Premier Family Guide: The (2023) South Carolina State Fair

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Have you ever been to the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia, SC? This year, the fair will be in town from October 11th to October 22nd, 2023. The SC State Fair is an exciting fall tradition that dates back over 150 years ago!

Kidding Around SC State Fair Guide

Each year, the fair brings in thousands of people from all around the state who enjoy all of the great things it has to offer – games, prizes, rides, food, and animals just to name a few! Whether this is your first year attending or if you’ve been to the State Fair in the past, keep reading as we will walk you through how to save money on tickets, what to expect inside, where to park, what to bring with you, and more! 

Scenes from the South Carolina State Fair

The Fair is Coming to Cola Town! 

The countdown is on and the fair is just around the corner! For some of us, it means that fall and cooler weather are finally here and for others, it is a time for family reunions, fantastic day trips, unmatched entertainment, and great memories!

No matter what you’re reasoning for attending, I think we can all agree the delicious, over-indulging on sweet treats matched with twist-twirly rides is what we’re all most ecstatic about! 

SC State Fair Animals

When You Can Enjoy the State Fair in Columbia, SC 

As we mentioned before, the state fair will be in Columbia, SC from October 11 – October 22, 2023. The fair has different hours depending on the days of the week. Admission into the fair will end TWO HOURS before the fair closes and in general, the rides begin about ONE HOUR after the gates open each day.

On opening day, October 11, admission into the fair will be from noon until 9 pm while rides will be operating from 3 pm through 11 pm. Be sure to check the fair website for a detailed list of admission, rides, and building dates and times. 

Less Crowded Times to Visit the Fair

Any day or time at the fair is sure to be a treat! However, if you’re looking to beat the crowds and you have some flexibility in your schedule, we suggest going during the weekdays, Monday through Thursday. In general, the morning and early afternoon hours are much less crowded.

If you’re limited to only the weekends, try to get in and out by about 4 or 5 pm as any time after this is exceptionally busy!  

SC State Fair games

South Carolina State Fair Tickets

How to Save Money on Your SC State Fair Tickets 

Beginning September 11, 2023 you can save up to 50% on admission and ride tickets by purchasing online or at participating Circle K locations. All tickets purchased in advance can be used ANY day of the fair. Ticket prices for general admission are as follows: 

  • 0-5 years old – free 
  • 6-54 years old – $10 when purchased in advance, $20 at the gate 
  • Senior citizens – $10 when purchased in advance, $15 at the gate

SC State Fair Lunch Bunch Deal 

Another cost-conscious way to enjoy the fair this year is their “lunch bunch” deal. To take advantage of this deal, you must go to the fair on a weekday, Monday through Friday, excluding opening day, October 11th.

Admission tickets will cost $20 when you mention this deal, however, if you leave by 2 pm you will get your $20 back! So, if you’re just looking for a quick adventure or to even just go grab a bite to eat this is the deal for you! 

Purchasing Ride Tickets 

Fair rides, for some of us, are the best part of going to the fair! There are two options for purchasing ride tickets. You can get an all-day wristband that will allow you to ride as many thrillers as you want to or you can purchase individual tickets.

When purchasing the all-day pass in advance you will receive a voucher to take with you and exchange for your wristband or 30 ride tickets. Please be aware, ALL riders must be present to exchange their vouchers! Tickets for rides are: 

  • Vouchers/Wristbands are $30 in advance, $38 at the fair Monday to Thursday, and $40 Friday to Sunday
  • Individual tickets and coupons are $1.50 for 1 ticket, $28 for 20 tickets, $65 for 50 tickets

If you decide to purchase individual coupons, it is important to know that kiddie rides usually cost 2 or 3 tickets per ride while larger rides will require between 4 and 6 per ride. 

SC State Fair rides, South Carolina State Fair

All You Need to Know for Parking at the Fair 

To park at the fair, you will need to enter through Gate 6 or Gate 10. Parking will be $10/vehicle EXCEPT on October 14, when parking will cost $20/vehicle due to the UofSC home football game.

If you are in need of handicap parking, enter through Gate 6 and be sure to have your official handicap license or placard with you. 

Making Your Way Around the Fairgrounds

It is best to think of the fairgrounds as a big rectangle. There are two entrances into the fair: the South Gate off of George Rogers Boulevard and the North Gate off of Rosewood Drive. Both entrances will bring you into the middle where you will also find the majority of the kiddie rides.

