Are you planning a trip to the LA County Fair? This is #72 on our LA Kids' Bucket List! If you have been before, you know there is so much to see and do, and so much fun to be had. There are rides and midway games, cow milking and sheep shearing shows, bacon donuts and deep fried everything, school project exhibits, arts and crafts exhibits (kids and adults), farm animal competitions and displays, kids' indoor play areas, and so many possibilities for shopping. Of course, you also know it's big, it's crowded, it's hot, and it can get expensive quickly! But it doesn't have to (OK, the heat can be hard to avoid—though many of the shopping buildings have a/c if you want a quick cool down). And there are some free, kid-friendly hidden gems within the fairgrounds that you do not want to miss.
The 2013 LA County Fair map is available online. If you want to visit the midway—all of the typical carnival games and the rides that teenagers love so much—exit the 10 freeway at Fairplex Drive and park at the Gate 17 lot. If, however, you are coming to the fair for the kiddie rides, farm animal exhibits, and food, exiting White Ave. and parking at the Gate 9 lot is a much better choice. Parking lines and entrance lines are shorter, and the ticket booths put you right by the animal buildings. Be sure to check the fair's promotions page, as a variety of stores offer deals if you buy tickets in advance.
Bee Building and Vegetable Garden
The bee building? Indeed! Located in the Heritage Farm and Mission area of Fairview Farms, the bee building features working hives encased in plexiglass. Have the kids find the queen and look at all the work the bees have done. You can also watch the bees going in and out of the hive through clear pipes. And, if you want to see what the bees have been up to, head over to the large vegetable garden just south of the building.
New for 2013 is the Heritage Farm and Mission area in the northern part of Fairview Farms. Every day there are multiple blacksmith shows, where visitors can learn about blacksmithing and see a blacksmith at work. The blacksmith is also available to answer questions when between shows.
Exotic Animal Exhibits
On the hillside in the Home and Garden section is Mojo's African Safari. No, the animals aren't all African, but they are fun to see, and year to year you don't know what might be on display. Birds (the kookaburras are our family favorite), mammals, reptiles, bugs, and even fish. Amazingly, this area does not get very crowded, even though much of it is shaded.
America's Great Outdoors at Wilderness Ridge
At the western edge of the Home and Garden area, America's Great Outdoors is a 1.5 acre interactive area sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and the LA County Fire Dep't Division of Forestry. The various displays look at American western movement. There is an historic fire lookout tower to climb, with displays about fire spotting history. Past activities in this area include using a two-person crosscut saw to saw a piece off a log—it's exhausting!—which they brand with the US Forest Service logo for you to keep; baby trees to take home and plant; and environmental magic shows.
Do your kids love Travel Town? Have you found the trains at the Fair? The far northwestern part of the Fairgrounds is devoted to historic trains, with a variety of car and engine types represented. There's even a depot, built in 1887. Take a peek inside the cars, view the depot (watch out for the gift shop in there!), and see how tall those wheels are. This section of the fair is beloved by grandpas as well as kids.
Garden Railroad Tour
Located in the Kids' Zone, the Garden Railroad is a large permanent model railroad display. Sure, you can walk around and look at it through the fence—or you can take a free tour, at your own pace. This is also the only way to see the Lego display inside. The entrance is at the southwest corner. Relax, let the kids see what funny scenes they can find, take a rest on a bench, and watch the trains go by.
America's Kids Building
Not at all hidden, the America's Kids Building is right in the heart of the kids' section of the fair—but many families just walk right by. Not only does this building house kids' competition entries—from high school projects to kids' art, collections (most kids love to check these out!), sewing, Lego builds, photography, and more—but it also houses free kids' play areas. Past years have variously featured Thomas trains, K'nex, Legos, or wooden blocks; also available are dress up and pretend play. And, if your child (K–8th grade) read a few books over the summer, be sure to be bring your Read-to-Ride form to this building and get free ride vouchers!