The Florida State Fair consists of 12 days of fun for the whole family. Though it may be hard to believe, some of the same activities that took place back when the fair started in 1904 can still be enjoyed by fairgoers today. For example, there are still agricultural exhibits and livestock competitions. Over the years, the fair has been augmented with dozens of rides, tons of delicious food, live-action shows featuring circus performers and magicians, and presentations by performing artists.
The Florida State Fair’s midway features over 90 amusement park attractions from carousels and teacups to white-knuckle thrill rides for the adrenaline junkies. There will also be animal-centric shows, with birds taking flight and trained dogs and sea lions doing tricks. Pig races are a perennial favorite, and the little ones always want to go on the pony rides.
Live musical performances will be taking place on five outdoor stages and one indoor venue. Shows will feature bluegrass, dueling pianists, ukulele music, and rock tributes.
A comedy and dance show, a motorcycle stunt show, a thrilling exhibition of pogo stick skills, and an acrobatic basketball display round out the entertainment options for fair attendees.
Agricultural and livestock exhibits are the heart and soul of state fairs, so you can expect plenty of both. Exhibitors from across the U.S. will be on hand to show their pigs, bulls, sheep, cows, pygmy goats, and horses while competing for awards. Other exhibits feature giraffes, purebred dogs, cow milking, Florida fish and wildlife habitats, agricultural hands-on experiences, cattle ranching, and the 19th-century Florida pioneers’ way of life.
Because everyone has fun cheering on their favorites, competitions are a mainstay of the Florida State Fair. There will be cheerleading and baton-twirling contests. Eaters will compete to see who can eat the most donuts, hot dogs, chocolate, and pie. Junior chefs will vie for the title of top culinary master, and there can be only one winner at the demolition derby. A talent competition and a team rodeo final are also scheduled.
This year’s fair will feature the first-ever Deep-Fried Dash 5K & Fun Run, an event that will raise funds for educational programs through the Florida State Fair Foundation. The route will take runners through the actual fair, past rides, stands, and games. Once they reach the finish line, runners will be rewarded with a corn dog. Race registration costs $35, but runners get into the fair for free.
Of course, no state fair is complete without some judges handing out blue ribbons to the best pie or quilt. The 2020 fair will see horticultural, photography, preserved foods, baking, painting, and woodcarving competitions.
One of the principal reasons people attend the Florida State Fair is to eat themselves silly. Of course, you'll find plenty of deep-fried foods. Typical offerings include deep-fried panko-and-corn-dog-batter-coated hot dogs filled with cheese and deep-fried batter-coated Angus beef patties topped with cheese. Unusual takes on more traditional foods include a steak and eggs sundae, consisting of fries topped with cheese, sour cream, grits, a fried egg, and sirloin steak. You can also get a candy apple coated in crunchy piña-colada-flavored candy and rolled in coconut.
Of course, you can always fall back on carnival food standbys, such as corn dogs and funnel cakes, or more conventional fare, like barbecue chicken dinners, slider trios, and pizza.
Amenities available at the fair include ATMs, wheelchairs and scooters for rent, a will-call office, a lost-and-found, and a first-aid station.
This will be the 43rd year that the Florida State Fair is held at the Florida State Fairgrounds, located at 4800 U.S. Hwy 301 N, Tampa, FL, 33610. It's located near the intersection of Highway 301 and Interstate 4.
Leroy Van Dyke, The Malpass Brothers, Steve and Rudy Gatlin, and Linda Davis will take the stage on February 12 at the fairground’s Entertainment Hall. There will be two shows, one at 10:30 a.m. and another at 1:30 p.m.
RVers are welcome at the Florida State Fair. There are campgrounds at the venue, and they include more than 150 camping spots. These are equipped with full electric, water, and sewer hookups. Reservations are required. The campgrounds do allow pets. With the exception of service animals, however, pets may not be brought into the Florida State Fair.
Of course, you don’t need to actually own an RV to enjoy the fun and convenience of RV camping. Many owners like to list their RVs on RVshare, which provides a platform for people who want to rent. Tampa is located in central Florida, and any family RV trip through the state would be made more fun with the inclusion of a stop at the Florida State Fair. Motorhomes, towable pop-up trailers, and campervans are just some of the rental options on RVshare, so you can choose the vehicle that’s right for your travel party’s needs.
If you have an RV: In addition to the RV camping opportunities at the actual fairgrounds, there are plenty of other RV park options in the Tampa area. One nearby option is the Lazydays RV Resort in Seffner. Located about 5 miles from the fairgrounds, it has 300 RV sites with hookups, a heated pool with a hot tub, and complimentary Wi-Fi access along with cable television. Another option is the Spanish Main RV Resort in Thonotosassa, which is approximately 7 miles away. It offers 270 sites with full hookups, a playground, a heated pool, game courts, and stocked ponds for catch-and-release fishing.
If you do not have an RV: The fair’s organizers have partnered with the following hotels: The Tampa-Brandon Clarion Inn, the Tampa Fairgrounds – Casino Comfort Suites, the Tampa Casino Country Inn & Suites, the Fairgrounds/Casino Fairfield by Marriott, the Tampa Brandon Fairfield Inn & Suites, the Tampa East Hampton Inn & Suites, the Tampa East – Brandon Staybridge Suites, and the Tampa – Riverview Uptown Suites. None of these hotels are more than 6.5 miles from the Florida State Fairgrounds.
There are three entrances to the Florida State Fairgrounds—the Orient Road Entrance, MLK Boulevard Entrance, and U.S. 301 Entrance.
If you’re traveling north or south on Interstate 75: Exit at MLK Boulevard West, travel to the MLK Boulevard Entrance, and turn right.
If you’re traveling east on Interstate 4: Merge onto Highway 301, travel to the U.S. 301 Entrance, and turn right.
If you’re traveling west on Interstate 4: Take the Orient Road Exit, continue a short distance, turn right on Orient Road to the Orient Road Entrance, and then turn left.
If you’re traveling north on Highway 301: Turn left when you reach the U.S. 301 Entrance.
If you’re traveling south on Highway 301: Turn right when you reach the U.S. 301 Entrance.
There are over 16,000 parking spaces available at the Florida State Fairgrounds. There is no charge for parking for those attending the fair.
There are a variety of ways to obtain Florida State Fair tickets. You can purchase them online at floridastatefair.com or buy them at participating Tampa Bay-area Publix stores. You can also download an order form from the event’s website and order tickets for large groups by mail or fax.
The standard admission prices are $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 11, and $7 for seniors who are 55 or older. Children under 5 years of age can attend for free.
An admission ticket gives you access to entertainment, such as exhibits, shows, and musical acts. Food, rides, and games on the midway are not included. There are, however, various discounted prices and promotions. These include ride armbands, multiday passes, gold-access passes, and free admission days for specific groups, such as students and first responders. For details, see the tickets and calendar pages of the event’s website.
In this day and age, you may think that you and your family have to travel to remote areas and “rough it” in order to unplug and spend time together. The Florida State Fair proves this isn’t so. You can combine old-fashioned fun like the state fair and RV camping with modern technology. Be sure to take pictures while you’re enjoying yourself at the fair and in the Tampa area. Share these, along with stories of your adventures, at [email protected] You could be featured on RVshare’s social media channels or blog.
To see more on the Florida State Fair's social media channels, check out @flstatefair on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.