When you think of a state fair, New Jersey isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind. Though nicknamed the Garden State, New Jersey is more often associated with its oil and chemical refineries and distinctive smell as you drive down the Turnpike than its expanses of farmland, vineyards, cranberry bogs, and forests.
But in fact, New Jersey hosts two state fairs annually. One is officially supported by the state's Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission. The other is the State Fair Meadowlands, which is not official, but still a whole lot of fun for everyone.
The Meadowlands is only a few miles from New York City. It’s home to Giants Stadium, the Continental Airlines Arena, and the Meadowlands Racetrack.
But for a few weeks each summer, it hosts a slew of carnival rides, attractions, vendors, concerts, and events for those of us who don’t want to trek out into the country for the official fair in August. I’ve been to a lot of fairs in my time, and I have to say State Fair Meadowlands is one of my favorites, especially this year.
Opening weekend featured a slew of special events, including the first-ever pigs' feet and knuckle eating contest featuring world-class competitive eaters like Crazy Legs Conti and Erik “The Red” Denmark, both of whom went on to compete in Wednesday’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest. I can’t say this was the most savory event I’d ever seen, but it was entertaining.
My family accompanied me to the fair and everyone found something fun to do, whether it was my father-in-law chomping on a huge turkey leg, my mother-in-law shopping at the jewelry tents, my husband and daughter flying through the air on a hang glider ride, or all of us together settling in to watch the Belmont Festival of Magic.
A couple of do-not-miss attractions:
- Handmade sweet and savory crepes made by Mark and Peter from Crepe Fusion – These guys are getting set to open their own restaurant in Hoboken, but are flexing their culinary skills at the fair with delicious crepe creations you can easily eat on the go. I had the Strawberry Delight: fresh strawberries, Nutella, powdered sugar and whipped cream wrapped up in a soft crepe—‘nuff said.
- The Web Launcher – This ride gives you a taste of what it’s like to be Spider-Man. Think a safer version of a trapeze, without having to hang on. You can bounce, flip, fly and have a great time.
- Corn cakes with mozzarella cheese – Close to the Crepe Fusion booth is a stand selling lots of different types of Mexican dishes, including one that is two griddle corn cakes with melted mozzarella in between. This is the only place I’ve ever seen this yummy treat.
- The Giant Wheel – Hands down the best way to enjoy the fair by taking in the thrill of whooshing up and down on this 100-foot Ferris wheel while soaking in the beauty of the New York skyline.
The State Fair Meadowlands is only in town until July 8, so if you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking it out. Whether you’re in it for the thrills, the food, the games or the sights, there really is something for everyone. A day at the fair is a great way to experience a New Jersey summer tradition and maybe think a little differently about the Garden State.