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Exploring the world outside of the park
L. A. County Fair

By Kevin Yee


So when was the last time you went to a county fair? To me, the term conjures up a number of associations, more or less in this order: the Knott’s Berry Tales boysenberry fair (if there’s any ride I miss as much as the PeopleMover, this is probably it), smaller livestock- centered county fairs in such places as Iowa (which I’ve seen), and then finally the Orange County Fair. I am an Orange County resident, at heart, of course. I’d never been to the Los Angeles County Fair. I always figured, yes, I know it’s close – only 20 or so miles from me, it’s closer to Disneyland than it is to most of LA County – but hey why bother. I’ve been to the Orange County Fair, and it’s the same thing, right?

Wrong. As I understand it, some of folks and equipment that make an appearance at the OC Fair also show up that month or so later at the LA Fair – their life is a bit circus-like, traveling around from Fair to Fair – but the LA Fair is bigger. Much bigger. In fact, it’s the largest fair in North America. Yup. Some 1.3 million visitors in an average year – that’s in just over two weeks, folks. If the fair was year round and kept up those numbers, it would *beat* Disneyland’s annual attendance. Easily. It works out to about 81,000 visitors per day – that rivals the busiest days Disney ever has.

But the Fairgrounds are huge. There are 487 acres of fairgrounds (plus 250 acres for parking for 40,000 cars). And yet… the carnival section is only 12 acres. Doing some quick math (or, more likely, throwing up your hands and guesstimating wildly as I did), you’ll quickly see that 81,000 visitors trying to see an area the size of Adventureland at one point in their day quickly leads to some major crowds, at least in that corner of the fair.

Thankfully, the fair is much more than carnival rides. I was pleasantly shocked to see how much more. Take a deep breath and read with me:

Action Plaza

Blue Water Fish Show

Budweiser Clydesdales

Bungee Jump

Skate Park

Elephant Rides

Giant Slide

GM World One Virtual Drive

Pig Races

Sky Ride Station

Kiddie Carnival #2


Model Railroad

Educatin Expo

Horse Racing

Home and Gardens


Enchanted Gardens

Gold Panning

Hidden Meadows Park

Historic Trains

Flower and Garden Pavilion

Dog Team Show

Vineyard at Tuscany

Clocktower Plaza

Chevy Corral

Festival Plaza

Rock Climbing Wall

Park Square

Kids "Island Adventure"

Bees and Honey

Fairplex Garden Railroad

Kiddie Carnival #3

Fairview Farms

Cavalcade of Horses

Apple and Peach Orchard

Farm Animals

Petting Barn

Horse Show Arena

Fairview Farms Nursery

Milking Parlor

Rawhide Dude Ranch

Taco Farm

Textile Barn and Sheep Shearing

California’s Heritage Square

Petting Barn

Caring for the Land Forestry

Castle of Magical Discoveries

Gold Panning

Native American Village

Pony Rides

Shopping Place

Chinese Acrobats

Extreme Sports Show

Quilt Show


Court of the Redwoods

Millard Sheets Gallery


Motorsports Museum

Speed Track Drag Races

Thunder Alley

On the day I was there, the program announced the following other things to do: Thomas and Friends Stage Show, Polynesian Dancers, Fish Show, Hynootist Cindy Layne, Steel Drum Band, Mariachi USA Festival, Wine Tasting, Tortilla Toss, Belching Contest (!), Potato Sack Race, Pumpkin Pie Contest, and more, so much more.

The price for all these attractions, entertainment, shows, and fun? A measly, paltry twelve dollars. Maximum. Here’s the full details on admission tickets:

Adults, ages 13+ (weekend) - $12

Adults , ages 13+ (weekday) - $10

Adults (Group Sales-20 adults or more) - $ 8

Adults $5 after 5 p.m. (Sun.-Thurs.) - $ 5

Seniors 60+ (weekend) - $ 9

Seniors 60+ (weekday) - $ 8

Senior Tuesdays, ages 60+ - $ 4

Ages 6-12 (weekends) - $ 6

Ages 6-12 (weekdays) - $ 5

Ages 6-12 (Group Sales-20 adults or more) - $4.50

Ages 5 and younger (every day) – free

Parking - $7 (or $10 for preferred, but it’s not needed. There are trams).

