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California State Fair
Cal Expo
1600 Exposition Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815
(877) CAL-EXPO

Price: $12 adults/$8 ages 5 to 12/free for kids aged 4 and younger/$10 for seniors older than 62
Hours: July 12 to July 29; Mon to Thurs – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri to Sun – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Click here for Magical Midway and KidsPark hours

The California State Fair boasts a truly amazing world of entertainment, knowledge and fun featuring exotic creatures, world-class wine, exciting rides and attractions, unique shopping and incredible free concerts every year at Cal Expo. The 2012 Fair’s theme is “Fun that Moves You,” and there is more than enough action to keep the family going for days.

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Getting There/Parking
Price: $10 parking per vehicle/$5 per motorcycle

This popular fair fills up quickly, so you may end up parking quite far away from the action. Free shuttle buses come around regularly to transport guests from parking areas A, B, C, D and E to the fair entrance; these shuttles are in operation from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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The Golden 1 Stage
For sheer excitement, the Golden 1 Stage is the place to be. More than 60 rounds of amateur boxing are scheduled for the Golden 1 Stage Sunday, July 29 at 1 p.m., and award-winning brews will be featured at the Brewfest Saturday July 28 at 5 p.m.

The State Fair is known far and wide for the big name stars performing each night at free 8 p.m. concerts. Four extra large screens help bring the action right into the forefront no matter where you sit. Scheduled performers include:

Thurs, July 12 – Fab Four, The Ultimate Tribute
Thurs, July 19 – Rick Springfield
Fri, July 20 – Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.
Sat, July 21 –  Scotty McCreery
Tues, July 24 – Hot Chelle Rae
Wed, July 25 –  Jim Messina
Fri, July 27 – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Promenade Stage
Free shows are held on the Promenade Stage each evening beginning at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Come rock out, go country, get jazzed or get your groove on. Click here for a list of performers.

PG&E Center Stage
The 17th Annual Multicultural Gospel Celebration takes place on the center stage Saturday, July 14 at 10 a.m.; a special Children’s Concert Hour will be part of the program. If you want to be truly mesmerized, look no further than Suzy Haner’s amazing and entertaining hypnotism shows. She performs each night on Center Stage at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

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The California State Fair includes all of the classic fair experiences, such as midway rides, food, county displays and interesting features about California through the ages. The fair also boasts enough state-of-the-art, unique and wild experiences to keep every family member engaged.

The Arts
In Buildings 7 and 8 of ExpoCenter, expect award-winning entries from the State Fair Fine Arts competition, as well as from shows including creative arts, handcraft, needlework, fiber art, quilts and scrapbooks. The work of talented California students is also on display in Building 4, including architectural drafting, photography, electronics and carpentry.

Kids and adults alike will love the Toytopia interactive exhibit in the ExpoCenter’s Building 5. In addition to displays of historic toys and video games, guests may build play structures and get hands-on with a giant doll house. Planes, trains and automobiles are part of the fun, and a life-sized stuffed animal zoo promises snuggly fun for every child.

The Farm
A perennial favorite with fair-goers, The Farm features newborn farm animals, home gardening and agricultural displays, healthy cooking demonstrations, aquaculture, an insect pavilion, farm games for kids and a real blacksmith shop in action.

Birds in Paradise
The tropical floriculture tent is an amazing and wonderful world full of lush tropical plants and exotic birds such as macaws, cockatoos, canaries, peacocks, amazons, kookaburras, finches, conures, curassow, emu and rosellas.

Livestock and Horses
The Livestock Pavilion includes exciting shows put on by the Cavalcade of Horses as well as trick riding and rodeo events. Come to the pavilion for the contests such as the Champion Challenge, Fur and Feathers, County Fair Best of Show, Junior and Open Livestock, RSNC Ranch Sorting and Versatility Ranch Horse competitions.

Related: Best Go Kart Racing in Sacramento

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Food and Refreshments at the Fair

Dining at the fair is a spectacular mix of traditional favorites and exotic new tastes. Corndogs, cotton candy, barbecue and funnel cakes are always available, but there will also be the chance to try a maple-bacon ice cream sundae, alligator or a deep-fried scorpion if you are so inclined.

California is rightly proud of its viniculture and wine lovers may sample ample award-winning options. SaveMart Supermarket Wine Country features winners of the prestigious California State Fair wine competition.

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Large chain hotels may be the norm in Sacramento, but there are other options that allow guests to experience more of the area’s unique architecture and charms. For those traveling with RVs, Cal Expo offers an updated park with a standard rate of $35 per day.

Amber House Bed and Breakfast
1315 22nd St.
Sacramento, CA95816
(916) 444-8085

Price: from $169

Amber House offers old-world charm in the heart of Sacramento. The elegant and peaceful setting is perfect for relaxing before and after the excitement of the fair, particularly with room options such as a Jacuzzi, private deck or canopy bed. CBS Sacramento Local Tip: Amber House is offering a complimentary glass of wine to guests who mention CBS Local when they book their State Fair trip.

The Greens Hotel
1700 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA95815
(707) 365-5905

Priced from $69 to $119

The Greens Hotel is a charming and eclectic place to stay, located in the heart of one of Sacramento’s trendy business, shopping, fashion and dining districts. This clean, eco-friendly hotel includes chic and modern furnishings from local art galleries, flat screen TVs with satellite, free gated parking, a pool and private garden.

Dining Away from the Fair

Sandra Dee’s Bar-B-Que and Seafood
601 15th St.
Sacramento, CA95814
(916) 448-6375

This small, family run restaurant serves some of the best barbecue and Creole food in town. Fried turkey, slow-cooked ribs and luscious seafood are only the start of the mouth-watering options. Enjoy delicious sweet-potato pie and red velvet cake for a truly soul-satisfying meal.

Uptown Café
1121 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA95815
(916) 649-2233

This quirky café is a perfect example of great things in small packages. A local favorite, the Uptown provides huge plates of high-quality food at low prices. Daily specials are extensive and at times exotic, and the pancakes couldn’t be better. Uptown offers great, friendly service no matter how large the crowd.

Related: Best Champagne Brunch Spots in Sacramento

Valerie Heimerich is a freelance writer out of Sacramento. She typically covers animals and community issues. She has volunteered and worked for many organizations helping animals and people.
Her work can be found at