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 11 through Sunday, September 27. 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 2015 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 three years.
Now, how to knock that price down a bit:
- Free Pass with Blood Donation. Please see this recent post about how to obtain a free pass with a pint of blood donation for local blood banks.
Groupon offer. This is the first time in at least a couple years I’ve seen the Fair back on Groupon – so take advantage! Pay $30 for admission for two including the new Star Trek exhibit OR admission for two with 150 Funcard tickets for $72 (sold out). Head to Groupon to snag this deal – it lasts just a few days longer.
- Early Bird Online Pricing. Two years ago, the fair introduced Early Bird pricing and you can again take this route for 2015. 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 10th (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 two years.
- Free Gate Food Drive. On opening day (Sept 11th), gain FREE entrance at any Fair gate 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 11th and 12th 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.) One coupon is required per child, but it does not appear that there is any limit to the number of coupons you can print.
- 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 10-September 27 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. This year it also includes two 50% off fair parking coupons. Value of the package is $75. This is a $1 price increase over 2014, but the parking coupons make it a better deal in my opinion.
- Military Appreciation Days. On Monday, Sept 14th and Monday, Sept 21st, 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. For the second year running, IKEA Family Members will receive an exclusive discount for admission to attend the fair on Sunday, September 20th. Just show your IKEA Family Card and pay $6 at admission – that’s a substantial discount! Limit 4 reduced admission tickets per family. (You can sign up for IKEA Family here. Bonus: it’s FREE and offers lots of benefits.)
- KCPQ Blue Friday. The first 200 fans to arrive at the Fair’s Blue Gate in blue and green Seahawks gear get free gate admission on Friday, Sept 25th. The gates open at 9am that day, but you can line up at the Blue Gate starting at 7am. Plus, get $5 off regular priced gate admission on Sunday, Sept 27th for the Ultimate Tailgate Party with this coupon when you wear your blue and green fan gear.
- 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 last year). The season pass is surprisingly priced well – $30.50 for an adult or $20.50 for student/senior gets you into the fair all 17 days of operation if you purchase before August 31st (after that, the price jumps to $35.50/$25.50). 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. 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, Sept 19th or Saturday, Sept 26th. This reflects a $0.75-$1 price increase from 2014.
- 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. 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!
- Jack in the Box Coupon. If none of the above deals suit your situation, you can stop by a participating Jack In The Box location beginning Sept 1st to pick up a coupon good for $2 off Fair gate admission.
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 $0.75 per child one-way. 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 2015 are consistent with what we saw at 2014. There was a price increase in most of the package between years 2013 and 2014, however. 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 10th.
- 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) 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 11th or September 12th (opening weekend). If you buy online through September 10th, pay $30. The price will jump to $40 on September 11th 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). New this year, the Dizzy pass will include two free games! (Incidentally, these prices are consistent with last year. In 2013 the pre-purchase was $27.50 and gate price was $35.)
- 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 10th for just $30. The bracelet will get you on unlimited rides in the Funtastic Midway and Sillyville. The price will jump to $40 on September 11th or on-site at the Fair. This is good for Sept 14-18th or 20-25th only. NEW this year: the Dizzy pass CAN be used on Fridays (typically, you had to use them Mon – Thurs). Additionally, the Dizzy pass will include two free games!
- Extreme Deal. Like riding Extreme Scream rides? Monday – Thursday Sept 14-17th and then again Sept 21st-24th, you can ride them for $7.50 (as opposed to $10). No coupon necessary; just get the discount at any FunCard ride booth. This deal is unchanged from 2014.
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. This year, there will be an Animals of the World exhibit, which is free to attend. Also free, there is a new Sweet – a Tasty Journey Exhibit which is all about the history of candy. (I’m hoping for some free samples in this one!) Another fun new event for 2015 is a 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