It’s hard to believe, but summer is rapidly coming to an end and it’s almost time for the Washington State Fair to start (formerly and most commonly known at the Puyallup Fair). The dates of the fair this year are Friday, September 5 through Sunday, September 21. As usual, I like giving you a good heads up about discounts and other ways to save so you can plan in advance.
Saving on Admission
First, here’s the regular pricing for 2014 admission: adults $12.50; students 6-18 $9; seniors 62+ $9; kids 5 & under FREE. These are the same prices that admission has been for at least the past two years.
Now, how to knock that price down a bit:
- Early Bird Online Pricing. Last year, the fair introduced Early Bird pricing and you can again take this route for 2014. By purchasing your tickets online, you’ll pay $10 per adult ticket and $7.50 per student & senior ticket. Early Bird pricing ends Thursday, September 4th (the day prior to opening day). These tickets are good for entrance on any day during the Fair’s operation.
- Free Gate Food Drive. On opening day (Sept 5th), gain FREE entrance between 9 and noon by bringing a suggested donation of a non-perishable food item. This is my absolute favorite way to save on Fair admission, providing it works for your family’s schedule.
- Group Ticket Discount. If you are attending the fair with a group of 25 or more, you can pay $9.50 per adult ticket and $7 per student & senior ticket. For details and contact information, please see the Group Sales page at the fair website.
- FREE Kids’ Weekend. Once again, BECU is sponsoring a free kids’ weekend. Print and bring this coupon from the BECU website to get your kiddos 18 and under in for free September 6th and 7th only. Coupon is required for free admission. You do not need to be BECU members to use the coupon. (Remember that kids 5 and under are always free.)
- Pre-buy Discounted Tickets. You can buy discounted tickets ahead of time at participating locations. The discounts will run: adults $10; students 6-18 $7.50; seniors 62+ $7.50. Note that this is the same as the early bird online pricing mentioned above!
- Discount Ticket Locations. In addition to pre-purchasing your discounted tickets online, you can also go to select Safeway stores and the South Hill Mall between August 11 – September 21 and get the same price ($10 adults/$7.50 senior/students). While supplies last.
- Fred Meyer Value Pack. Starting now and running through Sept 6th only, you can buy a “family value pack” at Fred Meyer stores for $35.95. The pack includes: (2) gate admissions, (10) food bucks, (6) rides – excluding Extreme Scream, and 2-for-1 coupon for the rodeo. Value of the package is $65. This is the same price as 2013.
- Military Appreciation Days. On Monday, Sept 8th and Monday, Sept 15th, active, retired, and reserve military and National Guard as well as disabled veterans and their dependents can get FREE admission to the Fair. Make sure to bring valid Military ID at the gate.
- IKEA Family Day (NEW!). IKEA Family Members will receive an exclusive discount for admission to attend the fair on Sunday, September 7th (I am unsure what exactly the discount is). In order to be eligible, you need to have signed up for IKEA Family (Seattle) by August 27th and the discount will be sent via email. Those coming early that day will additionally receive a FREE IKEA shopping bag! (You can sign up for IKEA Family here.)
- Multi-Day/Season Passes. If you plan on attending the fair more than one day, you might save by purchasing a multi-day pass. You can buy a 3-day pass for the price of 2-days. The season pass is surprisingly priced well – $29.50 for an adult or $19.50 for student/senior gets you into the fair all 17 days of operation. The season pass also comes with a few high-value coupons including 1/2 off parking, 20% off fair merchandise, and more.
- Sounder Train/Admission Package (NEW!). New to 2014, you can purchase an adult ticket for $16 or child for $11.25 and that includes a ride on the Sounder Train and Fair admission. This is good for either Saturday, Sept 13 or Saturday, Sept 20. (For more information, please see thefair.com.)
- Free School Tickets. In the past, my son has come home with a free Fair ticket from school. You might inquire to see if your school will be participating in a similar program before purchasing tickets.
- Watch Daily Deal sites. A couple years ago, we saw a HOT Groupon offer for Buy one, get one free Puyallup Fair tickets. We didn’t see this in 2012, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for you.
- Win a Fred Meyer Coloring Contest. Once again, I noticed my local Fred Meyer was running a coloring contest for Fair tickets (I saw the sheets near the Playland area). Might be worth a gander!
Saving on Parking & Transportation
There is no shortage of parking around the Fair, but it can be expensive. You can also download a free parking map from TheFair.com. Here are a few ideas for saving on parking.
- Look for a non-Fair lot. You’ll find many private businesses (and even residences!) will offer cheaper rates. I’d say if you find anything $5 or less, you’re sitting pretty.
