2020 Florida State Fair (Complete Beginner’s Guide)

I hope you have already marked the dates in your calendar for the 2020 Florida State Fair. After all, it’s one of the oldest and most outstanding fairs in the country.

The Florida State Fair, which is held in Tampa from February 6-17 2020, will be celebrating its 116th birthday. I am excited to take you on a complete guide of how to enjoy the entertainment, the food, and the culture of this annual Florida event.

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Florida State Fair Rides with Ferris Wheel and Food Kiosks

What to Expect at Florida State Fair

You should be asking yourself what not to expect!

First off, you can expect it to be bigger, grander, more entertaining with great rides, food, entertainment, and everything that the Florida State Fair is known for.

The 12-day extravaganza which started in 1904 attracts over 500,000 visitors with Florida residents exhibiting their skills in crafts, agriculture, and horticulture.

Florida State Fair Florida Forest Discovery Center Wakulla State Forest Display
Florida Forest Discovery Center Wakulla State Forest Display

You can also find participants applauded for owning things such as the best bull or most beautiful quilt. That’s the tradition that the fair still celebrates and nurtures on this very day!

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Fun Things to Do at The Florida State Fair

There are plenty of things you can do at no additional cost. The free shows, exhibits, expo area, and equestrian demonstrations all draw in huge crowds and are all the perfect places to start your trip off at the fair in Tampa.

Florida State Fair Giant Blue and Yellow Ferris Wheel

There are a few attractions that draw people to this annual event. One of the most popular attractions at the Florida State Fair is the largest portable Ferris Wheel in North America called the Midway Sky Eye.

So, you’ll definitely want to experience this ride.

The Midway at the Florida State Fair

Adventure is part of the Tampa fair with the Midway offering a variety of rides and unique experiences to enjoy.

Florida State Fair Skyliner Ride
Florida State Fair Skyliner Ride

If you did not know, Wade Show provides all the rides for the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

What Rides are at the Florida State Fair?

In addition to the Ferris Wheel, there are other thrilling rides like the Wipe Out, Spider, Sizzler, the Typhoon, the Alpine Bobs and so much more for an extra dose of fun at the Florida State Fair.

Florida State Fair Spider Ride

Florida State Fair rides are divided into four types:

  1. Thrill
  2. Kiddie
  3. Spectacular
  4. Family

There are more than 100 rides in which many are family-friendly, but be sure to review the height requirements and the number of tickets needed for each ride here to help you make the most of your time and money.

Fun Fact: The Florida State Fair has the largest ride Midway in the U.S.A.

Florida State Fair Food

Food is also another notable feature that you’ll want to participate in on your trip to the Florida State Fair.

Tampa Carnival Food Corn Dogs Fried Green Beans Onion Rings Fried Pickles

From traditional dishes to the latest fusion food, expect the best here. There are some age-old favorites like candies, kettle corn, and fried Oreos.

However, what makes people look forward to the fair are the crazy dishes that appear here.

You’ll be able to treat both your eyes and your taste buds with some the tastiest and weirdest dishes like:

  • Krispy Kreme Doughnut Burger
  • Pizza cone
  • Deep-fried Twinkie
  • Bacon ice cream
  • Deep-fried strawberry shortcake
  • SurfNTurf Sundae
  • Chicken and Waffle Pizza
  • Giant Mozzarella Stick
  • Chocolate covered bacon
  • Red Beans and Rice Funnel Cake

Over the years, people raved about the giant mozzarella cheese stick, the red beans and rice funnel cake, the rainbow grilled cheese, and the Amish doughnut.

Florida State Fair Food Deep Fried Kiosk with Fried Vegetables

The items are sinfully delightful and full of calories that “don’t count” at the fair!

After all, the electrifying ambiance will make you forget all about the pounds you may be packing on during your visit.

Florida State Fair Izzy's Barbecue

Now, isn’t your mouth watering?

Just wait for the fair to begin and you’ll be in for quite the foodie adventure!

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Cracker Country

Check out the Cracker Country to learn interesting information on the rural history of Florida. The museum takes you back a few centuries and lets you have a glimpse of life in the state during the 1800s.

Discovery Center Cracker Farmhouse Scale Model in Tampa Carnival
Discovery Center Cracker Farmhouse Scale Model

There are also a few original buildings that date back from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

This Tampa museum will be open all 12 days of the state fair.

Agriculture and Exhibitions

If you’re interested in art and culture, there are all types craft exhibitions and competitions through the fair.

Florida State Fair Expo Center

You can see not only how Floridians have preserved their heritage in these shows, but you can see the many submissions of students around the state.

I can remember being in school and hoping that my science or history project would win so that my work would be featured in the Lake County Fair.

This is probably why I love browsing the student competition section of the exhibition.

Florida State Fair Expo Center Camellia Bloom Forms with beautiful garden display in Tampa

Here are a few competitions to be on the lookout for:

  • Wine & Juice
  • Culinary
  • Art Portfolio
  • Technology
  • Aquarium
  • Horticulture

Agribusiness

The agribusiness demonstrations are also very popular at the Florida State Fair.

