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A Local’s Guide to The Big E: New England’s Best Fair

Don’t you just love attending fairs – especially in the Fall? 

There’s one fair I love in particular that I’ve been attending since I was a little girl: The Big E, a multi-state event representing the 6 New England states, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

This massive fair takes place at the Eastern States Exposition grounds every Fall in West Springfield, Massachusetts. 

If there was ever a time to visit my favorite region of the US, Fall is it! 

The weather is mild, the foliage is painting landscapes with red, orange, and yellow, and there are fairs popping up nearly every weekend in adorable small towns.

The Big E is like one last outdoors hurrah before the doom and gloom of Winter take over for a few months. It makes for an excellent day trip from Boston or pit stop on a New England road trip.

In this guide to the Big E fair in New England, I’ll share the best hotels, parking tips, events to partake in, concerts to scope out, and food to try.

When is The Big E?

The Big E always starts on the 3rd Friday of September and runs for a little over 2 weeks.

In 2022, the dates are on Friday, September 16 and goes through Sunday, October 2.

Gates open at 8 AM every day, but not much is kicking until 10 AM and runs through 11 PM. The Avenue of States closes a bit early at 9 PM, while other buildings close between 10-11 PM.

How much does The Big E cost?

Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children age 6-12. Children under 6 are free.

A number of discounts are available as follows:

  1. Adult 2021 season pass: $40 for unlimited admission in 2021
  2. Child 2021 season pass: $20 for unlimited admission in 2021
  3. Adult advance single entry ticket: $12 (only available for purchase until September 15)
  4. Child advance single entry ticket: $8 (only available for purchase until September 15)
  5. Opening day admission: $10 (for all ages over 6)

In addition to discount admission, there are discounts for other popular items:

  1. Midway Magic Pass: $25 for unlimited rides Monday-Friday or 26 tickets on Saturday and Sunday
  2. Cream Puffs & Eclairs: $25 for a 6 pack of any combination of Big E cream puffs and eclairs

Are there any hotels near The Big E?

There’s only 1 hotel within walking distance to the Big E. The rest are across the Connecticut River in Springfield. While not walkable, it is a short drive.

Photo of a guest room at the MGM Springfield Hotel & Resort
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts.

Here are a few hotels near the Big E to consider if you’re coming from out of state:

  1. The Regency Inn & Suites is located across the street from the fairgrounds at 19 Baldwin St. It’s nothing fancy, but if close proximity is most important, this is it.
  2. If you’re interested in seeing more of the area, Hilton Garden Inn is a great pick, as it’s right next to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.
  3. Across the street from the Hilton is the Hampton Inn & Suites, another major hotel chain option for my fellow travel hackers.
  4. Another choice with additional entertainment options is the MGM Springfield (pictured above), with a casino, concert venue, and fancy movie theater.
  5. Last up is the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel, which has decent rooms and is within walking distance from the Amtrak and bus station.

Do you have any tips for Big E Parking?

Parking at the Big E can be a bit of a hassle. It fills up super quick and traffic getting out at the end of the night is difficult. 

Official parking is $10 for automobiles in Lot 9. 

Motorcycles can park in Lot 7 for $5. Bicycles can park in Lot 7 for free.

Local businesses leading up to the entrance gates often offer parking at an upcharge. Sometimes they allow local organizations or school groups to use their property to fundraise via the parking fee. 

You might be tempted to park and walk to avoid the traffic leading in and out. That’s usually what my family and I end up doing! 

What kind of events are there?

There are a variety of events that occur throughout the 2 weeks of The Big E fair. Let’s take a look!

Closeup of a massive squash with a blue prize ribbon draped over it.

First off, as with most major fairs, the Big E has a TON of agricultural events and competitions, such as a pumpkin and squash weigh off, livestock demonstrations, and horse shows.

Another staple is the Avenue of States, where all 6 of the New England states have a dedicated building to showcase local artisans, businesses, and food.

