The saying is true: When it comes to the North Carolina State Fair, nothing could be finer. With no shortage of food or fun, fairgoers can find plenty of free activities to enjoy once they walk through the gates. We’ve put together the following list of 50 free things to do:
1. Fairgoers who bring at least five cans of Food Lion brand food to the N.C. State Fair can receive a free admission ticket to the fair as part of Food Lion Hunger Relief Day Thursday, Oct. 20.
2. Take a five-minute riding lesson taught by instructors from across the state at the Hunt Horse Complex.
3. Attend the Alley of Breeds exhibit in the Hunt Horse Complex conducted by the North Carolina Horse Council to see horses up close and learn about 10 different breeds from horse specialists. This educational exhibit will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
4. Participate in the Red Horseshoe scavenger hunt for a chance to win a “Rockin’ Rider” Stable Horse.
5. Sample a hush puppy from the historic Old Grist Mill.
6. Learn about the fair’s 163-year history at the N.C. State Fair’s museum located in the historic School House in Heritage Circle.
7. Visit the working tobacco barn in Heritage Circle and watch as volunteers cure tobacco the old-fashioned way.
8. Form a group and join in on the tobacco-stringing contest to name the state champion. Entry time, and practice time, will be Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The contest will start at 2 p.m.
9. Watch James Madren demonstrate his woodcarving techniques to handcraft large, dough bowls in Heritage Circle.
10. Attend a Sunday church service hosted by Campers on Mission at the church in Heritage Circle (services held at 8:30 a.m. & 11 a.m. on Oct. 16 & Oct. 23).
11. Kick back and enjoy a variety of music on the lawn of the church in Heritage Circle.
12. Experience the authentic sounds of Appalachian mountain music at Jeff Robbins’ Mountain Music, Stories & Dance show in the Tobacco Pavilion in Heritage Circle (show times are in the Daily Schedule).
13. Pick up some baking tips at a bread-baking demonstration held near Heritage Circle every day except for Preview Day, Oct. 13.
14. Take a picture with the 21-foot-tall Smokey Bear display at the N.C. Forest Service Exhibit, and learn about forest fire prevention and the importance of trees.
15. Stroll through the winding pathways of the Flower and Garden exhibit, featuring beautiful gardens grown by local organizations.
16. Check out a gardening demonstration at the Flower and Garden Show.
17. Is it your dream to see a unicorn in the flesh? Stop by the Flower and Garden Show at night to see the Dream City Unicorns, a stilt-walking duo, glow in the dark as they frolic through the gardens.
18. Explore the Wildlife Trail (presented by the Wildlife Resources Commission across from the Village of Yesteryear) and experience the naturalist cabin, as well as get a close look at common raptors.
19. See freshwater mussels up close in a new display at the Wildlife Resource Commission’s exhibit.
20. Practice your aim and learn about firearm safety from Wildlife Enforcement officers at the Pellet Gun Range.
21. Step back in time and learn about traditional heritage crafts in the Village of Yesteryear. This exhibit features more than 75 crafters creating, displaying and selling handmade crafts ranging from hand-thrown pottery and woven baskets to wood carvings and beadwork.
22. Learn traditional techniques from Lyle Wheeler, a craftsman who uses colonial-era methods to craft shaker-style chairs in the Village of Yesteryear.
23. See a collection of vintage farm equipment ranging from aged hand reapers to old milk bottles at the Antique Farm Machinery exhibit.
24. Be mesmerized by the speed and agility of the jumping rabbits at the rabbit hopping contest held in the Rabbit Barn.
25. See the more than 60 animals on display at the State Fair Ark in the Exposition Center, representing the state’s diverse livestock breeds.
26. Witness the skills of extreme BMX cyclists at the King Action Sports Stunt Show.
27. Marvel at the giant pumpkins and watermelons on display as a part of the Great Pumpkin/Watermelon Weigh-off Competition in the Horticulture section in the Exposition Center.
28. Make a trip to the Southland Dairy Farmers’ Mobile Dairy classroom by the Exposition Center to learn about modern dairy farming practices.
29. It’s never a baaaad idea to check out the open goat shows on display in the Jim Graham Building – Oct 18-19 (meat goats), and Oct 22-23 (dairy goats).
30. Head on over to the open dairy and beef cattle shows on display in the Jim Graham Building – Oct. 18-19 (beef cattle), and Oct. 21-22 (dairy cattle).
31. Pick up a sample of kettle corn from the Carolina Kettle Corn booth located across from the waterfall at Dorton Arena.
32. Are you a Cirque du Soleil fan? If so, check out a Down to Earth Aerials performance to see Amanda Leoni and her troupe perform silk acrobatics on the North Dorton Lawn.
33. Check out local musicians on the Kitchen Craft Waterfall Stage Oct. 13-23 as a part of the Homegrown Music Fest. No ticket reservations are necessary.
34. Enjoy performances showcasing North Carolina’s musical heritage ranging from old-time bluegrass music to clogging and square dancing, at the Folk Festival.
35. Watch North Carolina music acts like Delta Rae, Chris Lane and more take the Dorton Arena stage as a part of our Homegrown Music Fest. These concerts are free, but are ticketed. Fairgoers must pick up tickets at the Glass Ticket Booth the day of the concert.
36. Stroll through the Field of Dreams miniature farm to learn what crops are part of your favorite meals.
37. Visit famed cartoonist and writer Guy Gilchrest in the Field of Dreams tent, where he’ll tell interactive stories and illustrate them on the spot.
38. Cheer on kids as they star in The Cutest Show on Earth, a high-energy, interactive show held in Kiddieland that encourages kids’ imaginations.
39. See Red Trouser Show held near Gate 1 and be hypnotized by this acrobatic duo’s feats of strength.
40. Visit with Casey Cardinal in his new Clubhouse in Kiddieland. He’ll be making regular appearances and handing out Casey masks and baseball cards.
41. Take the kids to learn about agriculture and how products go “from the farm to the kitchen” at the Magic Bean magic show in Kiddieland.
42. Are you the next junior Cake Boss? Fairgoers ages 13 and up can register to participate in the Team Cake Decorating Contest held in the Education Building.
43. Kids can head over to the Education Building to participate in our new on-the-spot competitions in team cake decorating and sugar cube building.
44. Immerse yourself in a world of adventurous pirate action as you watch a Pirates of Colombian Caribbean performance held each day by Gate 11.
45. Stop by the Got to Be NC Agriculture exhibit and learn about what N.C. products you can buy locally. Visitors will also be able to sample Got to Be NC food and products at the exhibit.
46. See artwork and photography created by North Carolina students displayed in the Kerr Scott Building.
47. Catch the Circle “C” Racing Pigs at the Hogway Speedway and cheer on your favorite racer.
48. Listen to the Sandlofer family recount the history of wolves at the Wolves of the World show, and even see a hero wolf who once saved a young girl from drowning.
49. Check out the International All-Star Circus to see a talented cast who hail from around the world perform an array of acts full of international flavor.
50. End your day at the fair with the nightly fireworks show at 9:45.