5 Things to do at the Iowa State Fair with Little Ones


I grew up going to the Iowa State Fair. My uncle lives in Des Moines, where the fair is located, so we would stay with him and experience everything the fair has to offer! As I started getting older our trips to the Iowa State Fair became fewer but this year my husband and I were able to make the trip and bring our 3 year old son along!

August 11 – 22, 2022 in Des Moines, IA

The Iowa State Fair is huge and has a lot to offer – a family could spend an entire weekend seeing everything. This year we went to the fair the first weekend and we were only able to go for one day.

Insider Tip: If livestock is something your family likes to see, I recommend going during the second week/weekend of the fair. Since we were there so early, a lot of the livestock was not yet there.

Where to Stay

We booked a hotel room – there are many great places to stay downtown Des Moines, but this year we opted to stay closer to the interstate (which made for easy access on our Sunday morning departure). There are two hotels right off the interstate that are great to stay at with kids. The Ramada by Wyndham Des Moines Tropics Resort & Conference Center and the Holiday Inn & Suites, (both off of Merle Hay Road). We stayed at the Holiday Inn and our son still enjoyed the pool on Saturday night – even after a long day at the fair.

How to Get There

In the morning before the fair we drove to a park and ride location downtown and hopped on the DART to take us to the fair. Once at the fair we obtained the electric wheelchair we had rented ahead of time for my grandfather to ride in, and rented a stroller for my son to sit in – for when he had enough walking for the day! And then we were off!

Here are 5 things I recommend doing with little ones at the fair!

1. The Big Slide

The big slide will always be near and dear to my heart and I believe is a staple of the
Iowa State Fair. Grab a burlap bag, head up the stairs, and get ready for lots of smiles
and giggles. There is usually a line at the slide, even early in the day, so you might want
to head here first when little ones are not yet tired.

2. Little Hands on the Farm

Located in Kids Zone, the Andringa Family Foundation Little Hands on the Farm encourages children ages 2 to 10 to become farmers by visiting a swine barn, garden, grain bin, apple orchard, chicken barn, tractor shed, cattle barn, sheep barn and dairy barn. After all of their hard work, the last stop is the grocery store, where children can pick out a piece of fruit, a granola bar or an ice cream treat.

3. The Garden

Located north of Little Hands on the Farm, this area is packed with garden beds and displays to teach kids how vegetables take root in Iowa soil. In this area you will also find playgrounds, face painting, and sprinklers!

4. Ride the rides

What is a fair experience without riding the rides?! The Iowa State Fair has an awesome
Thrill Park for older kids and adults – but it also has a special, smaller park, for the little
fair goers called Thrill Town, which has kid friendly rides without having to navigate the larger theme park. Pro tip: make sure your child’s shoes are strapped on well and will not fall off! I learned this the hard way when I had to climb into a fun house to retrieve my sons shoe from a ball pit… 

5. See the animals!

Probably one of our families favorites activities at the fair involves roaming through the variety of barns and viewing the livestock. The fair has barns dedicated to pigs, cows, horses, and sheep, just to name a few.

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