If you make your way towards Bluff Road you will find the games, rides, Circus tent, and food zones. On the other end of the fair, towards Assembly Street, you will find all things agriculture, animals, the main arena, and arts and crafts buildings.

One important thing to note: the First Aid Station is located near the North Gate next to the rocket ship sculpture. 

South Carolina State Fair Rides

You Can Rent Strollers and More

Strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters can be rented from the South Gate. In order to rent these items you must show your valid ID and make a refundable deposit. Pricing is as follows:

  • $15 strollers
  • $20 wheelchairs
  • $50 electric scooters 

SC State Fair Packing Guide: What to Bring and Not Bring

Please be aware that the State Fair does have a clear bag policy in place that resembles that of Williams-Brice Stadium. Each person is allowed to have one clear bag. For fair-goers who have MEDICAL needs that require additional bags, after further inspection of your belongings, exceptions are typically allowed. 

Some great things to bring along with you for your day of fair fun are: 

  • Tennis shoes
  • Light jacket if going at night
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen if going during the day
  • Small, personal fan 
  • Small cash and change if you plan to play games
  •  For families who have younger children, we highly suggest bringing your own stroller, foldable wagon, or carrier 

These things might be tempting to bring, but are not permitted at the fairgrounds:

  • Outside food and drinks
  • Selfie sticks
  • Fanny packs that aren’t clear

Sensory Friendly Morning at the SC State Fair 

On Thursday, October 19, 2023 from 10 am until noon, the fair will be hosting a Sensory-Friendly morning.

It’s no secret that the fair can oftentimes feel crowded and overstimulating so during this time, select rides will be operating with no music or lights, barns will be open in order to enjoy the animals, and art buildings will also be open with a much more relaxing atmosphere in mind.

Food vendors will begin their sales at 11 am. 

Columbia State Fair Favorites 


This year, the fair will offer more than 60 exhilarating rides with a little bit of something for everyone! From small kiddie rides that are perfectly sized for our tots, to those that twist and flip way up in the air, no matter what your age (or tolerance of twirling), there’s fun to be had! 

Last year my toddler had a blast on the two-story carousel as well as a ride on the awesome and enclosed, air-conditioned Ferris Wheel…10/10 recommend! They even allowed us to take our newborn in the Ferris Wheel “pod” with us. Another great “ride” to utilize is the Skyglider which takes you back and forth from the middle of the fair to the end of it where you will find a majority of the rides. 

Concerts & Entertainment 

With several stages all throughout the fairgrounds, there are so many wonderful shows and talents to enjoy! Here are just SOME of the most popular acts and stages that we want to be sure you’re aware of:

  • Pepsi Place Stage – all performances begin at 7 pm
    • Eagles Tribute on October 12, 2023
    • Elvis Presley Tribute on October 16, 2023
  • Academic Avenue Stage
    • Boiled Peanut Eating Contest on October 11 at 5:30 pm
    • Mr. Puppet marionettes
  • Roving Entertainment
    • Reflector and Sparkle
    • Buford Bear
    • Safari Sam

Be sure to check the SC State Fair Entertainment Schedule for a full list of concerts and shows! 

SC State Fair Animal area


Yay, the Circus is back at the State Fair in 2023! For the fourth consecutive year, you can enjoy a FREE Circus at the State Fair! During this 40-minute show you will get to enjoy trampoline acrobats, motorcycle and trapeze athletes, animals, and more! The Circus begins each day at 2 pm, 4:30 pm, and 7:30 pm.

The Circus can be found near the South Gate Entrance – just look for the jumbo red and white circus tent. You can’t miss it! All seating is first come, first serve, so if you want a good seat we suggest getting there early especially if you’re planning on attending either of the two later performances. 

Animals at the SC State Fair

SC State Fair Food 

Where are all the fair food lovers at?! At the 2023 SC State Fair, you will find over 90 food vendors selling all the good stuff – elephant ears, corn dogs, deep-fried everything, candied apples, lemonade, funnel cakes, salads, turkey legs and so much more! Is your mouth watering yet? 