- Keep an eye on the Fair website. Sometimes the Fair will offer special coupons or $5 parking specials.
- FREE Shuttle Service from Kiwanis. Park for free and ride the shuttle for free! See TheFair.comfor more information. There is a suggested donation of $5 per adult and $2 for students. Monies will benefit Kiwanis.
- Sounder Train. You can ride the Sounder to the Fair from King, Pierce, and Snohomish stations. Please see this page for details on saving on your admission when you ride the Sounder.
- Bus. See TheFair.com for information about South & Pierce Transit bus options.
- Park far, far away…. I’ll admit it. We’ve done this before when we’re feeling really cheap. We’ll park about 1/2 mile away and find street parking. This does exist, but be prepared for a serious hike. Last year we bummed a free parking spot off a friend of my husband’s who lives in walking distance of the Fair.
Whatever you do, do NOT park in the parking lot of a local business or something else that’s likely to get you towed! No good. Other ideas for saving on parking?
Saving on Rides
Probably the best way to save on rides is to not go on any. Not only has the number of tickets required per ride inched up over the years, so has the cost of the individual tickets. For 2014, I’ve noted increased prices on a number of ride packages. However my kids would say no trip to the Fair would be complete without a few rides.
- Pre-purchase tickets. You can pre-purchase 120 ride tickets for $50 online (value: $60) or 40 tickets for $20. For details, visit thefair.com.
- Opening Weekend Dizzy Pass. You can buy a bracelet that will give you unlimited rides in the Funtastic Midway and Sillyville for either September 6th or September 7th (opening weekend). If you buy online through September 4th, pay $30. The price will jump to $40 on September 6th online or on-site at the Fair. I think this would be a good offer to combine with the free BECU kids’ weekend (see admission, above). (Incidentally, these prices do reflect an increase; in 2013 the pre-purchase was $27.50 and gate price was $35.)
- Mon – Thurs Dizzy Pass. If you’re planning a trip to the Fair during the week, you might opt for the Mon – Thurs Dizzy pass. Buy online through September 4th for just $27.50. The bracelet will get you on unlimited rides in the Funtastic Midway and Sillyville. The price will jump to $35 on September 5th or on-site at the Fair. This is good for Sept 8-11th or 15-18th only. (Once again, these prices reflect an increase; in 2013, the pre-purchase price
- Extreme Deal. Like riding Extreme Scream rides? Monday – Thursday Sept 8-11 and then again Sept 15-18, you can ride them for $7.50 (as opposed to $10). No coupon necessary; just get the discount at any FunCard ride booth.
If you have other ideas for saving on rides, I’d love to hear them!
Saving within the Fair
Even if you can manage to get into the Fair for free, and park for free…you can easily drop a couple hundred or more once you’re inside. Here are my best tips for saving in the Fair.
- Pack your own snacks. You can definitely bring your own food and drink into the Fair. Beverages must have a lid on them (such as a water bottle) and you may not bring alcoholic beverages.
- Eat in Sillyville. If you like fair food, consider eating in Sillyville (the little kiddie area). Last year I found they had a selection of kid-friendly food and CHEAP food by fair standards. I also noticed that there was no one in line at the scone stand there…. and this was on a weekend! (But shhhhhhh…. don’t tell anyone, ‘k?)
- See the animals. There are lots of animal barns, a petting zoo, and even animal events you can take in for free. This is always a highlight for my kids and it costs nothing. They’ve also recently added a Rainforest Adventures Exhibit which is free to check out. Check out the Animal Exhibits page for more.
- Eat some free treats. Yeah, I’ll admit it. I like trying all the free food! This is a fun way to eat some special treats without shelling out the dough. Here are a few of my favorite ideas: 1) hang around the Vitamix demo table for healthy smoothies and soups, 2) stop by the dairy barn for free samples of milk, chocolate milk and sometimes egg nog, 3) keep your eyes peeled in the expo halls for free samples of stuff like fudge, honey, and jams and 4) throughout the Fair are these water stations you can get a small cone of water from – I think it might be Mountain Mist.
- Get some free stuff. I swear my eyes close in on all the freebies at the Fair. From free food samples, to stickers for the kids – I’ve even gotten coloring books and flower seeds. Keep an eye out for what you can get for nada.
- Get fair treats just outside the Fair. On one visit, our kids wanted cotton candy and we ended up saving a bundle by buying it from one of the stands just outside the fair. I want to say we paid about half (or less!) of what you’d pay for the same amount inside.
If you’re aware of any additional tips on free things to do at the fair or ways to save money, by all means, speak up!
You might also be interested to read…
- The time we spent too much money at the Puyallup Fair
- The time we did a better job of sticking to a budget at the Puyallup Fair