Every year, people head to the state fair to experience the rides, have fun as a family, and sample the deep fried food. When I recently read an article about the best state fairs in the country, Wisconsin’s was on the list. I have vivid memories of visiting the Arizona state fair with my parents when I was younger and I wanted my kids to have this experience. My husband was not a big fan when I proposed a trip to the fair, but he begrudgingly agreed to tag along when we visited last week. I think I won him over when I told him there would be Deep Fried Cookie Dough.
Most fairs are all about food, and this fair is no different. The Wisconsin State Fair is home to the Original Cream Puff, which has been sold at the fair since 1924. It seemed like an obvious place for us to start at 10:00 in the morning. We entered the Original Cream Puff Pavilion, and were immediately overwhelmed by the smell of numerous delicious desserts, from the famous Kringle pastries, to fudge, to ice cream, this was heaven for my children. We paraded past window after window of cream puffs and workers (it was quite an elaborate set up) and stepped up to order our cream puff. The cream puff looks amazing with its puffy pastry shells, overflowing with mounds of sweet cream filling. We all took turns sharing one (it took restraint), and it was quite a mess. People come to the fair for this cream puff and they even have a drive thru line for those in a hurry. I don’t know if we would do that, but it was worth trying once.
Once you start kids with food sampling, there’s no stopping. Next up, deep fried, chocolate covered cookie dough. We checked to be sure our child with a nut allergy could eat this and once we were assured he could share, we indulged everyone. The kids would describe it as “unbelievable” and it tasted like frozen chocolate chip cookie dough covered in chocolate. Yes, it was that good.
We needed a short break from the food so we stopped into the Natural Resources Park where children can run around and explore the beauty of Wisconsin through hands on activities. Our kids enjoyed climbing through tents, exploring the play area, and learning about the environment in a non-boring way.
As you would expect, there are numerous agriculture competitions and activities taking place on a daily basis. We went into the livestock show (the kids said “boring”), so we took them to the nearby animal stalls (yes, they were “smelly”). The kids did love the opportunity to pet a calf, and couldn’t get over how rough the tongue was when it licked their hands. We made a point of taking them to the “pig races” (check the schedule when you arrive) which they thought was the greatest event ever. One unintended consequence is our kids now ask for a pet pig on a daily basis!
Every year, the fair awards a “Sporkie” (Golden Spork) to three of eight finalists for their unique and unusual foods. We managed to try two of these, with mixed reviews. The first was the Chicken N Waffle Cone and the other was the Loaded Twister Dog. They were both delicious, but in our family, it was a unanimous decision, the Loaded Twister Dog by a mile. Some of the other finalists are: Peanut Butter Bacon Bison Burger, Deep Fried Maple Bacon Cookie Dough, and a Grannie Smith Caramel Apple Milk Shake. I wonder who’s going to win?
All this food is bound to make visitors thirsty, and the best option is to invest in a refillable beverage container. The initial investment is $5, but refills are $2. A cheaper option we came across later was the 25 cent milk (it is Wisconsin after all). This wasn’t ordinary milk, it was flavored milk, as in strawberry, chocolate, fruit loops, root beer, and birthday cake. We tried root beer and birthday cake and they were both delicious. Why don’t they sell this in grocery stores? Our kids would drink milk with every meal if it tasted like this. Must be those Wisconsin cows that make it taste so special. There is also a table where the Salvation Army hands out free cups of water, close to the Kohl’s Activity Zone, so that’s another good option.
Speaking of the Kohl’s Activity Zone, this area offers a few crafts and activities to entertain the kids. Across the way is the Aussie Kingdom where visitors can see Australian wildlife up close. Both warrant a visit if you have younger children.
There are multiple exhibit halls on the property. We dubbed one the “giant infomercial” because every booth was trying to sell you something. Another exhibit hall was devoted to all things Wisconsin. Yet another was dedicated to horticulture. There is truly something for everyone.
We all know a visit to the fair would not be complete without riding a few rides and throwing away some money on games you will never win. Spin City is where you will find the popular fair rides and it was one area we managed to avoid (intentionally). Thankfully this was located at the opposite entrance from where we walked in, so the kids didn’t know of its existence. They didn’t even miss it, because there was a ton to see, explore, and eat. We did let them ride the giant slide, so they didn’t go away empty handed.
All said, we really loved our visit to the fair. My husband even admitted he enjoyed himself, so that was a big win for the day. Who knows we might even make this an annual trip!
The Wisconsin State Fair runs through August 10th in West Allis, just outside of Milwaukee. Every day there is a different promotion, every night a different concert, so be sure to check the Wisconsin State Fair website before you go.