal wood carvings and an antique shop. This can be found at the end of the SkyGlider on the east side.
- Come early because the fairgrounds fill up quickly.
- Use the Food Finder app because this was extremely helpful with pre-selecting what I wanted to eat and navigating the food stalls.
- Follow the fair along on social media. I got ideas of food to eat from there.
- It is good to have a planned itinerary, but I realized that it was much better to go with the flow.
Above all, be nice to people and have a fun time!
Exploring Des Moines
After the fair, I spent Sunday exploring Des Moines. My favorite part of this city was the capitol with the shiny roof and the views of the city from the capitol building. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines which displayed sculptures from different artists all over the world.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Sculpture by Yayoi Kasuma
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Pappajohn Sculpture Park