In mid-Michigan, the highlight of the summer is the Ionia County Free Fair. This annual event combines the bright lights of the midway with the thrill of agricultural competition while also mixing in food, music, friendship, and most of all, fun. Not only is it the best event of the summer for local residents in Ionia County, but it also attracts visitors from around the state who want to experience wholesome entertainment for the entire family.
About the Ionia Free Fair
The Ionia Free Fair typically takes place in late July each summer, and it is hosted at the Ionia County Fairgrounds. It is a massive event with a variety of attractions and activities for people of all ages. Young children and their parents often find themselves at the midway, which is where they can ride spinning, twirling, and thrilling carnival rides until they are completely exhausted. Those who are interested in agriculture will enjoy the 4-H shows, which allow children to showcase the animals that they have been working with and raising throughout the year. Anyone who simply wants to relax, grab a bite to eat, and listen to music will be thrilled with the live concerts and endless options for carnival snacks.
The week-long fair kicks off each year with a breakfast meal that allows the whole community to come together and celebrate the opening of the fair. The fair queen also is named on the first day of the festival each year. Throughout the week, there are many shows and special events scheduled. The Classic Car Show, Thumb Tractor Pull and Ionia Idol competition are some of the favorites among locals and visitors alike. In addition, the fair hosts special days for certain community members, such as Kids Day, Ladies Day, and Dog Day.
Tickets to the fair can be purchased in advance for a discount, but it’s worth noting that all ticket purchases are non-refundable. In addition to buying a day pass or multi-day tickets, visitors also can consider purchasing specific tickets for grandstand events or concerts throughout the week. This allows people to customize their fair experience and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Ionia State Recreation Area
While the atmosphere at the fair is exciting and inviting, sometimes you need an escape from the bright lights, noise, and crowds. Fortunately, the Ionia State Recreation Area is located nearby the fairgrounds, and it offers a natural break from the lively event. With more than 4,500 acres of land, there’s plenty of room to roam in this park, and visitors appreciate the views of the peaceful river the winds through the park and the idyllic lake that is hidden within the forest. The park also boasts many amenities, including fishing spots, a beach that is open for swimming, horse trails, mountain biking trails, and hiking trails.
Where Eat in Ionia
Regardless of whether you decide to spend your day at the fair or out in the open air at the park, you will find that you are craving a hearty and wholesome meal by the evening. The fair will certainly have options for food, especially if you love those traditional carnival favorites like fresh fries, deep-fried treats, and more. However, if you are craving a meal at a sit-down restaurant, you will find that there are several options in town to enjoy. The Lamplight Grill is a casual restaurant in downtown Ionia that features a menu filled with steaks, burgers, and other sandwiches. It has a wide variety of food, making it a favorite among families. For a quintessential Ionia experience, head to Renucci’s Bar and Restaurant. Renucci’s has been owned and operated by a local family since 1918, and its expansive menu makes it one of the most popular places in town.
After you have enjoyed your meal in Ionia, you can finish off your day with a sweet treat from Cook & Co. This old-fashioned ice cream shop is located in the heart of downtown Ionia, and it serves up a variety of creative confections for those who are craving a frozen dessert. Whether you want to sit inside and enjoy the ambiance of this vintage-style ice cream shop or take your scoop to go, you will certainly enjoy the sweet treat that you are served.
Lodging & Camping Near Ionia
If you want to extend your summer fun in Ionia Michigan, be sure to book a night or more at one of these lodging options nearby:
We've included local campgrounds in most of the #MIAwesomeList posts to help you get the most out of your Michigan summer bucket list adventures!
No RV? No worries. You can save up to 25% on your travel costs this summer by renting an RV through RVshare!
Whether you want to pull it behind you or have it all set up at your destination, renting an RV is the best way to enjoy all your summer adventures in Michigan!