It’s Indiana State Fair time, which means it’s time for the Indiana History Train! Since I manage the Train, I spend a LOT of time at the Fair. I was told it was selfish for me to keep all my tips and favorites to myself – so here goes! Some of these are basics, bust some are a little off the beaten path.
Once you buy your ticket, pay for parking and start buying up all the food – you really want to start watching your dollars! If you’re an Indiana Historical Society member, you get complimentary tickets to the State Fair. If you’re not, you should really consider becoming one (mostly because we’re pretty awesome). But otherwise, I recommend $2 Tuesdays.
This all depends on where you’re coming from and how much you want to spend. All of the lots, inside and outside of the fairgrounds cost $8 per vehicle. If you’re coming from the North, I recommend parking at the grounds of the Indiana School for the Deaf. If you’re coming from the South, use the 38th Street lot. Inside the fairgrounds fills up on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you’re looking for a low-cost option, then I suggest either parking at Glendale Mall and riding the shuttle for free or riding IndyGo for $1.75 per ride. Motorcycle, bicycle and ride-sharing are all options as well.
Several volunteers (thanks IHS volunteers!) ask for my food recommendations. Here’s my unofficial, no-where-near-exhaustive list.
The Fish Hut – this is located just Northeast of the DNR building. Best catfish nuggets and walleye sandwiches you’ve ever had. I’m not kidding. This place is my favorite and I make multiple stops here each year. So light and flaky.
Bison – relive the frontier days of Indiana by eating some bison! Their stop is located on the main concourse, just east of Pioneer Village. It’s lean, it’s flavorful, and their Poutine is excellent.
Steak – everyone knows the Steak and Ribeye tents, but I enjoy the Sirloin Tips and Mushrooms. Those stands are located a few places around the concourse, and I make sure to get it at least once.
Corn on the Cob – I frequent the Roasted Corn stands (there’s one on both the East and West sides of the North concourse). It’s hot, buttery and delicious. Also – they have apple cider slushies! They are so refreshing and absolutely one of my favorite treats at the Fair. They remind me of childhood and trying to make your own popsicles with apple juice.
Healthy(ish) – There is a café and a couple of other deli type stands, but my favorite recommendation when you’re trying not to do ALL the fried food are the Gyro stands. The meat is sliced right off the spit and there are Greek salads on the menu.
Pork – We can’t talk about the Indiana State Fair and not discuss pork. The Pork Tents are staples, but I am absolutely digging the BBQ Pork Split this year. It’s a small dish that has BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw, and mac ‘n’ cheese. It has everything I want in the right portions.
Dessert – I know it’s not a traditional funnel cake or elephant ear, but there’s a stand on Main Street, near the Swine Barn, that has New Orleans style Beignets. Get them – you won’t regret it.
What to Do
The Indiana History Train – come see me! We’re located in the Northeast corner of the Fairgrounds, next to Pioneer Village and the Family Fun Park!
Pet a Baby Cow – located in the West Pavilion is a fun little paddock where you can donate a few bucks to spend real time with calves. Cows are basically just huge dogs to me – tell those babies what good cows they are!
People-Watch – y’all are great entertainment during my many hours at the Fair!
What to Buy
I make three main purchases at the Fair each year.
T-shirt – I go to the United State of Indiana booth inside the Expo Hall and get a new Indiana-centric shirt each year. They have all kinds of fun designs. When it’s not Fair time, be sure to visit our History Market for Hoosier Proud shirts!
Honey – Visit the Purdue Extension Agriculture Building and go see the Beekeepers. Get the Strawberry Whipped Honey. Toast will never be the same.
Handmade Goods – I usually purchase something in the Pioneer Village area – whether that’s a broom, pottery or leather. Being a person invested in history (big surprise there), I enjoy the older methods of doing things and I enjoy supporting the artisans who craft those items.
See you at the Fair!