Are. You. Ready?! The state's largest annual event, the N.C. State Fair draws nearly one million visitors through the gates each October in Raleigh, N.C. (and marks what many believe to be the surest sign yet that fall has officially arrived).

Eleven days of high-flying rides, deep-fried foods, live music, stunt shows, educational exhibits, nightly fireworks and more have made for a can't-miss event for generations of families—2023 marks the 155th year of the event!

When is the N.C. State Fair? What are the days and hours?

The N.C. State Fair takes place in Raleigh, N.C., Thurs., Oct. 12, through Sun., Oct. 22. The hours are:

  • Oct. 12: Noon-11pm
  • Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21: 9am-midnight
  • Oct. 15-19 and Oct. 22: 9am-11pm

Note that the gates close for admission at 9:45pm each night.

N.C. State Fair drone photo


Do I need tickets to enter the N.C. State Fair? How much does it cost? Is there a free-admission day this year?

Tickets are required for entry to the N.C. State Fair.

If purchased in advance (through Oct. 12) online, gate admission is $10 for adults and $5 for youth (ages 6-12). 

Starting Oct. 13, tickets purchased at the gates of the event are $13 for adults and $7 for youthChildren ages five and under get in free.

Tues., Oct. 17, is Senior Citizens' Day. Ages 65 and up get free admission.

Thurs., Oct. 19, is the Smithfield Foods Hunger Relief Day. Fairgoers receive free gate admission with a donation of six cans of food (fairgoers have donated nearly 6 million pounds of food since the inception of this promotion in 1993!). 

N.C. State Fair


Do I need tickets for rides at the N.C. State Fair? Is there an unlimited option?

Most rides at the N.C. State Fair require five to six tickets each.

A sheet of 18 ride tickets can be purchased in advance online (through Oct. 12) for $10. Starting Oct. 13, ride tickets cost $1 per ticket and can be purchased online or at the fair.

New for 2023: Ride ticket credits will be placed on a chipped card to be presented at each ride and automatically debited the ticket count for that ride. Ride ticket credits will carry over year-to-year!

An unlimited ride wristband is also available. The price is $30 if purchased in advance, or $40 at the fair. Ride wristbands do not include admission to the fair and are good for one day. They also do not include admission to two activities—the State Fair Flyer and the State Fair SkyGazer.

N.C. State Fair


What kind of rides does the N.C. State Fair have?

Giant Ferris wheels, spinning tea cups, upside-down stomach turners, haunted fun houses, high-flying swings, sling-shotting roller coasters and more—with nearly 100 different ride and game options, the N.C. State Fair has it all! You can see a full list of rides and games here.

Returning this year is the ever-popular State Fair Flyer, a 10-minute chairlift ride that carries riders 1,400 feet across the midway as high as 45 feet in the air, and the State Fair SkyGazer, a 155-foot-tall Ferris wheel that holds more than 200 people (and acts as the largest traveling wheel in America).

Please note that both of these attractions require separate ticket purchases not included in the unlimited ride wristband ($6-10).

N.C. State Fair


What kind of food options does the N.C. State Fair have? What new options are there this year?

Turkey legs? Check. Roasted corn on the cob? Got that. Elephant ears and funnel cakes? Always. Candy apples, cotton candy and deep-fried Oreos? Yes, of course!

The vendors at the N.C. State Fair provide all the classics you've grown to love at this time of year (plus many more).

Always a highly-anticipated announcement, 50 new food options were just unveiled—highlights include Dill Pickle Donuts, Ostrich Smashburgers, Brisk and Waffles on a Stick, Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese Danish, Street Corn Pizza and so much more. !

N.C. State Fair


Are beer and wine served at the N.C. State Fair?

Yes! Beer and wine were first served at the N.C. State Fair in 2017, and needless to say, it's been a hit.

The N.C. Public House serves Tar Heel State-made beer, wine, cider and craft soda. The attraction has been so popular, it now has a bigger home—in the South Dorton Arena Lobby just across from the State Fair SkyGazer.

One ticket ($10) gets you two servings of wine (3 ounce), cider or beer (8 ounce). Each attendee is allowed one ticket only (two servings). Craft soda purchases can be made for $5.

A Kegs & Corks Pass is available for $17 and includes a FastTrack gate admission ticket plus one ticket for the Public House.

The Public House is open noon-10pm daily, with extended hours until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Fri., Oct. 13, 5-8pm, is N.C. Beer Night at the fair, highlighted by educational sessions, demonstrations and "ask a brewer" opportunities. 

Beer photo


I heard the N.C. State Fair has fireworks—how do I make sure to see them?

The N.C. State Fair has nightly fireworks at 9:45pm over the large pond. The best place for viewing will be either near gate 8 or Heritage Circle. See a PDDF map here (fireworks areas near top left).

N.C. State Fair


Is there music at the N.C. State Fair? Are concerts free?

Yes and yes! The Homegrown Music Festival made its debut at the N.C. State Fair in 2015, making the event the first state fair in the country to showcase only musical acts from its home state.

For 2023, the Homegrown Music Festival will feature two stages of music and more than 100 concerts from local artists.

All concerts are free with admission to the fair.

State Fair music


What other attractions are there?

There is so much fun at the N.C. State Fair! Racing pigs, a lumberjack show, a street-drum corps, folk festival, monster truck rides, motorsports mayhem, garden and agriculture competitions and plenty more.

Download the daily schedule to get a feel for when and where your favorites are taking place.

N.C. State Fair


Where do I park for the N.C. State Fair? Is parking free? Is there a shuttle?

Free parking is available at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds as well as at the nearby Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena (short walking distance to fair entrance).

The N.C. State Fair also offers free off-site parking at the corner of Edwards Mill and Reedy Creek Rds., with a free shuttle running the short trip to the fair entrance at gate 9 on Trinity Rd. Shuttles run continuously, beginning at 9am each day (11am on opening day, Oct. 12). Address: 4501 Reedy Creek Rd., Raleigh, 27607.

A second free park-and-ride option is located near Exit 290 off Chapel Hill Rd., with shuttles running continuously and dropping off at Gate 7. Address: 5766 Chapel Hill Rd., Raleigh, 27607.

A special, temporary Amtrak train station is also in operation during the N.C. State Fair, stopping just outside of gate 2. Search for station code NSF on N.C. By Train to book your trip.

Is the N.C. State Fair accessible for visitors with disabilities?

The N.C. State Fair welcomes visitors of all abilities and has provided an accessibility guide for those who may have questions.

The fair also has announced a second annual accessABILITY Day, presented by Bandwith—taking place Sun., Oct. 15—offering a quieter, less stimulating environment (rides and games will operate during some hours with no lights, music etc.). Find more info here.

Photos by Justin Kase Conder via the N.C. State Fair

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