Florida State Fair Hydroponics Gardening with Red Barn House for the Ag Venture Education

Be it cattle or the fruits and veggies grown in the area, the fair allows you to see the best of what the state offers.

Did you know that every year, more than 6,000 animals are brought here for the exhibits?

At the Florida State Fair, you’ll be able to get close to some of the most popular livestock of the state.

Florida State Fair Making Oranges with Red Barn House for the Ag Venture Education

So, don’t forget to visit the goat and sheep tent and also the small animal show ring which are all included with your admission ticket.

Hipster Power Tip: If you are a dog lover, you’ll want to check out the small furry puppies inside the pure-bred dog tent. You may also be able to play with some rescued dogs too.

Entertainment

A cool thing about the Florida State Fair is the variety of entertainment that’s included with your admission ticket.

Florida State Fair Blue Haunted House Entrance

Shows such as the Demolition Derby, the Sea Lion Splash, and the Showcase Community Stage which features talent from all over Florida.

Florida State Fair Carnival Toys

NEW for 2020: Be sure to participate in the Deep Fried Dash which is the first 5K run that will happen on February 15, 2020. You can learn more about it on the official state fair website.

Florida State Fair Tickets

Now that we know what to expect from this state fair, let’s go through the how much it will be for you to visit.

Florida State Fair Silver Enterprise Centrifuge Ride

Tickets for the Florida State Fair

  • Adult Ticket: $11 from Monday through Thursday at the gate and $13 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the gate
  • Child (Ages 6-11): $6 from Monday through Thursday at the gate and $7 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the gate
  • Senior (Age 55 and older): $9 at gate on select days

Please note that the final 2020 prices are still pending. You can visit the official Florida State Fair website to purchase your tickets. Tickets go on sale December 1, 2019.  

Armband Prices at the Florida State Fair

Ride armbands are excellent way for you to enjoy yourself at the fair. Each armband allows unlimited rides at a small cost.

  • Any Day Ride Armband: $35 at gate on select days
  • Gold Access Armband: You can upgrade your armband to skip the lines on midway rides for $15
Florida State Fair Ride the Sky Glider Colorful gondolas in the carnival

Where to find discount Florida State Fair tickets?

You can get a deal on tickets by buying them in advanced on the state fair website (starting December 1st) or at participating Publix stores (starting January 2nd).

Florida State Fair Red High Wheel in the Exhibition Center
The High Wheel

There are also certain days where you can get a discount on the tickets such as:

  • Hero’s Day (February 6th)
  • Family Day (February 7th)
  • Senoriffic Day (February 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th)
  • $2 Tuesday (February 11th)
  • College Night (February 13th)
  • Date Night Deal (February 14th)

You can get more information on the Florida State Fair discount tickets here.

13 Florida State Fair Tips and Tricks to Know Before You Go

Florida State Fair World Smallest Woman Display
  1. Arrive early
  2. Try to go on a weekday in the early part of the day to beat the crowds
  3. Pack only your essentials (water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, small book bag to carry your items, phone)
  4. Have a game plan in mind so that you can do all of your favorite rides and eat all of your favorite treats
  5. Get a ride armband to save money
  6. Have a set budget before you get to the fair
  7. Visit the exhibition hall to see all of the unique displays
  8. Pace yourself and take breaks when needed
  9. Bring Cash
  10. Remember to be safe and stay on alert (Florida State Fair does allow visitors to enter with a valid concealed weapons permit, pursuant to Chapter 790, Florida Statutes)
  11. Be wary of the fun houses that promise you outlandish things such as a lady with a snake head 🙂 (although I have been tricked into to seeing this on multiple occasions, I still think it’s fun and hilarious)
  12. Make time to see all the local talent and fun animal shows at the Florida State Fair
  13. Stop by the citrus booth to make your own orange juice!

Frequently Asked Questions

Florida State Fair Making Oranges

In order to make sure that you’ll have a memorable experience at the Florida State Fair, I’ve put together a few FAQs to help you out for your visit.

Where is the fair held?

The fair is held at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. Highway 301 N. in Tampa.

To make it easier for you to understand, the location of the fair is at the intersection of Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 301 in Hillsborough County.

Florida State Fair Large White and Blue Ferris Wheel

What are the hours for the Florida State Fair?

The fair is open from 10.00 a.m. until 10.00 p.m. each day and you have to buy tickets for admission.

Florida State Fair Food Chinese American Kiosk with Chicken Fried Rice Display

How much does it cost to park at the Florida State Fair?

Parking is free at the fair with multiple locations surrounding the fairgrounds. I usually park on the side facing Highway 301 in the area that’s closest to Cracker Country.

Florida State Fair Twister Ride with Green Cars

When is the Florida State Fair?

As mentioned earlier, the fair will take place from February 6 – 17, 2020 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

What are the best things to do in Tampa?

Tampa is one of my favorite cities and for good reasons. There are activities for everyone to do in this Florida town that has it all. Nightlife, city life, beach life, and country living.