Food is a huge part of the Big E – although isn’t that the case for all fairs??

For more on this delicious point, skip to the section on Big E food to find out which snacks are worth your money.

A traditional circus runs several performances throughout the day with daredevil stunts, clowns, and the like. 

Photo of the US Marine Marching Band performing in the Big E grand parade.
Photo courtesy of The Big E.

Every single day, the Grand Parade snakes through the grounds with parade performers, local marching bands, Mardi Gras style floats, and more.

The parade kicks off at 6:30 PM Monday through Thursday and 5 PM Friday through Sunday. 

Shopping is a massive draw, with hundreds of artisans, crafters, and retailers with booths full of clothing, jewelry, food, crafts, and home goods to stock up on.

Last up, are daily concerts featuring yesterday and today’s musical acts. Jump to the next section for more information about who’s performing this year.

What are the Big E Concerts this year?

While The Big E initially started as an agricultural fair, over the years, it has become a hot spot for concerts. 

The concerts take place across 3 stages.

There’s quite a lineup in 2022, so let’s break it down by stage.

The Big E Arena concerts

The Big E Arena concerts require a ticket in addition to admission and features popular acts.

Press photo of musicians Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo posing with a guitar.
Photo courtesy of The Big E.

Check out the concerts at the Big E Arena in 2022:

  1. The Dropkick Murphys take the stage on September 16 at 7:30 PM.
  2. Country music artist Brantley Gilbert will grace the stage on September 18 at 7:30 PM.
  3. Hip hop artist Nelly will get the party going at 7:30 PM on September 23.
  4. 90s Rock band Sublime will hit the stage with Rome on September 24 at 7:30 PM.
  5. Bring Me the Horizon will rock the stage with Knocked Loose, grandson, and Siiickbrain on September 25 at 7:30 PM.
  6. Country musicians Chase Rice and Jimmie Allen are bound to draw the Gen Z crowd on September 30 at 7:30 PM.

This list was last updated on May 15. More artists are expected to be announced.

The Court of Honor Stage concerts

All concerts at the Court of Honor Stage shows are free for all visitors after paying general admission.

Photo of musician Jess McCartney wearing a red suit.
Photo courtesy of The Big E.

As of May 15, the concerts on the Court of Honor Stage for 2022 haven’t been announced. Here’s the list from 2021 so you can get an idea of what to expect.

  1. From September 17-19, Modern English will take the opening weekend 3 PM slot.
  2. Pop artist Jesse McCartney will be featured on September 17 at 8 PM.
  3. Classic rock band Foghat hits the stage on September 19 at 8 PM.
  4. Rainere Martin will belt out Donna Summer hits in The Donna Summer Experience at 3PM on September 20 & 21.
  5. The Yardbirds will play at 8 PM on September 20 & 21.
  6. On September 22 & 23, Exile will play at 3 PM.
  7. Jazz swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will rock the stage at 8 PM on September 22.
  8. 90s rock band 10,000 Maniacs will play at 8 PM on September 23.
  9. R&B group The Bar-Kays: Soul 2 Soul Revue will be featured on September 24-26 at 3 PM.
  10. American Pie Folk rock singer Don McLean will play at 8 PM on September 26. 
  11. The Outlaws will play the 8 PM slot on September 27 & 28.
  12. Big Brother & the Holding Company will play the 3 PM slot on September 29 &  30.
  13. Lisa Lisa will grace the stage at 8 PM on September 29.
  14. If you love Elvis, be sure to check out Taylor Rodriguez’ Tribute to the King at 3 PM on October 1-3.
  15. 90s grunge rock band Hoobastank hits the stage at 8 PM on October 2.
  16. Last, but not least, Rap icon Darryl McDaniels of RUN DMC closes the Court of Honor Stage shows at 8 PM on October 3.

The E Stage

The E Stage features local music acts and all shows are free. A schedule for this stage is not available as of July 29, 2021.

