The North Carolina State Fair is almost here.
If you’re new to Raleigh, you know the fair is THE place eat your weight in fried food, acquaint yourself with agriculture, play games, make yourself sick on rides, watch fireworks, and then do it all over again the next day.
To get there, you must park your car in a field, walk along a dangerous road, and cross Blue Ridge, where some nice traffic control officers are making sure you don’t get hit. If you’re tired of that, you have other options. (Though I’m sure you need the exercise so you can eat that fried Snickers bar.)
James and I talked last year about doing a podcast episode on the ways to reach the fair without taking a car. We were too late to get to it. This year, I thought about doing an episode, but I’m having trouble reaching someone who wants to talk about it. Weird.
So instead, here is a blog post with some of the details I gathered online and from media people at Amtrak and GoRaleigh. Now if the State Fair media team would just take me up on my request to ride the gondola …
I have ridden the bus to the fair, and I highly recommend this route. The fair’s motto is “nothing could be finer.” Well, not much is finer than not having to park your car and hike with droves of people along Hillsborough Street.
The kind media folks at GoRaleigh didn’t return my calls; I was going to ask how long the state fair bus has been operating and how many people ride it each year. Anyone know?
Anyway, GoRaleigh will drop you off right at Gate 1. You have plenty of options to catch the bus, including a new addition. The first three are park-and-ride:
- Cary Towne Center Mall – 1105 Walnut St, Cary | Non-stop shuttle runs every 30 minutes, 8:30 a.m. – midnight
- Triangle Town Center Mall – 5959 Triangle Town Center Blvd, Raleigh | Non-stop shuttle runs every 30 minutes, 8:30 a.m. – midnight
- White Oak Crossing – 1205 Timber Drive East, Garner | Fridays starting at 2 p.m., all day Saturday and Sunday
- Hillsborough Street Bus – Catch the bus downtown or along Hillsborough Street. The route starts at the NCDOT Building on Wilmington Street at Morgan Street and stops a few times along the way. Look for blue State Fair signs or check out the list.
Get a Ticket
The fare is a flat $5 cash (round-trip), but it’s half that for seniors 65 and older and passengers with disabilities. Unlike the fair rides, children under 40” tall ride free. Leave your GoPass at home; you can’t use it for this ride.
You can buy tickets on site for those first three park-and-ride options. The fairgrounds also has a place to buy them. If you’re on the HIllsborough bus, bring exact change; there is no ticket seller.
You can also buy your bus ticket in advance a GoRaleigh.org/parkandride. Looking for a personal experience? Buy them at the GoRaleigh Station downtown or the operations facility on Poole Road. Need more info? Call 919-996-FAIR.
Not in Raleigh/Cary? GoTriangle and GoDurham also offer options. Check those out and view parking info. (Note: this page lists slightly different times for the Amtrak, but I got mine directly from their media person, so please make note when you buy your ticket. It sucks to miss your train.)
If you live farther afield than Raleigh proper, you might be able to reach the State Fair by train. Amtrak offers a special stop across from the fairgrounds, and they will do again this year, making it 22 years in a row.
According to the Amtrak info page on this, the train works for customers who are coming from Charlotte, Kannapolis, Salisbury, High Point, Greensboro, Burlington, Durham, and Cary.
The Carolinian is the train that makes this special trip, stopping at a platform on the southwest corner of Blue Ridge Road and North Carolina State Highway 54 (Hillsborough Street). Train 80 will arrive at 10:11 a.m. Fairgoers can then catch Train 79 at 5:22 p.m. to go home.
The stop is wheelchair accessible, and the train has free Wi-Fi. When you book tickets, be sure to use the code NSF. You can do that online of course, or call 800-BY-TRAIN. According to the media team, 3,461 people used this option in 2016.
No matter what mode of transportation you use to get to the fair, be sure to stuff your face with something unhealthy and have a good time!