Naturally, the twelve dollars don’t buy you any time on the carnival rides. Those get expensive. But there are 70 of them – that’s a whole lot.

Each coupon - 75 cents (typical rides want between 3 and 6 coupons per person)

Sheets of 16 coupons - $10

Sheet of 36 coupons - $20

Unlimited Ride Wristband (Mon. & Tues.) - $15

10-ride Wristband (Wed.-Fri.) - $15

If you want to ride rides, be sure to get the unlimited ride wristband on Mondays and Tuesdays – it’s easily worth it. But if all you’re looking for is a fun day sampling exhibits, free attractions, petting zoos and animals, and a ton of shopping (more shopping than you could shake a stick at!) with some real bargains, you could hardly do any better than the Fair’s basic admission price.

Take my day as an example. I ventured out to the Fair on Saturday, September 15, and didn’t arrive until almost 2 in the afternoon. Parking was organized, but crowded. We enjoyed the thrill of a slow line of cars traveling through an apparent drag strip – the asphalt beneath us was caked with burned rubber and the grandstands flanking us invited the imagination to run wild...

A tram conveniently stopped after we parked to pick us up and take us in – this was far more convenient than Disneyland’s parking situation. Tons of open ticket sellers led to a no-wait situation (if you head to the less crowded end, that is), and then we were in the yellow gate, placing us at one extreme end of the fair where the carnival starts. We discovered to our annoyance that the unlimited ride wristbands are only given on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we swore off rides for the day.

Instead, we headed over to the animals, which meant heading around the grandstand and basically making a giant U-shaped tour of the place. Once there we enjoyed the hundred of cute, if odoriferous, animals that included sheep, goats, pigs, llamas, horses, mini- horses, even a donkey.

We left through a farm area and came upon a demonstration of antique engines and appliances. I was reminded of the steam engine that exploded this July at a county fair in Ohio, so I was wary yet fascinated. Disney’s California Adventure (DCA) has a farm area, but their few machines are pristine corporate advertisements, not working antiques. Wouldn’t it be neat if they had something like this?



Knott's Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

This is the nation's oldest theme park. It includes 165 attractions in multiple themed areas such as Calico Ghost Town, Mexican Village, Indian Trails, The Boardwalk and Camp Snoopy. (714) 220-5200

Hard Rock Cafe
451 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach

One in a chain of 104 Hard Rock Cafes around the world. You are paying for the honor of sitting under the autographs of rock stars. The highlight of the decor is the garish suit worn by Prince in the film "Purple Rain." (714) 640-8844

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
7662 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

Watch "knights" engage in jousting and other forms of mortal combat while you eat dinner. Paper crowns (a la Burger King) included. (714) 521-4740

Movieland Wax Museum
7711 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

An elaborate collection of movie and TV memorabilia, including authentic costumes and sets and more than 200 lifelike replicas of famous stars. Open Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Admission $6.95-$12.95. (949) 522-1154 or visit Movieland Wax Museum online.

Rainforest Cafe
3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa (In the Sears wing of South Coast Plaza)

A themed restaurant with a jungle motif. Includes animatronic creatures, indoor thundershowers, live parrots, talking trees and a large saltwater aquarium. (714) 424-9200

Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum
7850 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

"The odd, the unusual and bizarre from nature and man." Open Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Admission $5.25-$8.95. (714) 522-7045 or visit Ripley's online.

Wild Bill's Wild West Dinner Extravaganza
7600 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

Watch dancing Indians, lariat-twirling "cowboys" and singing cowgirls while you eat dinner. (714) 522-6414

Wild Rivers Water Park
8770 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine

A water theme park with over 40 water rides and attractions, on the site of the late lamented Lion Country Safari. (949) 768-9453

Intrigued by this abbreviated list? Click here to visit Douglas's more complete list of significant locations in Anaheim, including including HISTORICAL SITES, MUSEUMS, SEASIDE ATTRACTIONS, GARDENS, SHOPPING, JUST FOR KIDS, and MISCELLANEOUS FUN categories.

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