Where to Find the Food

Two of the main food zones can be found next to the kiddie areas and the third is near the Circus tent! There are always tons of picnic tables and covered seating options available to sit down and enjoy your tasty treats! Don’t forget about the “lunch bunch” ticketing deal discussed above! 

What to Eat at the South Carolina State Fair

The food line-up is awesome so come hungry! Here are some of the things we had the opportunity to try!

🍩🍔 Donut Burger at DeAnna’s Diner – This was surprisingly delicious! The Donut was light and airy and not overly sweet! The donut bun didn’t take away from the burger flavor at all, which by the way was cooked to perfection! The Burger was topped with bacon which gave a nice balance of salt to compliment the donut and icing drizzle!

Donut burger

🥩 – Garlic Marinated Steak on a Stick also at DeAnna’s Diner was delicious! It was well seasoned, tender but be sure to order more than one because trying to share this caused our family to feud! It was sooooo good! 🤤

🥒🍕 – Okay so this one has raised some chatter across social media and it is time to weigh in! I personally LOVE pickles but my husband does not… we both LOVED this pizza! The Pickle flavor wasn’t overpowering, think of it as Dill pizza instead of Pickle pizza. This will be a newly requested topping on our family pizza nights. We believe there are 2 stands offering this delicacy: Spaghetti Eddie’s (Near Cantey Building) and A&W Concessions (located on the Circus side of the Fair near Skyglider). The one pictured here was from A&W but try them both and tell us which you like best!

Dill pickle pizza, food at the SC State Fair

🎃 Pumpkin Funnel Cake – with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing was absolutely delicious. Lightly pumpkin flavored, just the right crunch and level of sweetness. This is an absolute must try! Prowant Specialty Company

Fried dough at the state fair

🥩🍨DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes were also yummy and though we didn’t get to try all the Sundaes, I would bet everything at the stand including Pulled Pork, Cajun Shrimp and Mexican Street Corn Sundae are bursting with flavor! Both the Mighty Mango Tea and Watermelon Arnold Palmer were light and refreshing and they had a deal for refills which is nice when you’re there all day and night!

Steak Sundae

🌽 Mexican Street Corn Cup and Specialty Cup of Corn from The Meatball Factory were amazing! The Specialty Cup comes with hot and regular Cheeto, Parmesean cheese and mayo – both full of flavor and tender corn. Be sure to top with a squeeze or two of lime and a dash of heat! Everything you need to make it your own is available at the stand.

Roasted corn

More Things To Love at the State Fair 

Can you believe that there are even more great things to discover at the SC State Fair?! The animals are another popular fair attraction! There is an excellent petting zoo, entertaining pig races and swimming, animal shows, and more.

You can also enjoy fair games and prizes, arts and crafts exhibits such as sculptures, paintings, photography, sandscapes, and student art.

Quick Tips for Your State Fair Visit

🎡 There is a clear bag policy so check out their site for details to save yourself time at the gate.

🎡 Plan food stops ahead of time! There are food maps available online and we highly recommend printing one out ahead of time and planning your food stops.

🎡 Go early and plan to stay late! There is so much fun to be had, it’s hard to squeeze everything into one day so chances are you’ll stay longer than you thought you would! Bring a hoodie along for yourself and kids in case it gets chilly at night.

🎡 Pre-plan and prioritize activities – in addition to food and rides there is a sand sculpture exhibit, petting zoo, Circus, livestock competitions, and more! With so many things to do and see be sure to experience the ones most interesting to you first or plan to visit multiple times!

South Carolina State Fair
1200 Rosewood Drive
Columbia, SC 29201 

What is your favorite thing to do at the South Carolina State Fair? 

Find More Fun in Columbia, SC

If you’re heading to Columbia, SC for the fair, don’t miss our giant list of Things to Do in Columbia, SC. It has over 50 places and activities in Columbia for you to check out with your family.

Love fall? Here’s our special list of Fall Activities in Columbia.

Kayla Simmons
About the Author
Kayla grew up right outside of Charleston, SC and is a proud graduate of the University of South Carolina. She has lived in Columbia for a combination of 5 years. Kayla has a background working with special needs children, but now enjoys nothing more than being a stay-at-home mom of two. She enjoys keeping her kids busy by finding unique play spaces and events, involving them in hands-on activities and watching them learn about the world through play. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercise and spending quality time with her family and friends.

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