PA Farm Show
Right after the holiday season, I have my eye on one other thing-the PA Farm Show! The 2023 PA Farm Show is from January 7 to 14. My boys have never missed a year and love it, so I thought I’d pass along some tips.
We have so many farms near me that we visit in the warmer months. The PA Farm Show is a wonderful winter activity for my family that we look forward to until we can visit a farm or apple-picking orchard that is kid friendly again.
Below I’ve added my tips for families living with disabilities so you know what to expect and can plan. But before that, let’s talk about parking, the 2023 PA Farm Show schedule, and the best things to do at the PA farm show.
PA Farm Show 2023 FAQs
Not familiar with the farm show? Here are all the quick facts you need to know about this annual event.
What Is The Pennsylvania Farm Show?
The PA Farm Show is a pretty big deal – not just to those who live in Pennsylvania but to those in the agriculture industry across the country. It’s the largest indoor agricultural expo in the country, spanning 11 buildings and 24 acres. It’s HUGE, with over 500,000 visitors annually. You’ll find everything related to agriculture, from farm animals to farm equipment to recently harvested food. It’s a great learning experience for kids, too.
When Is The 2023 Pennsylvania Farm Show?
The PA Farm Show will be held from Saturday, January 7th to Saturday, January 14th, 2023.
Where is the PA Farm Show?
The PA Farm Show is always held inside the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Due to its location, you’ll often hear it called the “Harrisburg Farm Show” as well.
How Much Is It To Get Into the PA Farm Show?
It’s free! Well, almost. Yes, it’s free to enter the PA Farm Show. However, it’s $15 to park a car. There are some days when they offer discounted entry but they vary from year to year, so I always plan on $15 and buy a milkshake if I end up with an extra $5!
Can You Take Dogs to the Farm Show?
Yes, dogs are allowed at the PA Farm Show. However, 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, if 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.
Parking at the PA Farm Show
There is ample parking available for the farm show, with a school bus shuttle to get you from the parking lot to the venue.
The parking lots are located at the intersection of Elmerton Avenue and Sycamore Drive and at the Harrisburg Arena Community College (HACC).
Parking is $15 dollars and includes the school bus shuttle to the farm show complex.
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 wait 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 $10.
Tips for Visiting the PA Farm Show
We’ve attended the Harrisburg farm show every single year as a family, from when the boys were babies through their teen years. We’ve learned all the ins and outs the hard way – so you don’t have to.
Here are my top tips for visiting the PA farm show – especially if you’re visiting with kids.
Bring a Stroller to the Farm Show
Strollers are allowed at the farm show so if there is any doubt that your child may need a stroller, take one. It’s going to be a long day of walking and lots of standing. Plus, if you buy things or don’t want to carry your coats, you’ll be glad you have the stroller.
Bring Juice Boxes and 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.
Update: 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.
Enjoy All The Food Samples
There’s loads of good food at the farm show (and I go more into detail on the food court below!) but before we hit the food court, we always head upstairs to the section where all PA food companies are offering samples.
Talk about good food for free! We snack on the samples, walk around some more, then head to the food court for lunch. Lunch is usually just a second snack. 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 a Credit Card
The vendors in the food court have gradually switched from being cash-only to card-only, so be sure to bring at least one credit card with you. (Though I always keep cash on hand too.)
Be Prepared to Say No To Your Kids
There are all kinds of vendors at the expo, 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 so that they know they are not getting any toys.
Be Warned That The Carousel Goes Fast
For an indoor carousel, it goes really fast. Surprisingly fast. Now you know.
Check the PA Farm Show Event Schedule
While you’re likely going to find something interesting and entertaining for everyone on any given day, I always recommend checking the Farm Show Event Schedule in advance when planning a trip.
If there’s something you really want to see, then you can make sure to attend on that day but it usually just helps us plan our day once we get there.
9 Tips for Special Needs and Disabled Families
Other tips for special needs families:
- There are plenty of bathrooms, but they are campy.
- Changing tables are few and far between from what I’ve experienced.
- For the most part, aisles are wide enough for strollers and wheelchairs, the only struggles are the crowds and if you need to use an elevator. The elevator tends to have a long line.
- As far as noise just depends on the time of day and how crowded it is.
- The Farm Show complex is big and echo-y and airy. The lighting isn’t overly bright or too dark.
- It is a lot of walking so those with endurance issues should be aware.
- Lots of vendors sell carnival or parade-like toys, the flashing, stimmy stuff that we love (or hate!).
- There is a huge variety of foods, but if special diets are a concern, bring something.
- New since 2015: In the Maclay Street Lobby, they added a special area for kids, including a play area, changing tables, and a private area for breastfeeding/nursing. If you need these amenities, go to the Maclay Street Lobby area and look for signs.
