Budget-Friendly Guide to the San Diego County Fair

Kids at San Diego County Fair on a Ride @sandiegocountyfair

Yet another reason to love summer: the San Diego County Fair comes to town June 8 – July 4! With this year’s fair theme “Heroes Re-Unite”, your family will surely love to reunite with the fair in a more traditional sense this summer. You’ll love the good, old-fashioned charm of the fair from carousel rides and concerts to homemade crafts and down-on-the-farm fun. Read on for our insider tips on squeezing every bit of fun out of your trip to the fair on a budget. Read on for some serious cash savings on everything from admission and food to rides and parking, so that you’ll leave with only priceless memories.

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Save big on getting in the door with these free and discount deals on tickets. Keep in mind that fair entry tickets are not available at the gate this year. You can only buy tickets online in advance for the date you want to attend. Note that capacity is limited, so get yours in advance before they sell out.

Tickets are cheaper if you go during the week from Wednesday-Thursday; they're more expensive on Fridays-Sundays. (The fair is closed Mondays & Tuesdays in June.)

Kids Day:
Kids 12 and under are free every Friday!

Ages 5 and under are free every day.

In years past, they offered free admission to kids 12 and under who read 10 books certified by their teacher or librarians. There’s no mention of it for this year, but they are still updating their website as of this publication date. Check here for updates to see if it will be offered this year.

Vons and Albertsons will have $3 discount codes off adult tickets, good for any day of the fair.

Costco has a family pack available that includes admission and rides.

Teachers, Military, First Responders and Government Employees can get discounted tickets through the GovX program. 

Season Pass:
There is no season pass offered this year due to capacity limitations; however, if you purchased a “Best Pass Ever” in 2020 and didn’t use it in 2021, you may use it this year. Present it at the gate, no need to reserve a ticket online.

Wed/Thur: $15/adults; $12/seniors 62+; $12/youth ages 6-12

Fri-Sun: $20 adults; $17/seniors 62+; ($17/youth ages 6-12 on Sat/Sun, but free on Fri.)

Buy tickets online here


Kids know the fair is synonymous with rides, so plan ahead and buy a ride package.  They’ll have the classics like the Ferris wheel, but they’ll also have a Kids Zone designed for toddlers and young ones with age-appropriate rides.

Ticket Packages:
The earlier you buy, the more ride tickets you’ll get. If you buy from April 1 – May 6 you’ll get 50% more, or from May 7 – June 7, you’ll get 25% more. If you buy tickets after June 7, you’ll pay the regular rate. Click here for ride packages.

Unlimited Rides Deal:
This one is for the ride-lovers where you’ll have unlimited rides in the Fun Zone and the Kids Zone for one price. The “Pay-One-Price-Ride Days” is only valid on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 am-8 pm. Cost: $45 if you purchase by June 7; or $49 after June 7. Click here for unlimited rides deal.

Tip: Kids who don’t meet height requirements must be accompanied by a paying adult – so make sure you buy enough tickets!


Little crafters or cooks can enter a slew of contests from whipping up the best salsa or guacamole to making the best friendship jewelry and will get free entrance into the fair for showing off. They have a new category this year called “Home Made”; which celebrates all of your creations made at home. Click here for all of the fun competitions and contests available this year. 


Food prices can really add up, but there are always ways to save at the fair, and foodie deals are no different.

Food Coupon Book:
Buy a discount coupon book to “save on food, products, rides and games, as well as restaurants and shops outside the fair”. This deal isn’t yet activated online for more details, so click here to check back later. 

Bring your own lunch to the Fair if you apply to these criteria: No questions are asked if you tote in outside food for picky eaters, snack lovers, or for those with food allergies.

Sampler Tastes:
In years past, they’ve held a Taste of the Fair where you can buy a “taster” portion to sample select foods from each vendor. This was every Thursday from noon-5 pm for $3 per sample item. It’s not yet published if they’ll offer this foodie deal or not this year so click here to check back later.

Kids' Meal Deals:
In years past, some food vendors offered a Kids’ Meal Deal noted by a sign at participating food booths, where kids can score an entrée, side dish and soft drink for $5.99. It’s not yet published if they’ll offer this kids’ meal deal or not this year so click here to check back later.


Asian kids looking out window of car on family road trip

Parking is always the biggest question when going to a big event and luckily the fair has several options for on-site, up-close for extra and off-site parking for free. To save money, you can park at nearby Torrey Pines High School for free and catch the free shuttle over to the fair entrance. Note that parking is only available for purchase online in advance for the day you wish to attend. Click here for more parking info.

Parking Costs: $15 for General Parking (Main Lot, Solana Gate or Horsepark Gate); $30 for Preferred Parking (closest to the fair’s main entrance); FREE at Torrey Pines High School.

Tip: It looks like there’ll be a Discount Coupon Book coming online soon with some possible parking discount options. Click here to check on this later. 

Good To Know: If you get locked out of your car or return to find a dead battery, “the Automobile Club of Southern California will be on hand from 1:00-10:00 pm each day to assist drivers”.

San Diego County Fair
Hours: 11am-10pm Wed-Thur & Sun; 11am-11pm Fri & Sat

2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar Fairgrounds
Online: sdfair.com

—Bonnie Taylor, Cherie Gough & Beth Shea


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