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Parent's Guide to the SD Fair: GENERAL INFO, GUEST SERVICES & FOOD

OK, I'll get right to all the details that (I think) parents want to know. Here's an outline that I'll be updating over the next few days...

INTRO <--click here


TICKETS & DISCOUNTS <--click here

PARKING -<--click here

KIDS RIDE GUIDE <--click here

KIDS ACTIVITIES <--click here


When you decide to go to the Fair, don't go on a day when they're CLOSED! Yes, the Fair is closed some days during the week. Fun Zone (ride) Hours are different than Gate Hours. Note there are FOUR different Gate Entrances and a Security Checkpoint at each entry. Find all of these details below under "General Information".

The Fair is so considerate of all the Guest Services they offer! From FREE Kids ID bracelets, sensory rooms, stroller/wagon rentals, phone chargers and more. Details below under "Guest Services".

Did you know you can BYO Food into the Fair?!?! There are some restrictions, especially about liquids and drinks. Some food booths offer Kids Meal Deals, there's a Healthy Eating food booth, Sample Bites are offered once a week and a Mystery Bar to find. Details below under "Food".

Most of this information comes directly from the Fair's website:



May 31st - July 4th


Every Monday & Tuesday in June is CLOSED! They’re open Monday July 1st & Tuesday July 2nd.


Gate hours are when you can enter the grounds. The Fair stays open after the gates close for the night; see Fun Zone hours for those approximate closing times. These times are subject to change. Please check back a day or so before you attend for the most accurate information.

Friday May 31st: 4-11pm

Wednesdays & Thursdays: 11am-10pm

Fridays: 11am-11pm

Saturdays: 11am-11pm

Sundays: 11am-10pm

Monday July 1st: 11am-10pm

Tuesday July 2nd: 11am-10pm

Wednesday July 3rd: 11am-10pm

Thursday July 4th: 10am-11pm


The Kids’ Zone ride area closes one hour earlier than times listed above. Closing time varies according to demand. These times are subject to change. Please check back a day or so before you attend for the most accurate information.


There are 4 entrance gates so remember which one you entered so you’re not walking around for an hour trying to find your car. TIP: I like to take pictures of where I parked (parking lanes are marked) and which entrance I came in through.

  1. Durante Gate

  2. (Del Mar) Arena Gate

  3. O’Brien Gate - main entrance

  4. West Gate - back entrance


Make sure you get in the right line. There are TWO lines. One for those WITH TICKETS already and one for those who NEED TICKETS.

​We stood in line for 5 minutes before I realized we were in the line for those who already have tickets... We went over to the ticket booth to get my Best Pass Ever ticket; which had zero lines. When we walked back over to the line for those with tickets, the lines were already short again so we really didn’t have to wait long at all despite being in the wrong line to begin with.


There are TWO lines. One for those WITH STROLLERS and one for those WITHOUT STROLLERS. Guards were good about directing people accordingly at the time we were there, but just make sure you’re in the right line.

Everyone will go through security. Empty everything from your pockets and walk through the scanner.


You may bring backpacks, diaper bags, tote bags and other large bags with you. All bags and parcels will be inspected as you enter the Fair. You will need to unzip (unsnap, untie, etc.) all compartments so security personnel can look inside.


Before you go through security, make sure all water bottles and sippy cups are EMPTY. Bring them in empty and you can fill them up once you get inside. You can bring in FACTORY SEALED drinks though, just make sure they’re not opened before you go through security.


The San Diego County Fair can be pricey to make a day of it for the family, but they offer a lot of GUEST SERVICES that are so considerate for families who may need a little extra help.


After you get into the Fair, your very first stop should be at the nearest Information Booth or Guest Services to get a FREE “People Finder” bracelet for your kids. You write your phone number on the inside (but not the child’s name), peel off the little sticker and wrap them around your kids’ wrist (or ankle if they’ll pull it off their hand). ;) If they get lost, they can show their bracelet to a worker who will call you.


