What has always impressed me about the Iowa State Fair is the fact that the state of Iowa has 3 million people yet the attendance at the Iowa State Fair usually tops 1 million. That means that 1 out of every 3 people in the entire state of Iowa attend the fair (of course some of them go multiple times however). The Iowa State Fair has an abundance of iconic things to see, this is our top ten.
1.The Butter Cow – The Butter Cow seems to have become the symbol of the Fair, a new one is sculpted every year along with a themed sculpture as well (this year is Star trek). You can see the Butter Cow in the Agriculture building which is just up the main drag (Grand Ave). The Agriculture building has a large black granite globe by the entrance. If you would like to see more sculptures, and even someone in the process of making one, there are also exhibits of wood and ice sculptures.
2.The Food Options– Corndogs, Turkey Legs, Fair Squares, Cotton Candy, Lemonade, Funnel Cakes, Pork Chop on a stick, Strawberry smoothies, Walking Tacos, Gyros, anything at Cattlemans. Duh, this is probably the reason you came to the fair in the first place. If you would like to see our personal top ten foods click here.
3.The Livestock Barns – Livestock is what the Fair was built on and has been the centerpiece of the Fair since the beginning. Wander through the sheep, cattle, horse, or swine barn and get an idea of the time and care it takes to raise livestock. Of course you need to stop by the big bull and big pig pen to see these massive specimens (located in their respective barns). Another must see is the birthing area on the east side of the Fair. Here you can find baby ducks, chickens, calves, piglets, turkeys and much more. The Fair staff place animals that are pregnant and about to give birth in this area, so you might even have to chance to watch a live birth.
4.The Midway – The midway has many options for rides and is a nice spot for the kids to hang out. I know when I was a kid this would have been my favorite hangout. There are all the festival type games too, that seem to be ageless. Some examples would be the ring toss, balloon dart throw, and coin drop machine.
5.The Varied Industries Building – The Varied Industries Building houses all of the businesses, colleges, and organizations that are trying to get your ear. This is a good place to take the kids and here is why:
- Its air-conditioned, and a good place to cool off
- Temporary tattoos as far as the eye can see
- The vendors are seemingly all giving away candy, or pens, or fans, or bags etc etc
6.A Show at the Grandstand – From races to country music super stars to demolition derbies the Grandstand is sure to have a show for you. Check out the schedule here.
7.The Giant slide – The Giant slide has been around for decades, and is a simple form of fun for thousands and probably millions at this point. Many kids have grown up sliding on the big yellow and green slide, and now take their children. Its a simple slide with a few humps that make you go “woo” as you go over, but it is a great tradition. Grab a burlap sack and your kids and make a memory.
8.The Department of Natural Resources building – I might be a little biased here, because I love to fish so checking out the fish tanks is an annual tradition for me. The tanks house the fish that can be found in the state of Iowa, from bass, to bluegill, to catfish, and more. The DNR has quite a bit more in the building making the Natural resources building a must on your list of traditions.
9.Sky gliders – The sky gliders are awesome tradition, and a must do at the fair. There are two sets of on the north and south ends of the of the grounds. I usually go up the hill on the sky gliders on the north side of the fairgrounds saving me a trip walking up the hill, and getting off at Pioneer hall. I usually try to walk around the fair until I start to get a little tired, then hop on the sky glider and rest a little while getting some awesome views of the fairgrounds.
10.The Music – From Hairball, to the Blue band, to Molly Hatchet the list of bands to have played at the Iowa state fair is a very long one. The Blue Band has been playing the same stage since the seventies and has actually outlasted the stage itself as it has been recently rebuilt. There are stages throughout the fair for free professional, and amateur acts click here for a complete list. One of my favorites is to listen to the old timers up in Pioneer hall up on the hill on the east side of the Fair.
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