10 Best Things To Do At The PA Farm Show
There is always a LOT going on at the farm show and the event schedule can seem a bit overwhelming sometimes. If you’re a planner, you may want to go on a specific day to see a specific event but the truth is, no matter what day you go, there will be plenty to do.
After attending year after year, here are some of our favorite events at the Harrisburg farm show:
See the Tractor Square Dancing
When it comes to weird and unexpected, it doesn’t get better than Tractor Square Dancing! I thought it would be incredibly boring, but my kids loved it.
Know that if you go to the Tractor Square Dancing, they are running tractors indoors and there is an exhaust smell–in case you get headaches from it or have kids with asthma.
Check Out the Farm Animals
What’s a farm show without farm animals? My favorite is the Mommy pig and her piglets when she is there. Kevin’s favorite is the cows when he hears them mmmmooooooo! and the fowl room with all the squawking, crowing, and flapping.
He also wanted you all to know you should go see the baby goats.
Climb on the Tractors
There’s always a large selection of farm equipment on display that they happily let the kids climb all over. Brian loves sitting on all the tractors and could do that all day.
Watch the Livestock Auctions
The Junior Livestock Auctions are open to everyone and always interesting to watch. My locals come to purchase livestock that will fill their freezers through the winter or find a new addition or two to their farm.
Check out the Calving Corner
Depending on the ages of your kids and their “ew!” level, you may want to stop by the Calving Corner where you may get to witness a live birth or at least a very pregnant cow.
Wander Through the Artisan Shops
Artisan Alley is full of some pretty incredible hand-crafted items, with most materials coming straight from the farm. Think weavers, lace markers, potters, carvers, and more. I am always impressed by the talent!
Check Out the Water Fowl Habitat
This one is especially fun for the kids! This is exactly what it sounds like – an area set up just for your favorite waterfowl. It makes a great learning opportunity about ducks, their habitat, and more.
Ride the Merry-Go-Round
They do charge extra for this but it’s worth it. Just be warned that it goes faster than you may expect!
Check Out the Butterfly House
This is another exhibit that they charge extra for. But if you love butterflies or the kids are interested in learning about the process from a caterpillar to a butterfly, this is a beautiful exhibit worth checking out.
Watch One of The Youth Competitions
There are many, many competitions over the course of the farm show so it’s worth popping into one or two.
My favorite is the youth competitions, which range from horseback riding to poultry, alpacas, and breeding sheep. Seeing their pride in their animals and their accomplishment is always so rewarding!
PA Farm Show Food
What should you eat at the Pennsylvania Farm Show? Everything. Resolutions, schmesolutions. You can start those next week.
Be prepared to gain 6 lbs: Get a milkshake, you won’t regret it. Don’t pack a lunch, bring your card (note that many concessions only accept card, no 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.
What’s unique about those in the food court is that they’re usually offering locally-grown ingredients and most of them are associations and cooperatives from different agriculture industries.
Here are a few worth checking out:
- PA Cooperative Potato Growers, Inc. – Potatoes = fresh-cut French fries, baked potatoes, and potato donuts. Need I say more?
- PA Dairymen’s Association – Head here for your ice cream and cheese fix! Good luck deciding if you’re in the mood for a milkshake or some gooey deep-friend mozzarella cubes.
- PA Livestock Association – If you’re a carnivore, this is the food court stand for you. Pork BBQ, Philly cheesesteaks, roast beef sandwiches, ribs, and more. They also have a gluten-free meatball sub option!
- PA Mushroom Farmers – This stand is perfect for vegetarians, serving up mushroom burgers, salads, nachos, and more.
- PA Vegetable Growers Associations – Vegetables don’t have to be boring and both vegetable lovers AND haters will find something they love here. This is the place for your typical fair food, like fried pickles and bloomin’ onions, as well as various types of vegetable soups. Got a sweet tooth? Try their pumpkin funnel cake or fried berry Oreos!
The Best Time to Visit the PA Farm Show
Have I convinced you to add the farm show to your calendar yet? Even if you’re not big into farming, it’s still something that should be enjoyed at least once.
And the 500,000 annual attendees would likely agree with me!
With that many people attending annually, it’s no surprise that the farm show complex can get CROWDED, despite its size.
So when is the best time to attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show?
Weekday afternoons after 3pm are your best bet. During the day may seem like the obvious answer but that’s the time many school field trips visit, especially on Friday.
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.
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.
So, we switched back to skipping school and attending on a weekday afternoon. Much better!
If you can’t do the afternoon, just aim for any weekday timeslot. Anything is better than the weekends!