Los Angeles County Fair – What’s it all About?

We’ve all heard the commercials and seen the bulletin boards toting the LA County Fair as “fun for all ages.” But is it all sun and fun or are there some hidden costs to consider?

The Los Angeles Fair has been a SoCal tradition during the month of September for 83 years and has recently become the largest county fair in North America. Though it was originally intended to connect the California agricultural industry with the general population, as with any industry in Los Angeles, it has grown with the demand for entertainment. The fair has added rides, exhibits, concerts and other shows alongside the livestock barns and horse races. For those with a Smartphone, the mobile app will keep the visitor informed of show times available throughout the day. However, for those who still need to rely on the physical map offered at the entrance kiosk, none of the daily activities are listed. This makes sense, judging that the fair gets hundreds if not thousands of visitors each day, and the cost to print that many specific day maps would be huge. But if they were to take a leaf out of Disneyland’s book and include an insert specific to the day, many visitors would greatly benefit as the fair is far too large to effectively discover on one’s own.

Once inside, the atmosphere, like any good fair, smells warmly of elephant ears and cow manure, mixed with the sounds of screaming, loudspeakers and the fascinating sea of humanity. There are a good mix of rides, for both kids and adults, and the iconic Ferris wheel cuts a beautiful picture in the center. The Fair is huge and offers a full day of exploration through its many zones. It is relatively well kept with a welcoming family atmosphere. Though the SoCal heat can make a day of wandering miserable, they have a decent spread of watering stations, misters, and air conditioned buildings so that the heat is never unbearable.

As college students, one of the first determining factors in attending an activity is the cost. For the full amusement park experience on this one, you might as well go to Disneyland, folks. This is not to say “don’t go,” but if you are hoping to get the full experience, be sure to come with a full wallet, expecting to leave with it empty. If you have the flexibility to go on a discount day, such as $25 ride pass Wednesdays, you may be able to get all of the rides that you want in, but everything else will still cost money. Parking costs money ($15), the entrance fee costs money ($17), the rides cost money (approximately $5 a ride per person, or $50 for the day pass), eating costs money and so do all of the shopping kiosks if you want a souvenir.  Many of the more exotic shows also require a pocketbook, such as holding a parrot, watching horse racing or petting a stingray. If one does not plan ahead and just does whatever strikes their fancy, they could easily end up dropping a hundred dollars or more.

However, as students used to finding ways to enjoy timeless experiences for less, the LA Fair does offer a wide range of activities for people on a budget. Though the entrance will cost them at least $30, once in the park there are 4H barns to walk through full of children’s art and animals, different themed areas to wander through, air conditioned buildings displaying unique exhibits, products and demos, and a wide variety of shows to see! Even exhibits like the parrots or sting rays, which cost money in order to participate, are often free to watch. Just wandering around, it is not unusual to run into a parade of the Budweiser Clydesdales, spot an Axe Throwing competition or see a daredevil try the bungee jump. For those who enjoy the feel of a city setting and are excited to people watch, there is no better mix of attendees than found at the LA County Fair.

So is the fair worth the trip next year? For the sights, colors, and sounds of humanity, as well as the chance to take part in a LA tradition, it most certainly is. But if you are expecting the full experience as advertized, be prepared to stay a broke college student for a while longer!