Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Big E 100 Years: Our Five Must-Sees and Top Tips for Families

In advance of The Big E's Centennial Season, New England Fall Events treats you to a taste of what this classic New England festival has in store for you and your family. Each of our posts leading up to their 100th year will feature a different section of the The Big E experience but if you want the whole enchilada at once, click to read our article "New England Fall Events' Complete Guide to The Big E."

Top Tips for Families Attending The Big E

Relaxing in the Farm-a-Rama Exhibit.
If your kids can fit, bring a stroller or a wagon to tow them. With so much physical ground to cover, little legs will wear out fast. Wagons and strollers can be rented for $10-15 but there are no advance reservations and they are rented first-come-first serve.

There is a drop-off area if you don’t plan to park or if you wish to drop off part of your group while your driver parks in a lot down the road.

Bring cash as the parking lots do not accept plastic.

Wear smart, comfortable, durable walking shoes. Leave the flip flops at home.

New England Fall Events_The Big E_Circus Museum_Miniature Circus Model_Clyde Reynolds_Brooke Evans_Lion Tamers
A detailed lion taming scene created
in miniature at the circus museum.
The crowds can be exhausting and overwhelming. Take breaks to rest in the calmer areas on the fairgrounds. We found the calmest areas to be Storrowton Village, the Mallary Complex, and the Coliseum. The Midway, the shopping complexes (the Young and Better Living buildings) the Avenue of the States Buildings, and Farm-o-Rama were the busiest on the Friday we attended. 

If you can attend on a weekday, do. Not only will the crowds and lines be more manageable but you can take advantage of the Midway Magic Pass which includes unlimited midway rides for a more affordable rate (and not available on the weekends).

You can enter the fairgrounds before the exhibits open. By arriving at the exhibits just before they open up at 10:00am you can be one of the first to see some of the more popular exhibits while there is still elbow room.

Painted squash entries at the veggie
display inside the Stroh building.
Popular shows like the Circus Spectacular and the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs can be enjoyed free of charge but there are limited seats (and viewing area) so unless you get there really early, you won’t get into the circus or be able to see the pigs’ tricks. Arriving 10 minutes before the show won’t cut the mustard on a busy day.

The amount of money you spend on food will add up fast. Consider snacking and sharing throughout the day to pace yourself financially and belly-wise.

There are gluten-free options but they may not be as healthful as you want. Plus, some gluten-free options like kettle corn and ice cream aren’t really lunch-worthy or nutritious (though kids won’t complain!). Other options like sirloin tips and salads may not be realistic “kid food”. There is a baked potato station near the food court and another in the Maine Building but Maine’s wildly popular loaded baked potato is also famous for its lines and could involve a 45-90 minute wait in line. Some tacos from the Crows’ Nest Mexican food vendor are gluten-safe and the BBQ pulled pork from the Pork Palace is made with gluten-free rub. In short, you may find gluten-free food for your child but you would be wise to pack a back-up lunch just to be confident.

A goat awaits his afternoon showing
inside the Mallary Complex.
If you don’t live nearby, consider staying overnight to attend over two days and spread out your entertainment. There is a lot to fit in and if your kids insist on midway rides that will eat up a couple hours of your time. The reasonable admission fee makes a two-day event do-able but all the extras—food, midway, purchases will add up.

The shopping extras will also tug at your wallet relentlessly and at nearly every corner of the fairgrounds—face-painting, jewelry, toys, games, etc. For kids who are learning about money, consider allotting each child an allowance for the day to spend how they wish to help you keep a lid on how much you are doling out.

Take advantage of the many interesting demonstrations and countless free exhibits. For kids, Farm-o-Rama is a must and don’t even think of skipping the Miniature Circus Museum. Allow time to browse the Mallary Complex and enjoy learning about and visiting the livestock.
Breathtaking quilts on display inside
the New England Center building.

Remind your children that the livestock are never to be touched or petted, no matter how cute.

The Mallary Complex has bathrooms with warm/hot water taps to get a good hand-washing in!

Kiddieland is the part of the Midway that hosts rides for smaller children—teacups, train rides, carousel, mini swings, etc.-- all for a fee.

There is a Mother’s Nursing Lounge inside the New England Center though we aren’t sure of the level of amenities or comfort you will find.

Sample award-winning local cheese.
You’ll find diaper changing stations in certain rest rooms around the grounds. Baby changing stations are in the ladies’ rooms inside the Young Building, Coliseum, Better Living Center, Visitors’ Center, Food Court, and the New England Center. There are diaper changing stations in the men’s rooms inside the Better Living Center, Visitors’ Center and Food Court. The Mallary Complex and the Moses Building host family bathrooms.

Make sure your family has a plan and knows what to do in the event that anyone is separated from your party. There is a “Lost People Center” at The Big E but it’s best to have a plan in place that your children understand and can follow.

Do yourself a favor by downloading the free Big E app. You can plan ahead, select events to populate your customized schedule, and if you enable the notification setting the app will alert you when events on your schedule are coming up! If there are vendors or attractions on your must-see list you can even customize your fairgrounds map to help you identify what you’d like to see. It’s a very flexible and super useful app. We suggest tinkering with it ahead of time to become familiar with how it can help you and to customize your fair experience.  Find it on iTunes and GooglePlay.

New England Fall Events TOP FIVE Must-Sees for Families
The Miniature Circus Museum… for wonder and charm. Read why.

The Mallary Complex… for interesting educational exhibits, animal demos, livestock showings, and an overall calmer environment. Read more.

Farm-o-Rama…for farm related displays, small live animals to observe, and interactive exhibits geared towards kids. Try the scavenger hunt! Details

The Coliseum… consult the schedule to check out the horse showmanship which will delight kids.

The Connecticut Building on the Avenue of the States…for the make-and-take Lego booth and the Dinosaur dig in the rear building. Read more.

Ready for more? Read our Complete Guide to New England's The Big E!

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