Along with plenty of sunshine, fresh fruit and beach days, summer brings another nostalgic, All-American past time: the fair.
Here in Southern California, the Orange County Fair, or the OC Fair, is a pretty big deal. In 2019, over one million guests visited the fair for carnival rides, fun games, and infamously over-the-top fair food! Admittedly, I had not visited for years for various reasons - clashing plans, difficulty in finding someone to go with, you name it. Well, this year I made it a point to get myself to the fair, and I'm glad I did!
On a hot summer Saturday in July, I headed south to the OC Fair & Event Center to start my OC Fair adventure. The fair is always divided into sections, and it's fun to explore the different sections depending on what you are into.
While I waited for Mariah to arrive, I took a stroll around Centennial Farm to take a peek at the produce and encounter some furry friends. I find this part of the fair to be very peaceful, so it was a good start for me.
Even though Costa Mesa is anything but country, the OC Fair always manages to bring a little farm and country to Orange County. From award-winning produce to towering sunflowers to loudly bleating goats, fairgoers can take a break from their typical SoCal scenery at Centennial Farm. I particularly loved seeing the fruits and vegetables growing on the vine - we see our fruits and veggies in a grocery store but don't always know how they grow. Did you catch the brussel sprout plant above?
When Mariah arrived, she was just in time for one of my favorite OC Fair past times: Alaskan Pig Races! Yes, you read correctly. Pig races. This may sound weird to non-locals, but what can I say? Cute pigs racing and jumping over hurdles is a thing.
We were lucky to find some seats in the shade - normally the arena fills up very quickly. The guys who run the show are really punny and always elicit belly laughs in the crowd. They started their spiel and before we knew it, we were oohing and awwing at the cute pigs and laughing at all of the puns in between. My regular readers may know I am a connoisseur of 'wholesome fun,' and pig races are right up my alley.
After the races, it was time to test our tummies and give our tastebuds a good time.
Every time I visit the fair, I remain loyal to Chicken Charlie's. I'm not sure my loyalty is entirely intentional, but they always seem to have items just outrageous enough for me to consider, while still being edible. Looking at the emphasized items above, I was disappointed with the options, but decided to read the smaller menu below anyway.
Thankfully, I noticed my favorite item on the smaller menu, the Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich!
I am a big fan of sweet with salty, so this sandwich has been one of my all-time favorite fair items for years. The crunchy chicken is a perfect savory match for the sweet, jelly-filled cloud that is the Krispy Kreme donut. I was so happy to have this sandwich again! Take this as a reminder to always read the "fine print!"
With full bellies, we walked the fair and enjoyed all of its aspects, including rides, games and vendors.
Some parts of the fair that I feel are often overlooked are the Home Arts and Visual Arts collections, located in the main mall. These collections showcase amazing handmade items ranging from visual art like paintings to crocheted blankets and even incredible table settings.
Not only is it fun to see all of the handmade items, but visiting these halls is a great way to escape the heat!
After our time in the galleries, we were back to indulging in treats, playing carnival games and riding a couple rides.
This year, the OC Fair utilized both an OC Fair app and the FunPass app, which allows in-app ticket purchasing for both games and rides. This new system eliminated the need to wait in line at the ticket booth. and allowed for easy management of remaining tickets.
Did someone say fried mac n' cheese bites?
As the sun began to set, dinnertime reared its head and it was time, yet again, for some "real" sustenance. Being a creature of habit, I headed right back to Chicken Charlie's and ordered fried frog legs and fried Oreos!
If you've never tried frog before, I always describe it as a cross between fish and chicken, which totally makes sense given the nature of the animal. The frog legs at Chicken Charlie's were wonderfully seasoned, perfectly crispy, and delicious! And of course, the fried Oreos were perfection as always.
While we ate, the sun had set completely, transforming the OC Fair into a glowing nighttime wonderland. Although we had walked through the carnival area before, walking through it at night seemed like an entirely new experience. Everything was bigger, brighter, and louder.
To end our great summer day, we got one last bird's eye view of the fair from the top of the ferris wheel. It was the perfect ending to a classic summer day, full of fair favorites and fun experiences.
Have you ever been to the fair?
Until next time,