Parent's Guide to the SD Fair: PARKING

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 <--you are here

KIDS RIDE GUIDE <--click here

KIDS ACTIVITIES <--click here

Parking at the Fair can be c-r-a-z-y-! But before you even get to the parking lot, keep in mind the exit lanes on the freeway can back up 1-2 miles ahead, especially on weekends. Be sure to get into the exit lane early so you don’t have to cut in line later on. I say this from experience because I was rear-ended by someone who cut in line behind me and damaged my car. Ok that’s all I’m going to say about that...

Sooo, after you get to the parking lot entrance, there may be a little wait to pay. More about costs below. Once you pay, you may have to park in the back, walk 20 minutes to the gate and then wait in line at the gate. Geez, I’m making this sound like a pretty fun experience already, huh?! But don’t be discouraged, you can still have a fun day at the fair. I just want you to know ahead of time what to potentially expect. There are a few tips I can share to help make this arrival process a little bit easier and less stressful. One tip would be to park Off-Site for FREE and let the shuttle driver take you straight to the gate entrance! Details below!


Play some word games in the car with the kids while you’re waiting in line.

GET THERE EARLY or at opening if you can.

You’ll get a closer parking spot up front so you don’t have to walk as far, both ways….especially at the end of the day when the little feet are tired and ask to be carried.

I arrived at the parking lot entrance at 11:20am (thanks to the fender bender I was in that set me back 20 minutes). The fair gates opened at 11am that day and I still got a parking spot 10 stalls away from the entrance! And this was on opening day weekend at that. So get there early or close to gate opening times and you *should* be okay.


If you end up parking in the verrrry back, or anywhere else for that matter, there are trams that will take you right to the gate entrance. Strollers do have to be folded up though.


Before you lock the car and head toward the Fair, make sure you have EVERYTHING you need. You don’t want to go alll the way back to your car once you get up to the gate. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, cell phone (power charger!), wallet, TICKETS?!, kids?


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.


Oh and one more comment about the entrance…make sure you get in the right line. This applies both to entry and security.


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.


(All of this information is from the Fair’s website:

You can either park ON-SITE or OFF-SITE.

Tune your radio to channel AM 1680 for real-time parking updates!! (But it was so staticky on my old car radio that I couldn’t even hear it…)


General: $17

(if you get there early you can *usually* get a good spot up front so you may not need to pay for preferred parking if you want to park up close)

Preferred: $27

Payment: cash & credit cards accepted

Car Size: vehicles must be no longer than 27 feet to fit into a single parking space. No RV’s or oversized vehicles.


Opens at 9am (2 hours before the gates open). Except on July 4th it opens at 8am.