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Heading to the Iowa State Fair? Here's what you need to know

From food to entertainment, here's everything you need to know about the 2023 Iowa State Fair.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The "Best Days Ever" are officially here: the 2023 Iowa State Fair runs from Thursday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 20.

Between musical performances, amusement park rides, new foods and plenty of livestock shows, here's everything you need to know about the 2023 Iowa State Fair. 

Local 5 and CW Iowa 23 are bringing exciting 2023 Iowa State Fair experiences to you, from live newscasts to an interactive Local 5 Weather Lab experience. Come see us in front of the Administration Building (Grand Concourse) each day between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

When is the 2023 Iowa State Fair? 

Dates: Thursday, Aug. 10 – Sunday, Aug. 20

Hours: 8 a.m.-12 a.m., every day 

Find more information about building and Thrill Park hours here

Click here to get your fair forecast here every day. 

Where can I buy tickets? How much do they cost?

General Admission to the fair is $16 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6-11. Advance admission tickets can be purchased here at a cheaper price: $11 for adults and $7 for kids ages 6-11. Kids ages 5 and younger receive free admission to the fair. 

Discounted tickets can still be purchased today: Wednesday, Aug. 9.

A GA ticket does not get you into everything, however. Other ticketed activities and events within the fair include Thrill Park rides, the Ye Old Mill and the Giant Slide. Additional tickets are also needed for the Grandstand shows. 

Grandstand concert tickets can be purchased here. Speaking of the Grandstand...

What is the bag policy? 

The fair "reserves the right" to search any bags going through its gates, according to its website. Bags and backpacks may also be searched while entering the Grandstand.

Who are the Grandstand acts?

The Grandstand runs one performance each day of the fair, for a total of 10 performances. Here's the lineup: 

  • Thursday, Aug. 10: For King + Country
  • Friday, Aug. 11: Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line
  • Saturday, Aug. 12: New Kids on the Block
  • Sunday, Aug. 13: Eric Church
  • Monday, Aug. 14: The Black Keys
  • Tuesday, Aug. 15: Jeff Dunham: Still Not Canceled Tour
  • Wednesday, Aug. 16: Lindsey Stirling
  • Thursday, Aug. 17: Maren Morris
  • Friday, Aug. 18: Ludacris 
  • Saturday, Aug. 19: The Chicks
  • Sunday, Aug. 20: Jason Aldean

In addition to the Grandstand acts, you can find a variety of free concerts and other entertainment here. 

When is the Iowa State Fair parade? What is the route?

Each year, Iowa's largest parade goes through downtown Des Moines the night before the Iowa State Fair begins. 

Featuring high school marching bands, floats and plenty of cool cars, the parade marches from the State Capitol Complex to 15th Street via Grand Avenue. 

  • When: 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9 
  • Where: Grand Avenue outside of the Iowa State Capitol Complex

WATCH: Iowa State Fair updates mobility scooter rules

Are there any discounts at the Iowa State Fair? 

Although ticket prices rise year-to-year, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the Iowa State Fair on a budget. 

The biggest price at the Iowa State Fair is likely the cost of admission. If you balk at the thought of paying $16 for your ticket, fear not: Fairgoers who purchase tickets in advance get a discount of up to $5. Click here to buy tickets. 

Of course, it's not the fair without the food. The Iowa State Fair has a list of value-priced fair food items available for fairgoers on a budget. All items are priced at $7 or less. 

For more ways to save, click here. 

Do you have a fair question you want us to answer? Text us at 515-457-1026 or email news@weareiowa.com!

2024 presidential candidates at the Iowa State Fair

With the Iowa Caucus less than six months away, there will be no shortage of candidates trying to make their mark at the Iowa State Fair.

This year, in addition to the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox, Gov. Kim Reynolds will host her own "Fair-Side Chats". 

Between the Soapbox and the governor's event, a total of 15 candidates will be at the Iowa State Fair. Here's a list of all of them below: 

  • Larry Elder
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence
  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez
  • Vivek Ramaswamy
  • Former U.N. and South Carolina Governor Ambassador Nikki Haley
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
  • Ryan Binkley
  • South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott
  • Perry Johnson
  • Former Congressman Will Hurd 
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 
  • Chase Oliver

Former President Donald Trump will visit the fair on Saturday, Aug. 12 but not officially as part of Reynolds' event. President Joe Biden is not scheduled to attend the Iowa State Fair. 

Find the full Political Soapbox schedule here and the "Fair-Side Chats" schedule here. 

Iowa State Fair parking

There are three parking lots available for parking at $10 per vehicle. Find a map of each lot on the map below. Fairgoers can take the Blue Line Shuttle inside the A, B and C parking lots for free, right to the admission gates.

Want to leave your car at home? Free bike parking is available inside Gate 11. Alternatively, ridesharing options will be available for pick up and drop off at Gate 8. 

If public transit is more your thing, simply show your advance Iowa State Fair admission ticket at one of DART's three State Fair Park & Ride locations to receive half-off your fare. Parking is free at all DART Locations from 8:30 a.m. to midnight throughout the fair. 

Here are the DART Park & Ride locations: 

  • Center Street Park & Ride - 7th and Center Street; enter on 7th Street
  • Southeast Polk High School - N.E. 80th Street and Highway 163
  • Iowa State Capitol - on East 12th Street, east side of the Capitol building near the State Capitol bell

What new foods are at the Iowa State Fair? 

There are a total of 64 new foods available at the Iowa State Fair in 2023. 

Of those, three are in the running to be crowned "Best New Fair Food": The Grinder Ball, the Iowa Twinkie and the Deep Fried Brisket Mac-n-Cheese Grilled Cheese. 

In 2022, the fair introduced 53 new foods, and a baked potato loaded like never before —  The Finisher — took home the prize. 

For a full list of the new fair foods, click here. 

How many people attend the Iowa State Fair?

Attendance at the Iowa State Fair was on the rise before the pandemic. In 2018, the number of attendees reached an all-time high of over 1.1 million, only to be beaten out the very next year in 2019 at almost 1.2 million attendees. 

However, in 2020, the fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and attendance rates are still rebounding

If the fair continues its trajectory from 2022, though, visitors can expect nearly 1,120,000 fairgoers over the course of the 10 days.

Here are the Iowa State Fair attendance totals for the past five years: 

  • 2022: 1,118,763
  • 2021: 1,094,480
  • 2020: 0 (canceled due to COVID-19)
  • 2019: 1,170,375
  • 2018: 1,130,260

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