The State Fair of Virginia runs through this Sunday, October 8, at Meadow Event Park. Of course, there’s lots of delicious fair food to enjoy and plenty of exhibits to explore so you want to plan your visit strategically. I went on opening night and scouted it out for you. Without further ado, here is the Marco Style Virginia State Fair Guide.
Tips Before You Go To the State Fair of Virginia:
You can buy Virginia state fair tickets online
You don’t want to start your fair visit with a wait in a long line, so go online before and buy your tickets. Adult admission is $15, children ages 5-12 are $11, and children under age 4 are free with a paid adult. You can also purchase premium parking for an additional $10, although on the night we went, the free regular parking wasn’t too far away. But then again, I wasn’t lugging a stroller or a child.
If you like eating, recruit a group
I ended up wandering the fair with three friends, which turned out to be perfect because we were all interested in tasting various fair food creations and more tasters meant more foods we could purchase and all sample a bite of without major food and money wastage.
Most vendors only take cash. There are ATMs in the park if you forget, but I have no idea what the fees are and I’m guessing bringing cash in advance is just easier.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
You’re walking around on dirt and grass and gravel. I wore my trusty cowboy boots and an Athleta skort to combine comfort and style, of course.
Bring Cold Water for the Car
You can’t bring any food or drink into the event, but depending on the temperature on the day you are there, you might want to hydrate before and after your time in the fair. Having some water in a cooler or my favorite—a Corkcicle Vinnebago—will allow you to enjoy some refreshing cold water on your way home.
Inside the State Fair of Virginia
The Best Alcoholic Beverages at the State Fair
I scoped out most of the alcoholic beverages, and your best bet is the big beverage tent closest to the entrance after you exit the tunnel. Make sure you bring your ID, because you do have to get a wrist band and purchase drink tickets to procure alcoholic beverages. This tent had 11 craft beer selections, including a few of my favorites—Ardent Honey Ginger, Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin and Legend Oktoberfest. In addition, there were two Bold Rock ciders—the Virginia Apple Cider and the IPA, which is a bit drier—as well as four wines on tap—a red, a white, a sweet Riesling and a French rosé. Some of the other tents throughout the fair had more of a selection of traditional beers along with Midnight Virginia Midway.
The Best Foods at the State Fair
Of course, I didn’t get to try every single booth although I did put in a class A effort.
If you like savory
The ribbon fries were my favorite savory snack at the Virginia State Fair. Find them near the Carousel and before you reach the Ferris Wheel. Ribbon fries fall somewhere in between a potato chip and a French fry and feature thin, spiral-sliced potatoes that are freshly fried and served plain or with your choice of toppings. We went for melted cheese, which fell nicely between cheddar and nacho, and pickled jalapenos. I think the key to the deliciousness of this dish was how freshly everything was made. My friend asked one of the employees to peel some extra potato so she could video him and he refused, saying even cutting the potatoes too soon would negatively affect the finished product.
Although not super unique, I must admit my other fair favorite on this trip was the classic corn dog. The key to a tasty corn dog is fresh preparation and proper cook time. My friends and I found crispy on the outside, flavorful on the inside dogs near the end of the ride loop at O’Brien’s. Look for the green booth. The small-size corn dog was the best choice for consistent cooking and fresh flavor. If you do get more adventurous with your meat on a stick, seek out Gertrude’s Deep Fried Pretzels for a 10-inch Johnsonville brat that’s wrapped in pretzel dough, deep fried, brushed with butter, salted, and served on a stick.
If you like sweet
Again, I’m a bit of a purist here, and my favorite was the classic funnel cake. Booths will advertise flavors ranging from red velvet funnel cake to peanut butter and jelly funnel cake. I found my funnel cake right near the main entrance at Smokey Mountain Hillbilly Kettle Corn. As I waited a few minutes for my cake to cook, the lovely lady who took my money told me the funnel cakes there take a little longer because they are made fresh to order. “I don’t like the taste of old funnel cakes that sit under lights, so we always make them fresh,” she declared. And, as expected, the fried confection was hot, sweet and delicious.
If you do want to go more adventurous with your funnel cake, several vendors on the Festival Loop advertised pumpkin funnel cakes—this would be my pick for a more distinctive flavor.
Also in terms of standout sweets, Little Miss Whoopie was a truck with all manner of whoopee pies that were custom made to order and could be topped with all sorts of things, including ice cream. The Super Villain Whoopie Pie features one side oatmeal cookie, one side chocolate cake filled with toasted marshmallow fluff and topped with handcrafted caramel and chocolate sauces. Hello, indulgence!
If you want to plan your visit by food to taste (no judgement here!) this is the complete list of food vendors.
Goodies to Go
After the high bar for the funnel cake was set, I also snagged some kettle corn from Smokey Mountain Hillbilly Kettle Corn on the way out of the fair. It was also hot, sweet, salty, fresh and everything I was expecting.
Popcorn fans should also look for Lammar Marie’s Gourmet Popcorn in the Farm Bureau Center, a new Richmond-based popcorn company with a location on Lauderdale Drive in Short Pump. Flavors like Cheesecake, Key Lime and Cotton Candy are available to sample and take home.
Also in the Farm Bureau Center in the back corner is a gigantic booth with every nostalgic candy ever for $4.29 per half pound. Yes, the price is a little high, but of course I got sucked in by the option to build my own selection of Bit O’ Honeys, Chick-O-Sticks, War Heads, Cry Babies, and salt water taffy.
Shopping at the State Fair
Most of the shopping also takes place in the Farm Bureau Center. You’ll find dip and drink mixes, fudge and caramel apples, cowboy boots, Simply Southern tees, monogrammable hats, sunglasses, and other goodies. If you like crafts, head to the back for a beautiful display of quilts.
If you are in the market for cowboy boots, make sure you also look for Lakeview Western Gift Bootique’s big tent that’s not located in the Farm Bureau Center. You’ll find a wide selection of boots for both men and women, including fun colors like pink for the ladies! There are also hats, belts, wallets, and other accessories for browsing.