Back in 1854, the first California State Fair was held in San Francisco, with the cows standing on display in Mission Dolores. The fair moved to Sacramento for good a few years later, but the annual event (now held at the capital city’s Cal Expo Fairgrounds) still celebrates the Golden State’s diverse agricultural bounty—as well as offering a generous helping of rides, entertainment, sports, and culinary diversions.
While this classic fair has plenty of blue-ribbon sheep, rabbits, and crafts on display, it also showcases a wide range of Golden State delights, including cooking demos, beer and wine tastings, and culinary competitions, such as the California Homebrew Competition and the pros-only California Commercial Craft Beer contest (recent winners of the latter have included San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co., West Sacramento’s Yolo Brewing Co., and the Central Coast’s Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.). There are parallel competitions for California wines, olive oils, and cheeses—but you can also watch (or compete in) the more old-school pie- or corn-dog-eating contests.
Fair season also brings horse racing to the Cal Expo fairgrounds, as well as pro rugby, motocross, and a cornhole championship. Friday and Saturday nights, meanwhile, get jazzed up with fireworks. If you love over-the-top fair food, check the calendar for the $2 Taste of the Fair days, when you can enjoy $2 samples of the decadent delights.