Pennsylvania Farm Show Tips for Families
The 2020 PA Farm Show starts this weekend. Here's what you need to know if you want to take the kids.
The 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Show is Jan. 5 to 12 in Harrisburg.
Right after the holiday season, I have my eye on one other thing — the PA Farm Show! The 2020 PA Farm Show is January 4 to 11. My boys have never missed a year and love it, so I thought I’d pass along some tips. At the bottom of this post, I’ve added my tips for families living with disabilities so you know what to expect and can plan: Parking at the PA Farm Show, the PA Farm Show Schedule, it’s all here! After all, it’s what the PA Farm Show Complex was built for, right?
Can you take strollers to the Farm Show?
To stroller or not to stroller: Stroller! This is a long day of walking and lots of standing. If there is any doubt that your child may need a stroller, take one. Plus, if you buy things or don’t want to carry your coats, you’ll be glad you have it. Strollers are allowed at the PA Farm Show.
You can now walk from the one building to the other, all indoors. No going up and down and all around. Look for the double doors at the one entrance to the food court area. They opened up some walkways and you might be with animals, but it is much better than it used to be.
How much does the Farm Show cost?
It’s free! Well, almost: Yes, it’s free to enter the PA Farm Show. However, it’s $15 to park a car. Some days it’s only $10, but I forget why, so just plan on $15. Buy another milkshake if you end up with an extra $5.
Wait, a school bus?: Yes, if you going during a crowded time, you will have to park over at HACC or PSECU and take a school bus over. If you have a handicapped placard, take it and use it! I have parked over at HACC in record-low temperatures, then waited in that record cold for a school bus, only to have my painfully cold fingers attempt to collapse a stroller in record time and force it onto a school bus, whilst unhappy and cold Pennsylvanians grumbled behind me. Have you ever tried to take a double stroller onto a school bus? Handicapped parking is much closer, no school bus but you’ll still pay out $10.
Dogs are allowed, but I do not recommend it: Unless you have a little foo-foo type dog that you carry in a purse, it’s just too crowded and your dog will get stepped on. Or, your dog can’t deal with the stress and some obnoxious person antagonizes them, your dog nips them or growls at them, then you’re the bad guy. Not worth it. Leave dogs at home.
What should I eat at the PA Farm Show?
Be prepared to gain 6 lbs: Get a milkshake, you won’t regret it. Don’t pack a lunch, bring cash and eat till you can’t eat anymore. If money is tight, go to the upstairs section where all the PA food companies are offering samples and stuff yourself up there. I try to hit that section first, we snack, then walk around some more, then to the food court for lunch. It might seem really lame to just get a baked potato or a baked sweet potato, but it will be the best one you’ve ever had, seriously.
Bring juice boxes or water: Yes, really. I love the food there, but their drink selection is awful. It’s just a bunch of soda machines in the corner of the food court. Bring drinks for your kids, there isn’t much kid-friendly stuff there. In recent years it has gotten a little better, but still your choices are pretty limited to soda. Or pop, if you’re visiting from the West.
There’s not much seating: This has also gotten better with each passing year, but if you go during a peak time on a peak day, you won’t have a place to sit and eat. Or, you’ll have to troll the lunch area and stalk people who look like they are almost done. I’ve seen families sitting on disposable plastic tarps and old blankets. I sat on that cold concrete floor to eat my lunch when I was 7-8 months pregnant. I don’t recommend it.
Be prepared to say no to your kids: There are all kinds of vendors there, selling all kinds of stuff. Since it’s right after Christmas, I don’t need any more stuff in my house. I prepare my kids ahead of time that they are not getting any toys.
The carousel goes surprisingly fast: For an indoor carousel, it goes really fast. Surprisingly fast. Now you know.
When is the best time to visit the PA Farm Show?
It gets crowded: Weekends are a nightmare and I won’t go then. I now pull my older child out of school for this special day. Otherwise, we really can’t go — it can get that crowded and he just can’t do it. Days are better, but from 9–3 or so, you have lots of school field trip groups in there, especially on Friday. If you can reasonably go on a weeknight, those are best.
In 2018, we tried the “Free Friday” thing. That is, there is no charge for parking and the food court is open. But, be forewarned that it is only the food court. We absolutely were blocked from entering any other part of the farm show by security guards.
In 2019, we tried Sunday morning. Kevin had already missed so much school due to seizures that year and it seemed frivolous to miss another day for this. It opens at 8 which was reasonable. We had a fabulous parking space because we were so early. It was short-lived. By 10 or 10:30 it had filled up to where we could barely move.
See the Tractor Square Dancing: Make sure you check the online schedule and see which events are happening. We’ve watched both tractor square dancing and some type of horse racing, as well as some livestock judging. I thought it would be incredibly boring, but my kids loved it. Know that if you go to the Tractor Square Dancing, that they are running tractors indoors and there is exhaust smell–in case you get headaches from it or have kids with asthma. You may want to check the 2019 PA Farm Show event schedule and plan your trip around what you want to see.
Our favorites: As far as animals my favorite is the Mommy pig and her piglets when she is there. Brian loves sitting on all the tractors and could do that all day. He also wanted you all to know you should go see the baby goats. Kevin’s favorite is the cows when he hears them mmmmooooooo! and the fowl room with all the squawking, crowing and flapping.
Make a day of it: Depending on your travel time, it may be a long day. But make a day of it. There is a lot to see. My kids love going and seeing the animals. I love eating and seeing what Pennsylvania has to offer. But make a day of it, you won’t regret it.