Storrowton Village

Storrowton Village is a recreation of New England style town village from the 18th and 19th centuries.

What’s unique about Storrowton is that the buildings are all original structures that were purchased and moved in order to build a village. How cool!

The village is located on the fairgrounds and is open as part of the fair. There’s a restaurant, shops, and of course, food.

What Big E food is worth it?

Did you even visit if you didn’t sample the food? Let’s dig in to the best Big E food.

Food from the Avenue of States

Let’s start off with food from the Avenue of States buildings.

Closeup of a massive Maine baked potato topped with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, bacon, and chives.

While you’ll find food vendors on the fairgrounds that sell baked potatoes, nothing beats the gigantic baked potatoes from the Maine building, smothered in cheese sauce, sour cream, chives, and bacon.

At the Vermont building, get ready for a slice of warm apple pie with Vermont cheddar cheese or apple cider donut

Photo of a person holding up a cup of Del's fresh lemonade inside the Rhode Island building at The Big E Avenue of States.

Stop for a refreshing lemonade slushy from Del’s Lemonade in the Rhode Island building.

One sip takes me back to beach days at Misquamicut Beach in Rhode Island during my childhood. 

For a light snack, grab some maple cotton candy at the New Hampshire or Maine buildings.

Closeup of a line of prepared lobster rolls.
Photo courtesy of The Big E.

When in New England, lobster is a must. Try a lobster roll at the Maine or Massachusetts buildings.

Did you know that the classic PEZ candy was made in Connecticut? True story! 

Grab a fun PEZ dispenser with candy refills for a fun souvenir at the Connecticut state building.

Food from the fairgrounds

Moving on from the state buildings, look out for these delicious Big E foods throughout the fairgrounds.

Closeup of a person holding a plate with a giant 1 pound meatball covered in tomato sauce.
Photo courtesy of The Big E.

Head to Frigo’s for a mammoth 1 pound meatball smothered in tomato sauce.

Grandma’s Sunday spaghetti with meatballs has nothing on Frigo’s!

For a full meal in one-go, try the BBQ sundae from Porky’s.

The BBQ Sundae is your classic BBQ plate layered into a tall sundae-style cup. It includes layers of cornbread, baked beans, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and pulled pork.

If you’re craving ice cream, head to Amy’s Sweet Treats for the maple bacon waffle sundae.

Another sweet option are the freshly made mini donuts doused in cinnamon and sugar from The Donut Family.

Top down photo of a basket full of tater tots topped with cheese sauce, sour cream, bacon, and chives.

Next up is Tots-a-Lot, where you can get your choice of dressed up tater tots, like Shepherd’s Pie Tots, Loaded Baked Potato Tots, or Buffalo Tots.

Fried foods and fairs go hand in hand. And at The Big E, there are tons of fried foods to try, such as Fried Oreos, Fried Pop Tarts, Fried vodka, Fried Samoa cookies, and Fried Kool-Aid. 

There are 2 fried foods that stand out: Fried dough with Maple syrup and bacon from Pop ‘n’ Fresh Fried Dough and Fried Fluffernutter sandwiches from The Coffee Break. 

Both are as New England as you can get, so if you only pick 1 or 2 fried foods to try, go for these!

Closeup of a tray full of cream puffs topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Photo courtesy of The Big E.

Last but not least are the iconic Big E Cream Puffs and Eclairs

The cream in the cream puffs is light and sweet while the pastry shell is flaky and buttery. It’s the perfect combo.

You can also get cream puffs with chocolate ganache on top.

The Eclairs have a perfectly doughy shell with a custard filling and sugary chocolate frosting on top. 

Will you be headed to The Big E fair this Fall?

Now that you’ve gotten a run-down of the US’ only multi-state fair, will you be visiting Western Massachusetts for The Big E this Fall? Let me know in the comments below!

This post was originally published on July 29, 2021. It was last updated on August 2, 2021.

This post was originally published on August 2, 2021. It was last updated on May 16, 2022.

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