Pink flamingo plushies hanging from game booth at Santa Cruz County Fair


A staple of the Watsonville area since the 1940s, the Santa Cruz County Fair has gone through several changes and improvements over its long history. In fact, the fair itself was first established around 1885. Events were added, switched around, and removed, and something more closely resembling the fair we know today first officially opened in Scotts Valley in 1918. 

The Santa Cruz County Fair draws large crowds annually, composed of people from all across the area. Typically, the fair is hosted in the second week of September. This year, 2023, the fair is running from September 13th to 17th.  

Things To Do At The Fair

With the motto, “Home Grown and Locally Shown", the Santa Cruz County Fair features exciting events, programs, shows, and other forms of entertainment—most significantly, the race track (the Ocean Speedway) and carnival rides. Some of the most popular attractions include the Monster Trucks and Motocross event, which is hosted at the race track in the evenings. This event requires additional tickets and is only scheduled for Wednesday (September 13th) and Thursday (September 14th) this year. 

As the fair is a family-friendly event, there’s so much to do that will appeal to those of all ages. Kids will enjoy seeing the animals (with some opportunities to interact with a few of them!), experiencing the various exhibits, trying their luck at games, and having fun on the rides.

Other fair highlights include the horse shows at the equestrian facilities, live music performances, the pig races (a fan-favorite!), and, of course, the food. There are also various contests being held, including Apple Pie Baking and Vegetable Judging. 


Colorful Ferris Wheel spinning at night at county fair, Santa Cruz

What To Know Before You Go

While the fair brings back a lot of the popular attractions every year, it’s best to check all the schedules beforehand. As well, some events are only held on certain days, and may require special tickets to be purchased in advance. Contest entries, for example, can be accepted online, by mail, or as walk-ins, however these rules change depending on the contest. There are also various entry fees for contests and all new participants must register online first. 

For those intending on purchasing fair food or goods from the various vendors, many highly-suggest bringing cash. Some stalls only accept this form of payment, whilst others provide discounts for cash users. Parking is available, but those who arrive by car should take note of the parking signs—as vehicles have been towed in the past.

The fairgrounds have washroom facilities located around the park, as well as an information booth, a first aid center, and designated smoking areas. Whilst the Santa Cruz County Fair is a big event, the grounds host various other programs and events throughout the year—so if this might not be your thing, there might be something else that is!

How To Get There

The Santa Cruz County Fair is held at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, located at 2601 East Lake Avenue in Watsonville. This is about a 30-minute drive east from downtown Santa Cruz, or about 30 to 35 minutes from Scotts Valley (traffic depending). 

Tickets for the fair can be purchased online through their website, found here.


Recognized for its exciting events, beautiful nature views, and friendly neighborhoods, the Santa Cruz County area is an exceptional place to call home. Contact Lauren Spencer today to start your home search in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Scotts Valley, and more.

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