Do your kids love animals? Carnival rides? Farm equipment? Baton twirling contests? Well, then you owe it to them to take them to the 2013 Illinois State Fair! The State Fair runs from Friday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 18, at the fairgrounds in Springfield, about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Geneva. If you want to extend your trip a bit, check out this guide to a family-friendly Springfield getaway.
As a Springfield native, I have attended more than 30 Illinois State Fairs, and it’s a rare year that I attend for only one day during the fair’s run. Obviously, I think any day is a good day for the fair, but since you’ll be doing a lot of walking, it’s nice if you can attend when the temps aren’t say, 90 degrees. Also, weekdays are a lot less crowded than weekends.
Make sure to take a good look at the schedule of events for the day of your visit and also to surf around the State Fair’s website, especially the tabs called “Rides & Attractions” and “Concerts & Entertainment.”
There are all sorts of fun, only-at-a-fair events, such as the High Dive Show, a sheep shearing contest, a diaper derby and a contest for the longest ponytail. But you’ll need to do a bit of scheduling to be at the right place at the right time. Don’t worry: This isn’t Disney World. It doesn’t take that long to get from one end of the fair to another, but planning ahead — and enjoying the fair in zones before moving onto the next area — will make for a happier family. Here’s a link to a printable fairgrounds map that will help you get orientated before you even arrive.