A fair amount of fun
It bills itself as “big fun,” but I'd say there's just a medium amount of it at the California State Fair. Sure, there's some good craft beer, wine, music, rides, and several gigantic warehouses full of kitchen utensils, home-improvement goods and other interesting but otherwise useless junk; but then, there's the not-so-fun stuff: sunburned bros in wifebeaters puking up fried food on the Ferris wheel, boring dioramas of California farms and the same hypnotist that makes some poor girl sing Shania Twain every year.
For food, there's plenty of barbecue and deep-fried junk food (artichoke hearts, cheesy bacon bombs, burgers, mac 'n' cheese), so, if you're health-conscious at all, eating ahead of attending is definitely recommended. Alternately, there's a farmers market at the fair this year, so vegans at least have some refuge from the ubiquitous fried-meat smell. If you're a picky drinker, there's a wine garden and a brew festival on July 20.
Here's what you need to know musicwise: You can rock out with your dad while listening to cover bands Apple Z, Set in Stone and True 2 Crue. Or watch aging artists (the Four Tops, En Vogue, Hoobastank, LeAnn Rimes) trying to rekindle the creative flame and stay relevant. There will also be a few local bands and deejays on one of several stages throughout the day.
Make sure not to miss the somewhat random collection of other entertainment: a Chinese orchestra, freestyle motocross, horse racing, a gospel festival, a cheerleading demonstration, belly dancers, carnival rides and a Japanese-drumming group. Check out a program if you want to make some sense of the madness, or, for a better time, just pound a few beers and stroll through the fairgrounds aimlessly until you find something cool.
The California State Fair begins Friday, July 12, and goes through Sunday, July 28, at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Boulevard; www.bigfun.org.