Florida State Fair Henry's Kettle Korn Kiosks

You’ll be able to find something fun to do, but a few of my favorite activities to do in Tampa are:

  • Busch Gardens Theme Park (one of my favorite theme parks in Florida)
  • The Florida Aquarium
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
  • Downtown St. Pete for shopping
  • Ybor City for nightlife, entertainment, and dining
  • Any one of the beautiful beaches

Hipster Power Tip: The Tampa Bay CityPASS allows you to visit the top attractions for one low cost and includes: Busch Gardens® Tampa, The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center OR Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI). 

My Trip Report to the Florida State Fair

Florida State Fair French Fry Kiosk with Roller Coaster in the background

The day was like one of the many perfect weekend days that Florida is known for.

It was also a day for me to indulge into the smells of fried food heaven, the hackling Midway gaming men, the sunshine state’s agricultural world, the local art, and the quickly put together rides that are staples of the Florida State Fair.

Uncle Sam on Stilts Greeting Kids.

I started out in my usual walking route from the Gate 2 entrance and headed into the Florida Living Center. This area showcased student artwork, aquaculture, domestic talents, and school projects just to name a few.

Florida State Fair Himalaya Ride

It was another solo trip for me, but when you’re an amusement park fan who waits year round for this occasion, you somehow always feel as if you’re in the company of family.

The classic Ferris Wheel at the Florida State Fair 2014
The classic Ferris Wheel at the Florida State Fair 2014

Not to mention the picturesque weather that enhanced the colorful blends of reds, blues, and yellows with the whimsical soundtrack and carnival cuisine smells that flooded the grounds.

Carnival ladies with snake wrapped around neck at the Florida State Fair.
No fair is complete without the “eclectic”

These little things are so special to me and things that I love to see at fairs and carnivals throughout the country.

The classic Himalaya up against the modern day rides.
The classic Himalaya up against the modern day rides.

The Florida Forest Discovery Center was one of my favorite areas. Maybe it’s the nerdy gal in me who is a sucker for an amusement park adventure with a dose of learning on the side.

Florida State Fair Florida Forest Discovery Center Entrance

If you can recall the days of museum field trips as a kid, then you’d be right next to me trying to read what a High Wheeler is and when’s the next photo op with Smokey the Bear.

It's me and Smokey the Bear at the Florida State Fair in Tampa.
It’s me and Smokey the Bear 🙂

No day would be complete without the FOOD!

The over fried, overpriced, deliciously unhealthy fair food that is famous for such creations as the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Burger, deep fried butter, and chocolate covered bacon.

Deep Fried Butter Kiosk at the Florida State Fair
Just another menu item at the Florida State Fair 2014

Mmmm…so good!

Well I wasn’t trying any of those this year not only because my trainer would have a cow, literally, but because I got sick the last time I tried the Krispy Kreme Burger.

My stomach is not built for deviously prepared food.

Amish Doughnut

Delicious Glazed Doughnut at the Fair in Tampa
Delicious Doughnut!

I did bend my diet and purchased the melt in your mouth sweetness of the oversized doughnut from the Amish Baking Co.

To my surprise it didn’t upset my stomach, so I decided to try another dish just for you guys…the chili dog.

What a letdown!

The Chili Dog covered in cheese, onions, ketchup and mustard at the carnival in Tampa Florida.
The Chili Dog test

Calling myself a chili making pro, this chili dog lacked the main ingredient…the chili flavor.

I was a bit upset, but the doughnut made up for the chili dog and it brought my visit to the Florida State Fair to an end.

Florida State Fair Food Wisconsin Cheese Kiosk
Wisconsin Cheese Kiosk

Hey Hipster, based on what I’ve mentioned so far, do you have a favorite dish that you’d like to try?

Florida Oranges

One of the highlights of my Florida State Fair adventure was the process of making freshly squeezed Florida orange juice. This experience was located in the Ag-Venture section of the fair.

As you can see, I enjoyed myself with this little adventure. I also had the chance learn what it was like to pump my own water.

Florida State Fair Hydroponics Gardening Old Fashion Green Water pump with Red Barn House for the Ag Venture Education

This too was located inside the Ag-Venture section of the fair.

Hydroponics Gardening with Red Barn House for the Ag Venture Education

Final Thoughts

The Florida State Fair is still one of the largest and oldest state fairs in the country that continues to bring in huge crowds of over 500,000 each year.

Florida State Fair Food Fiske Lemonade Kiosk

Experiencing the food, the attractions, and the classic traditions are all what make this annual event one of the best things to do in Tampa to jump start the new year.

Have you ever been to the Florida State Fair? If so, let us know in the comments section below.

Florida State Fair Food and Guide with Tips
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Are you planning a Busch Garden’s vacation soon? Read the Theme Park Vacation Planning Guide for your next dream trip!

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

NikkyJ

(Original Article Date: February 18, 2014/Updated November 26, 2019)

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2 thoughts on “2020 Florida State Fair (Complete Beginner’s Guide)”

  1. Great post Nikky!! My favorite fair food is def the italian sausege sandwich with onions and peppers.. I love the Florida State Fair even though I didn’t go this year. I made my own version of the Krispy Kreme burger one time and I couldn’t do it either… 🙂

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