Say the words “county fair” and you automatically travel back in time, to a more bucolic place. Lazy summer days pass by as you idly stroll on sawdust and straw (people actually strolled in the old days, probably wearing straw hats!), eating buttery corn-on-the-cob (real butter! non-GMO corn!), checking out prize-winning livestock, then cooling down with a fresh-squeezed lemonade (with real cane sugar, naturally). So quaint. So, well, corny.
One could be excused for thinking the same of the L.A. County Fair. After all, it takes place at the farthest reaches of L.A. county in relatively quaint Pomona. Many people make that assumption. And then they go to The Fair.
It’s big. Really big. In fact, it’s massive. The exposition is one of the largest county fairs in the United States, dwarfing the scale and scope of many STATE fairs. During the Fair's 19 days, over one million visitors cruise through the gates every year since 1948 (except 1963). By comparison, the Kentucky State Fair attracted just over 609,000 visitors in 2017 over its 11 days. (Sorry, Colonel Sanders, but you’ve been served.)
Anyone who has spent a day at the Fair can tell you, it’s like walking into a bustling metropolis all its own. Imagine a fusion of EPCOT, Coachella, Ringling Bros., and every farmers’ market in the state happening at the same time, and you’re pretty close. The Fairplex sprawls across 543 acres, nestled against the hills in Pomona. Every square foot is packed with sights, sounds, smells, flavors. Presidents, campaigning politicians and visiting dignitaries have made it a regular stop, mingling with the masses. Now it’s your turn.
The L.A. County Fair is hitting the Mother Road with this year's theme: "Get Your Kicks," named in honor of the famed Route 66. The historic "Main Street of America" connected Chicago to L.A. and right to the gates of the L.A. County Fair, which is uniquely situated just off Route 66 in San Bernardino. The Get Your Kicks on Route 66 attraction replicates iconic sites from the 2,448-mile trek through Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona, featuring famous landmarks like the world’s largest rocking chair, the Cadillac Ranch, and the Wigwam Motel. At a recreation of the historic Mt. Baldy Drive-In in La Verne, guests can enjoy a vintage movie while snacking on popcorn and old-fashioned candy from the snack bar. The mini road trip ends at a replica of the Santa Monica Pier, complete with seaside snack shacks and aerial entertainment. The Route 66 value menu will feature $6.60 meals and classic Fair/Route 66 food items at each concession stand.
To get you in the mood, we've created a "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" playlist, featuring 20 versions of the Bobby Troup standard recorded by everyone from Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby to The Rolling Stones, The Cramps and Depeche Mode.
The Farm is the Fair’s big beating heart, and is the biggest draw of them all. Amidst all of the changes in the ways Californians — and all Americans — consume food, the state remains the nation’s largest breadbasket. Even in troubling times, like our recent record-shattering drought, our system of farms retains its status as a wonder of agribusiness. The Farm offers a menagerie of animals and prize-winning produce (the organic farm onsite boast 150 California specialty crops). If miniature animals are your bag, the Little Red Barn is just for you…just don’t try sneaking out any with you in that bag! There’s a full slate of live entertainment every day, to boot.
The Fair offers up exotic attractions to rival those of any theme park. There’s rides galore on the midway, from the kid friendly to the more extreme for adrenaline junkies. Also along the midway, Esmeralda’s Steampunk Circus boasts feats of daring from world-class aerialists that you definitely shouldn’t try at home. Esports hosts a massive gaming show, where joystick fanatics can dive into VR realms, sample new games, and enter gaming competitions. You can even challenge the pros, if you think your thumbs are up to it. For old school fans, the Retro City Arcade has everything from the OG Pac-Man to pinball. And the whole family will enjoy viewing Rail Giants - explore some of the world's largest steam engines and diesel locomotives and see why they had such an impact on California's early history and industry.
Portals are immersive audiovisual spaces that connect communities around the world in live, full-body video communication. You can step into The Portal - Route 66 & Beyond, meet someone in an identical space somewhere else on earth, and speak to them as if you're standing in the same room.
Celebrate L.A.'s diversity at the Dragon Theatre, featuring the famed Beijing Acrobats; Plaza de las Americas, an Olvera Street showcase; George Lopez's Chingon Kitchen, offering authentic Mexican cuisine and artwork; local musicians, art and microbrews at Mi POCO LA; and CEEM, a weekend of African American culture (Sept. 7-9)
Adults can bring their ticket stub from the Fair and receive free clubhouse and general admission to the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred Fall Meet. Enjoy live wagering and panoramic views at the luxurious Top of the Park or craft beers and pub fare at the Finish Line Sports Bar & Grill.
The Fair keeps the party going with the popular End of Summer Concert Series, featuring a sizzling all-star lineup of evening concerts at the Grandstand. Highlights include throwback R&B/soul (The Commodores, The Stylistics, The Ohio Players, WAR, Tower of Power); disco (KC & The Sunshine Band, Kool & The Gang); '80s night (A Flock Of Seagulls, Wang Chung, Missing Persons); classic rock (Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Oyster Cult, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, The Beach Boys, Bad Company); country (Kane Brown, Dustin Lynch); and a wide range of Latino performances, including Luis Fonsi, Mariachi USA, Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias, Ramon Ayala and Nicky Jam. Admission to the Fair is included in the price of concert tickets. Concerts start at 7:30pm Thursday-Sunday. For the full schedule and links to buy tickets, visit lacountyfair.com/entertainment/concerts.
It’s a county fair, so naturally, everything is battered and fried. Well, most things. In keeping with its scale and scope, the Fair has a wide range of cuisines on offer, from the decidedly decadent to fresh and healthful. For a more upscale experience, the Wine, Spirits & Beer Marketplace is a culinary showcase unlike any other, and offers daily wine tastings and flights.
Presented by the Millard Sheets Art Center at Fairplex, Alt 66 features unique immersive environments designed for guests to experience Route 66 in essence and variations of its historic landmarks and roadside attractions. Experience Route 66 in up to twenty different exhibitions that share the interesting, odd, weird, and kitsch that has come to define the most iconic road trip for travelers around the world.
The L.A. County is a straight shot out on the 10 Freeway for most visitors. If you’re of a greener inclination, you can catch the Metro’s 310 bus line from Union Station, which typically takes about an hour each way.
Metrolink San Bernardino is offering Saturday and Sunday service to the L.A. County Fair. All trains will stop at the Fairplex station beginning at 9:30 a.m. (except for Train 351, 352 and 353). From there you will catch a free shuttle to the Yellow Gate to begin your day of fun. Metrolink is offering an additional train service back to Union Station, departing the Fairplex station at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday so you can stay for dinner and last-minute shopping.
Once you’re there, you may just want to stay. All of this stuff takes more than a day to see, right? Pitch a tent…literally. The Fairplex boasts a large KOA campground with tent spaces, RV parking, and cabins for you “glampers.” The area also features several hotels and motels, but that’s not anywhere near as fun.
Through the years, the Fair has put L.A.’s best on proud display. And for all its bluster and bigness, it retains its old school charm. While the rest of the state, the nation and the world looks on in wonder, all you have to do is get yourself over to Pomona to experience it for yourself. So what are you waiting for? Here’s some basic info to get you started.
See you at The Fair!