It’s that time again! The Washington State Fair (formerly the Puyallup Fair) will be running September 6 – September 22nd.
Since I know you all like saving money, I thought I’d give you a jump start on planning your trip by sharing my best ideas for how to save at the Fair. Should I find additional ways to save as we get closer, I will make sure to update you!
Saving on Admission
First, here’s the regular pricing for 2013 admission: adults $12.50; students 6-18 $9; seniors 62+ $9; kids 5 & under FREE. These are the same prices as 2012.
- Early Bird Online Pricing (NEW!). You can now save by purchasing your tickets online! Adult tickets are $10 vs. $12.50 and student & senior prices are $7.50 vs. $9. Early Bird pricing ends September 5th. These tickets are good for entrance on any day during the Fair’s operation.
- Free Gate Food Drive. On opening day (Sept 6th), 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.
- 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 7th and 8th 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!
- 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 $1 more than the 2012 price for the same package.
- Military Appreciation Days. On Monday, Sept 9th and Monday, Sept 16th, 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.
- Happy Hour Thursdays. As with last year, this year you can get into the fair for $7 after 7pm on Thursday. You can also get two draft beers for $7 in the Corona Cantina.
- 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. Today at Fred Meyer I noticed they had this coloring contest in the Kiddie Playland area. Looks like one winner will be selected from each store to win two tickets! Submissions need to be made by August 30. It’s worth a shot, right?
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. Last year, there weren’t any free public transportation options, but it looks like some new opportunities have cropped up for 2013! Park for free and ride the shuttle for free! See TheFair.com for 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. I don’t see rates posted yet, but you might want to bookmark the Sound Transit page for more information.
- 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. At $0.50 per ticket and most rides requiring several tickets, you can see how quickly things add up! However my kids would say no trip to the Fair would be complete without a few rides.
- Ride/Admission Bundle. You can pre-buy a ride/admission bundle at TheFair.com. The cost is $29.95 for 2 adult admission plus any 6 Funtastic rides (except Extreme Scream). This option is available online through September 5th only.
- Opening Weekend Dizzy Pass (NEW!). This year, you can buy a bracelet that will give you unlimited rides in the Funtastic Midway and Sillyville for either September 7th or September 8th (opening weekend). If you buy online through September 2nd, pay just $27.50. The price will jump to $35 on September 3rd 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).
- 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 5nd for just $25. The bracelet will get you on unlimited rides in the Funtastic Midway and Sillyville. The price will jump to $27.50 on September 6th or on-site at the Fair. This is good for Sept 9 – 12th only.
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. Last year 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