You’ve seen it in movies, music videos and Netflix shows: From playing ring toss and picking out a stuffed-animal prize to a ride on the Ferris wheel, the county fair is a prime dating real estate.
But how much is it going to cost you and your plus one?
We gave it a try at this year’s San Diego County Fair and break it down below. (Disclaimer: Your date might look different than this one. You might like soft pretzels, while we like corn dogs.)
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For two adults to visit the San Diego County Fair on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday, July 4 — the last day of the fair — it's $20 each. Pro Tip: Pay for this and parking online ahead of time.
Running Total: $40
We drove one car to the fairgrounds. If you drive, you’ll need to come up with a plan for parking. This year, there are three different options. The first is a free lot at Torrey Pines High School. It's about four miles away, so there is a free shuttle to take you from the lot to the fair entrance. The second option is general parking for $15, and, finally, there is preferred parking for $30.
We opted for general parking.
Running Total: $55
The first thing you’ll experience when you walk into the San Diego County Fair is people standing, waiting to take your photo as you walk in. On your date, it might be nice to have a souvenir to remember the day by. We’ll come back to this at the end, since that's when you are able to view the pictures and decide to purchase (see Souvenirs).
One of the crown jewels of the San Diego County Fair is, of course, the food! There are more than 100 stands this year boasting brightly colored flags and pictures of their latest culinary creations.
If you’re wondering, one turkey leg will set you back about $22. So, yeah, inflation. That could quickly bump up our running total. We opted for two items from C&C’s The Ranch: A half-pound sausage ($13.79) and an order of fries ($6.90), and one item from Big Dogs, a jumbo corn dog ($9).
Running Total: $84.69 (taxes/fees not included)
We couldn’t eat our food without a drink or two to go with it. For this date, we went with two bottles of water from C&C’s The Ranch ($4.60 each) and one lemonade from Big Dogs ($4).
Running Total: $97.89 (taxes/fees not included)
Tickets at the San Diego County Fair can be used for both rides and games. The standard amounts and costs, as listed on the ticket booths, are four tickets for $5, 16 tickets for $20, 40 tickets for $50 and a Fastpass for $25.
We initially bought 16 tickets for $20 and set off to find the best rides and games we thought we could win at. We quickly caught on that most games and rides require more than one ticket per person. After we both rode the carousel once (four tickets per rider), we were already down to half of our tickets.
With our eight tickets, we tried to find games that either two people could play for four tickets each or that cost a total of eight tickets. We found a game that gave you 12 balls for eight tickets. To win, we had to toss the balls into a certain-colored hole to win a prize.
After failing like champions, we decided it was time to get more tickets. Sixteen didn't feel like enough (you get hooked!). We got eight more tickets for $10 and tried to be more strategic about playing games we thought we could win at.
Running Total: $127.89 (taxes/fees not included)
Remember that photo you took on your way in? The cheapest option for purchase is $14.99 for one 11x14 print. We stumbled upon a photo booth as we were walking from the food area to the rides and games, and decided it might also be a fun souvenir. For three photos on a photo strip that prints twice, it was $10.
Final Total: $137.89 (taxes/fees not included)
For perspective, this is around the same price it would cost to buy two any-day day passes to the San Diego Zoo ($130) and slightly pricier than two date-specific tickets for SeaWorld ($119.98).
If you want to extend your date into the evening, the San Diego County Fair is also home to the Toyota Summer Concert Series. On Sunday, July 3, the iconic three-piece from Argentina, Los Enanitos Verdes, is taking the stage at 7:30 p.m. There are tickets available for this concert being sold for $25 each, adding more than $50 (with taxes and fees) to your date total, but here's the catch. According to the San Diego County Fair website, concert tickets include same-day fair admission so you wouldn't need to pay for those separately (win-win!). Still that would add 10 bucks to your total, bringing the total to nearly $148.
For more information on this year's San Diego County Fair, click here.