Take a picture of your kids before you enter the Fair so you’ll have a recent photo and you can describe exactly what they’re wearing if they get lost. Also, tell your kids if they’re old enough to remember what you are wearing so if they get lost, they’ll know what color of shirt or funky hat to look for. Or whatever you happen to be wearing that they’ll remember.


If you didn’t bring your stroller or don’t want to chance it getting taken when you’re on a ride, just stop by the rental booth and rent one from the Fair.

Strollers $12/day

Double Strollers & Wagons $17/day


This is for lost items and munchkins, aka kids.

Where: near the Clubhouse inside Grandstand East.

Children who have become separated from their parents are brought to the Guest Services office, where they will have a quiet place to wait. We act quickly to find lost children and reunite them with their parents. Children who become separated from their parents should go to a uniformed Fair employee, or a Fair ambassador wearing a royal-blue shirt or jacket.


If your phone battery is low and you don’t have a power charger, head to the Plaza de Mexico to charge it up.


"Patrons with autism and other sensory-sensitive conditions may find the sights and sounds of the Fair challenging and overwhelming. To help make their visit more enjoyable, the Fair has partnered with KultureCity, whose Sensory Inclusion program has been successfully implemented in various public venues across the United States. The Fair will offer two Sensory Stations, as well as noise-cancelling headphones and other tools, at no charge. Visit the Guest Services Office in the East Grandstand for more information.”

There are 2 locations:

  1. Clubhouse

  2. Creative Youth next to the Kids Zone


The Fair has designated “Quiet Areas” throughout the Fairgrounds. These areas typically have less activity, plus spaces to sit and regroup after becoming overstimulated:

  • Sensory Stations at Guest Services and Creative Youth

  • Garden Show

  • The Farm


If you get hurt head to the First Aid station and they’ll take care of you.

Where: Inside the Grandstand East across from CA Grown near the Clubhouse.



Yes you CAN Bring Your Own Food! And you should because it’s reeeaaally expensive, and everything is FRIED. So if you want cheap healthy food, BRING YOUR OWN!


You CAN bring your own drinks into the Fair, BUT, it MUST be in a FACTORY SEALED bottle. You cannot bring sippy cups filled with juice or thermos water bottles filled up. Bring them EMPTY and find a water filling station once you’re inside. If you want juice for your kids, bring a small juice bottle that’s still Factory Sealed and then open it up once you’re inside and pour into your kids sippy cups.

This is copied directly from the Fair’s website:

"If you have dietary restrictions, or if your child will only eat jelly sandwiches, you may bring food and factory-sealed, non-alcoholic beverages. Please see our Guest Services section for more information on what is allowed.

You are welcome to bring your own food and beverages to the Fair; however, alcohol, glass containers and metal knives and forks are prohibited. All beverages must be in factory-sealed containers, meaning reusable containers such as sports water bottles and sippy cups cannot contain beverages when you go through the security check at the entrances."


Participating food vendors offer Kids’ Meal Deals. This includes an entree, side and drink for $5.99. Look for the Kids Meal Deal sign at the booth.


Albertsons & Vons has a food booth for those of you who crave healthy eating options. Located on Wyland Way, near the east end of the Grandstand, the Albertsons/Vons General Store has fruit bowls, sandwich wraps, salads, juice, nuts, baked chips and more.

Several food stands have gluten-free or healthy options. For example, Roxys and Biggys list gluten-free items on their menus, and many food stands offer salads or grilled chicken.


Taste of the Fair is every Thursday from 12noon to 5pm, where food vendors offer a small portion of one of their featured foods for $3.00. Great for small appetites, or for grazing your way through the Fair.


The Wicked Wahine is located somewhere on the Fairgrounds as a speakeasy with a fabulous view and equally fabulous craft cocktails. It’s open every night of the Fair, and it’s up to you to find it. Ask around!


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