When my friend, Ilyse, and I arrived at the New York State Fair, there was no doubt where we wanted to go first, the rollercoaster. Moments later, as we climbed higher and higher up the narrow track, we could see across the entire fair, then we plummeted down, right and left. It was a wild ride and the perfect introduction to one of the biggest family parties in the Empire State.
As the adrenaline subsided, we watched others whip, spin, swing, and tilt to their collective delight on the other rides around us. What a contrast to the calm, relaxing train ride to the fair!
Earlier that morning, Ilyse and I had met on the train. I boarded in Albany and she in Rhinecliff. We talked for a while, then Ilyse pulled out her book while I enjoyed the view of the Mohawk River from the large window by my seat.
From Syracuse Station (SYR), we hopped on a Centro Bus. What a hassle-free way to go! The fair attracts over 1 million people in just 13 days, but without the hassle of driving and parking, the crowds comfortably filled the fairgrounds around us.
As we got off the coaster, a concert was beginning at the Chevy Court Pavilion. The New York State Fair has hosted a number of big-name entertainers over the years, including Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart and Bruno Mars. The band, Jukin’ Bone, an early 1970s rock band from the Syracuse area, was into its second song by the time we found a seat.
We listened to one set, then decided to find something to eat. Part of the fun of going to a fair is the fare. As we entered the Dairy Products Building, a girl handed us free chocolate milk. Then we saw it, an incredible sculpture made entirely out of butter under a temperature-controlled glass dome that slowly circled, round and round.
We wanted to see the animals, too. The goats with their goofy expressions were especially endearing. We also watched sheep being shorn and a farmer milk a cow.
As we departed the animal pav-ilions, a parade was about to start. Three more dairy princesses and a Native American princess waved at us. Tractors, military men and a brigade of bagpipers entertained us. At one point, Blues Brothers-look-alikes pranced and sang along the avenue.
As the parade petered out, we hopped on a Centro Bus to our hotel, The Embassy Suites by Hilton Syracuse Destiny USA. A complimentary glass of wine awaited us after we checked in. After relaxing for an hour, we walked across the parking lot to shop at the Destiny USA, a destination unto itself packed with boutiques, restaurants, and family-friendly entertainment. What a fun, full day!
For more info about taking Amtrak to Syracuse to enjoy the New York State Fair, click here.
Top 10 Things to Do at the New York State Fair
In no particular order, here are New York By Rail’s must do’s at the fair:
1. Eat local Syracuse foods, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Gianelli Sausage (Opposite Dairy Products Building).
2. Visit the Dairy Cow Birthing Center (Near Youth Building).
3. Listen to a free concert (Chevy Court).
4. Indulge in a $1 baked or sweet potato (Horticulture Building).
5. Taste unique New York treats (Taste NY Marketplace).
6. Sidle up to the Milk Bar for 25-cent milk (Dairy Products Building).
7. See a mammoth sand sculpture get built (Exposition Center).
8. Walk through the History of the NYS Fair Exhibit (Grange Building).
9. Tour the historic trains (behind the Horticulture Building).
10. Ride the 1,400-foot Broadway Skyliner (Midway).
Don’t Miss the Music!
Each year, the New York State Fair features a wide range of live musical performances, from country to nostalgic to pop. There are two concerts per day at Chevy Court, four per day at Experience Stage and other performances throughout the fairgrounds. Concerts are included with admission. This year’s line-up includes:
• Bad Company (August 21)
• Dropkick Murphy’s (August 25)
• Midland (August 26)
• Why Don’t We (August 29)
For the complete concert line up, including a number of big-name artists, go to nysfair.ny.gov.
Plan Your Carefree, Car-Free Trip to the Fair
Going to the New York State Fair on Amtrak is easy and relaxing because you don’t need to deal with traffic or parking. Here’s a sample itinerary:
1. Take Amtrak to Syracuse Station (SYR), then hop on a Centro Bus to the fair. Uber, Lyft, and taxis also take you there.
2. Eat lunch inside one of the food pavilions or at one of the many concessions.
3. Enjoy the rides and entertainment.
4. Watch a parade or a cooking or agricultural demonstration.
5. Tour the barns to see the blue-ribbon animals.
6. Eat dinner.
7. Watch a concert.
8. Take Centro Bus to the Embassy Suites Destiny USA hotel.
9. The next morning, return to the fair, or shop and enjoy the entertainment at Destiny USA.
10. From the fair, take a Centro Bus to SYR to catch your train home. From Destiny USA, take the free hotel shuttle to SYR, a block away.
Take Amtrak to the New York State Fair
Use the See New York and Save 15% discount off one regular (full) adult fare. In addition, one child, ages 2 to 12, may receive a 50% discount on Amtrak within New York State on selected service routes, traveling with an adult. Purchase tickets at least five days in advance. The 2019 New York State Fair is August 21 to September 2. Blackout dates apply.