Who doesn’t love the Florida State Fair?
From the livestock tents to the magical midway, circus acts and politicians, hot bands and local personalities — and food! Lots of food! And some of it is not good for you, which is, of course, the appeal of a state fair.
Florida State Fair showcases history, agriculture
While boasting “the largest midway in the USA,” the core purpose of any state fair is to showcase the state’s agricultural products, farms, ranches and livestock.
Established in 1904, the Florida’s State Fair wasn’t designated the state’s “official” fair by Florida legislators until 1975, setting the stage for its move from downtown Tampa seven miles east to its current 355-acre site at the intersection of Interstate 4 and U.S. 301.
A must-see for history buffs is Cracker Country, a living history museum that tells the story of the settlement of Florida during the 1800s by cattle ranchers, who got the name of “Crackers” by the sound of the whips they used to drive cattle from the Carolinas and Georgia into Florida.
The museum re-creates an 1890s rural Florida town with original buildings dating from 1870 to 1912, which were relocated to the fairgrounds from across the state. During the fair, costumed “interpreters” portray the daily living experience of Florida’s pioneers.
While many consider carnival rides and corndog concessions the highlights of the fair, the overriding mission is to showcase the state’s agriculture industry – from the cattle that still roam Florida’s prairies to the fruits and vegetables that serve as the nation’s winter garden. The best in the state are showcased in the fair’s pavilions.
The fair operates under the umbrella of the Florida Department of Agriculture, although the event is self-supporting and relies on income from entry fees, concerts, rides, sponsorships and vendors to survive.
Roving one-man band, lumberjack demonstrations, pig races and circus acts, complemented by “World Jumping Rope Champions” are the highlights of this year’s fair.
Entertainment is included in the price of admission.
For a daily schedule of entertainment, go to floridastatefair.com/events
Florida State Fair Fast Facts
Dates: Feb. 8-19, 2024
- 10 am to 9 pm — Monday-Thursday. Midway opens at 1 p.m. and closes 1-1/2 hours after gates close.
- 9 am to 9:30 pm — Friday-Sunday. Midway opens at 10 a.m. and closes 1-1/2 hours after gates close.
Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 North, Tampa, FL.
GPS: 27°59’22.35″N × 82°22’15.73″W
How much are tickets to the Florida State Fair?
Adult Advanced Admission (12+): $10
Child (6-11): $6
Senior (55+): $8 (Valid Mon-Fri Only)
Any Day Ride Armband: $30
Weekday Armband: $20
To purchase tickets and armbands online, go to floridastatefair.com/tickets/
For more information, visit the Florida State Fair web site at floridastatefair.com or call 1-800-345-FAIR.
Reservations for HOTELS near Fairgrounds
RV Camping at the fairgrounds
Electric hookups, pet-friendly. $37/night for 30-amp service; $47/night for 50-amp service. Advance reservations required. Sites are assigned first-come, first-served.
This year, you can book your reservation online.
Other Camping Options
Best Camping near Tampa Bay. A roundup of Florida Rambler’s top public campgrounds in and around Tampa Bay, ideal for your visit to the Florida State Fair.
Hillsborough River State Park. Camping, kayaking, hiking, biking and a humongous swimming pool are the top features of this state park that straddles the Hillsborough River. Read more: Hillsborough River State Park offers a wilderness experience not far from Tampa
Lithia Springs County Park. Scenic campsites, natural environment and a cool, clear spring.
Other things to do near Tampa:
Pinellas Trail: On the west side of Tampa Bay is one of the most progressive and appreciated rails-to-trails projects in all of Florida. The 37-mile Pinellas Trail starts in Tarpon Springs and runs south through downtown Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, Pasadena, ending in St. Petersburg. We have two articles for more information: Scenic window to another world and Treasured St. Pete bike trail
Busch Gardens: The Gulf Coast’s only theme park, Busch Gardens is a whole bunch of fun. Take a safari on the Serengeti Plains, or experience the thrill of your life on the SheiKra roller coaster. Visit the web site at seaworldparks.com/buschgardens_tampa
Ybor City: Once the cigar capital of the world, Ybor City retains much of Tampa’s old city charm and Latin flavor. Restaurants, art galleries, pubs and cafes, and you can still see Tampa’s famous cigar makers practicing their trade. Explore by foot for the best experience.
Fort Desoto: Even if you don’t camp here, you’ll want to go to the beach here. Fort Desoto’s beaches consistently rank among the Top 10 beaches in America. Read these Florida Rambler articles: Fort Desoto Park and Camping at Fort Desoto
Thai market and brunch at a Tampa Buddhist Temple: When visiting Tampa, one of the most intriguing experiences is an open-air Sunday brunch at a gorgeous Buddhist temple — Wat Mongkolratanaram, or Wat Tampa for short.
Five favorite places to paddle board in Tampa. For paddle boarding, it would be hard to find a better destination than Tampa Bay.
More from Florida Rambler
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 14 years ago.