I have a million and one posts to write about our trip across the United States, our time on the AlCan Highway, and all the individual stops we took, but as I sit here on a crisp morning, I feel compelled to write about experiencing the Tanana Valley State Fair here in Alaska for the first time. This was honestly the first time for each of our children going to a proper fair, and it was so neat to see the absolute joy and wonder in their eyes. I remember that joy from the Fryeburg Fair in Maine in my early 20s, and I remember it from Pennington Day in New Jersey once upon a time, so this was so special.
All About the Tanana Valley State Fair
We clearly moved to Alaska at the right time because the Tanana Valley State Fair is annual event, held for 10 days each July in the heart of Fairbanks, Alaska. It was actually founded in 1924, and it is the oldest state fair in all of Alaska, so there’s your fun fact for the day. It’s grown immensely from its modest roots and, today, the Fairgrounds span over 100 acres and has increased in duration from the original 3-day span to 10 days of family entertainment.
When people think of Alaska, they often think of the glacial areas. They think of cruise ship routes, Anchorage, and Juneau, and if you’re a fan of rom-coms, I’d be willing to wager that Sitka is even in your vocabulary. Interior Alaska – where Fairbanks lies – is often overlooked, and the Tanana Valley State Fair seeks to highlight the beauty of this region all while encouraging community involvement, tourism, and a love of this great state.
What to Do at the Tanana Valley State Fair
Like every good fair, the Tanana Valley State Fair has a little bit of everything. Boasting over 300 booths with everything from traditional fair food to Native foods, shopping, games, rides, and more, there’s truly something for everyone. There are also livestock events, competitive events, 4H showcases, kids’ activities, and entertainers. Basically, our goal was to soak up as much as possible, and we did.
We downed birria tacos from a local food truck, El Ranchero, and they were amazing. The boys split butter-dipped corn at Emjay’s Corn on the Cob. Naturally, the kiddos wanted to try sno-cones because we’re terrible parents who’ve literally never given our kids sno-cones (but they’ve had sulbing, so that counts, right?). We found a Korean shop, Seoul Gate, and Mieke requested gimbap, which warmed our hearts, and she was in heaven. We finished it all off with popcorn for the kids and milkshakes for Ryan and I at The Alaskan Soda Jerk, a popup that we love.
All Our Favorites from the Fair
Okay, to be fair, they all said the entire fair was their favorite, and I concur, but I asked each one what their favorite part was anyway. Ready?
- Ryan – the food and watching the kids have fun (specifically the birria!), as well as seeing the Veteran community
- Spencer – the huge swing and the sno-cone
- Porter – the rollercoaster and playing with the sand at the sand sculpture area
- Mieke – the gimbap and the tilt-a-whirl
- Me – seeing the kids experience the fair for the first time, as well the generosity of the fair attendants
Multiple times, attendants for rides let the kiddos go a second time, or didn’t charge Ryan or I tickets to go with the kids. It wasn’t something expected, but it was definitely appreciated! Ultimately, it was such a beautiful taste of Interior Alaska. People were kind. The events were fun, and it felt like a hometown fair, which was something we all hoped for.
What to Know About the Tanana Valley State Fair
Dates: The 2023 fair just finished (ya girl is late), but it’s an annual event, and I’ll definitely share the 2024 dates next year before the event. Know that it begins each year in July, and the 2023 fair ran from July 28th through August 6th.
Price: Adult tickets were $9 apiece, and the boys each cost $7. Mieke was free. The rides did cost money. We bought the 20-ticket package for $50, and with most rides being 1-2 tickets, the kids got to do plenty. Individual booths with food cost extra, but most took cash and card, so we did just fine.
Address: 1800 College Road, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99709
Accessibility: Most of the Fairgrounds are accessible, and there was a booth for individuals with mobility needs at the front where one could rent scooters, wheelchairs, etc.
Our Tips: Bring plenty of sunscreen and bugspray! The mosquitoes weren’t bad, but the sun was definitely strong. We also brought our own water in with no issues. Wear comfortable shoes, and have fun!