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 2 through Sunday, September 25. Please note that while the dates of the Fair have been extended, it will now be closed on Tuesdays. 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 2016 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 four years.
Now, how to knock that price down a bit:
- FREE Pass with Blood Donation. Get FREE admission when you visit a participating Bloodworks location (Federal Way or Tukwila) and donate blood between August 15th and September 15th.
- Early Bird Online Pricing. Three years ago, the Fair introduced Early Bird pricing and you can again take this route for 2016. 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 1st (the day prior to opening day). These tickets are good for entrance on any day during the Fair’s operation. These prices are unchanged from the past three years.
- FREE Gate Food Drive. On opening day (September 2nd), gain FREE entrance at any gate between 10 a.m. 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.
- FREE Gate School Supply Drive. This year you can also get FREE admission on Friday, September 9th between 10 a.m. and noon by bringing a new school supply donation to the Red or Gold Gates following the Rodeo parade.
- FREE Kids’ Weekend. Once again, BECU is sponsoring a free kids’ weekend, and this year no coupon is necessary. All kids 18 and under will receive FREE gate admission on Labor Day weekend (September 2nd-5th).
- Discount Ticket Locations. In addition to pre-purchasing your discounted tickets online, you can also go to select Safeway and Albertsons stores and the South Hill Mall between August 12th-September 25th and get the same price as the early bird online pricing ($10 adults, $7.50 senior/students). While supplies last.
- Fred Meyer Value Pack. Starting now and running through Sept 11th only, you can buy a “family value pack” at Fred Meyer stores for $36.95. The pack includes: (2) gate admissions, (10) food bucks, (6) rides – excluding Extreme Scream, and discount rodeo coupon. It also includes two 50% off Fair parking coupons. Value of the package is $75, which is the same price as last year.
- Group Ticket Discount. If you are attending the Fair with a group of 25 or more, you can receive the advance discount and have tickets mailed to you. For details and contact information, please see the Group Sales page at the Fair website.
- Corporate Discounts. Check with your employer to see if they offer corporate discounts on tickets. If your organization has a corporate password, you can get tickets for $9.50/adult and $7/senior or student, a $29.99 season pass, plus discounts on admission & ride bundles and the Dizzy Pass.
- Military Appreciation Days. On all three Mondays of the Fair (September 5th, 12th, and 19th), 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.
- 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 (this is the same as the past two years). The season pass has jumped in price this year – $37.50 for an adult or $27.50 for student/senior. There is no advance discount, but if you purchase by August 24th they will mail it to you prior to the Fair. It gets you into the Fair all 21 days of operation. The season pass also comes with a few high-value coupons including half off parking, 20% off Fair merchandise, and more.
- Costco. This year area Costco locations are selling two FunCards for $34.99 (a 41% savings) and a Season Pass for $19.99-$29.99 ($7.50 off) while supplies last. More details here.
- Sounder Train/Admission Package. Purchase an adult ticket for $17 or child for $12 and that includes a ride on the Sounder Train and Fair admission. This is good for either Saturday, September 17th or Saturday, September 24th. This is the same price as last year.
- Labor Day. The Fair is open on Labor Day this year, which means that kids get free admission due to BECU free kids’ weekend and it’s also a Military Appreciation Day (see above). Enjoy $2 rides from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (you can buy Funtastic ride tickets before 2 p.m. to enjoy the rest of the day, too). In addition, the first 1,000 paid guests will get a bobblehead of the Fair’s mascot, Big Washington.
- 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.
- Win a Fred Meyer Coloring Contest. In the past, my local Fred Meyer has run a coloring contest for Fair tickets (I’ve seen 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. Be wary of folks charging more than Fair lots too!
- Keep an eye on the Fair website. Sometimes the Fair will offer special coupons or $5 parking specials.
- Fair Express. Pierce Transit will be running to the Fair. The cost is $2 per adult one-way and $1 per child one-way (free for ages 5 and younger). See this page for details.
- 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.
- 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 within 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. However, my kids would say no trip to the Fair would be complete without a few rides. From what I can see, prices in 2016 are consistent with what we’ve seen the last couple of years. One sneaky thing I’ve observed is that the number of tickets required per ride has gone up over the years. They are often an “odd” number too – for instance, 7 tickets. This inevitably means you’ll be left with some wasted tickets if you don’t plan it just right.
- Ride & Admission Bundle. Pay $29.95 and receive 2 admission tickets and any 6 Funtastic rides. This is available for purchase online only through September 6th.
- Ride & Game FunCard. Pay $20 for 40 tickets for rides and games good at Funtastic or Sillyville.
- Pre-purchase tickets. You can pre-purchase 120 ride tickets for $50 online (value: $60). For details, visit thefair.com.
- Weekend Dizzy Pass. You can buy a bracelet that will give you unlimited rides in the Funtastic Midway and Sillyville for either September 10th or September 11th (opening weekend). If you buy online through September 6th, pay $35 (a $5 increase from last year). The price will jump to $45 (another $5 jump) on September 7th online or on-site at the Fair. The Dizzy Pass also includes two free games.
- Mon – Friday Dizzy Pass. If you’re planning a trip to the Fair during the week, you might opt for the Mon-Fri Dizzy pass. Buy online through September 6th for just $32 (up $2 from last year). The bracelet will get you on unlimited rides in the Funtastic Midway and Sillyville. The price will jump to $42 (up $2 from last year) on September 7th or on-site at the Fair. This is good for weekdays only starting September 7th, and you can use it on Fridays. Again, this Dizzy Pass also includes two free games.
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). A couple years ago, I discovered 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.
- Scope out the free attractions. The Animals of the World exhibit is free to attend. One FREE exhibition that is catching my eye this year is the Superhero Headquarters where kids can meet their favorite superheroes on select dates. Another option – a fun new event from last year is the Wild West Gunfight Stunt Show. My advice, check out the exhibits and shows that are free to attend before you visit. Perhaps you can fill your day with fun and free activities!
- 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