Your detailed guide to getting to the 2023 N.C. State Fair

Having a gameplan in mind can be an important part of visiting the N.C. State Fair, and planning ahead may be especially helpful when it comes to getting to and from the fairgrounds. It’s no secret the weekends are busier days to attend the fair, and traffic can be heavier as a result. A little strategy can help avoid surprises and cutdown on frustrations.
Be aware there are concert events at PNC Arena on Oct. 13, 14 and 18 and road construction affecting the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road. There’s still hope for a smooth arrival and departure though. Here are a few tips to consider:

1. Visit on weekdays to avoid higher-traffic days.

  • This is the tried and true advice no matter what year, no matter what is going on around the fairgrounds.
  • Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays will be busier, and you should expect traffic will be heavier.
    • Especially if visiting during these times, consider some of the driving/parking alternatives below.

2. Some longtime fairgoers may find that old routes to the State Fair likely won’t be the best.

This panoramic photo spans from the intersection, across the temporary construction area, to the southeast corner of the fairgrounds.
  • The intersection at Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road is partially open during the 2023 N.C. State Fair, but turn lanes and capacity are limited.
    • Drivers and pedestrians cannot use Blue Ridge Road to cross Hillsborough Street.
    • There are fewer lanes available, so no matter what direction you’re trying to go at the intersection, traffic backups will be longer than normal, and you may find you can’t go the direction you want to.
    • (More specific details about the intersection are at the end of these tips.)*
  • There are two Travis Scott concerts – on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13 & 14.
  • A Shania Twain concert is on Wednesday, Oct. 18.
    • On those three days, parking in the PNC Arena lots will not be free; PNC Arena will charge drivers who choose to park there.
    • There will also be extra traffic for the concerts on those days.

3. Approach from the west – from the Edwards Mill Road area.

  • Getting to the fairgrounds from the Blue Ridge Road side is generally discouraged any year. It’s especially good advice this year with construction and lane changes affecting Blue Ridge Road from Hillsborough Street north to near Wade Avenue.
  • If you’re headed toward the fairgrounds from central Raleigh, it’s best to plan a route that will take you around the fairgrounds to Edwards Mill Rd. Then you can head to a park and ride lot or the parking at Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena.
  • One exception to this tip may be using Blue Ridge Road to access Westchase Blvd. and free parking at Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena. Westchase connects Blue Ridge Rd. (near Wade Avenue) to the free parking lots mentioned below.

4. There’s free parking.

Some fair parking at Carter-Finley Stadium is near the pedestrian tunnel under Trinity Rd.
  • Free parking for the N.C. State Fair is available in Carter-Finley Stadium lots and PNC Arena lots (except as noted above on concert days).
  • Those lots are the closest free public parking available. They can take longer to access on the weekend (Friday night through Sunday night). So on busy days, it may be better to just plan to go to a park and ride lot.

5. Park and ride.

  • There are two free park and ride lots, and they work differently.
    • Cardinal Lot – 5766 Chapel Hill Road
      • The entrance to this lot is in the area between Edwards Mills Road and the fairgrounds. If driving on NC Hwy. 54/Chapel Hill Road from I-40 or Edwards Mill Road, drivers can head toward the fairgrounds, and the entrance will be on the left before Hwy. 54 connects to and becomes Hillsborough Street.
      • Once parked in the lot, you have two options: (1) walk across the parking lot and down a short paved path to get on the main shuttle trolley, or (2) wait for a small tram/trolley to come by your row of cars and take you over to the main shuttle. Basically, it’s walk-and-shuttle or tram-walk-and-shuttle.
        • Option one (1) may work just fine if you’re close to the short, paved path to the main shuttle. However, the parking lot is large. So if you’re far from the paved path and main shuttle, you may want to take option two (2) and wait for the small tram/trolly that circles through the parking lot only. It will take you over to the path to get onto the larger main shuttle trolley.
      • Regardless, the main shuttle trolley will take you behind the Hunt Horse Complex and right up to Gate 7 on the west side of the fairgrounds. You only have to get off the shuttle trolley and cross the street to Gate 7.
      • The Cardinal Lot shuttle does not travel on any public road and therefore is not affected by road traffic and congestion.
    • Dogwood Lot – 4501 Reedy Creek Road
      • This parking lot is beside Bandwidth’s new headquarters. Once on Edwards Mill Road, access this lot by turning onto Reedy Creek Road by Bandwidth and then turning left on State Farm Road behind/beside the Bandwidth building.
      • Follow signs to the parking field. Once parked, walk toward the blue tent near Edwards mill road and get onto an accessible shuttle bus.
      • Busses take riders to a Carter-Finley Stadium parking lot along Trinity Road, just across the street from the fairgrounds. You’ll get off the bus right at the pedestrian tunnel under Trinity Road, near fairgrounds Gate 8.
      • You can walk through the tunnel and to Gate 8 or walk through the tunnel and take a longer walk to Gate 9.
      • The shuttle busses from the Dogwood Lot travel Edwards Mill Road and Trinity Road and could be affected by traffic on the public roads.
  • Go Raleigh/Triangle bus services between more distant parking lots and the fairgrounds are not available this year as the public transit service continues to have a driver shortage.

6. Meet your Uber, Lyft, taxi or any other pick-up/drop-off service (including your mom) outside the building with the Spanish tile roof.

  • Ride-share and similar services should use the parking lot on Hillsborough Street at the Commercial and Education Building – the one with the Spanish tile roof.
  • From there, enter the fair through Gate 1.

7. The train stop has moved.

  • Because of construction, the Amtrak train stop has moved further away from Blue Ridge Road.
  • This only affects which gate is closest.
  • The 2023 train loading platform is about 350 yards west of the normal location, near Gate 1. A crosswalk on Hillsborough Street connects the train path to a sidewalk that leads to and from Gate 1.

*More details on the Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road Intersection:

  • Taking Blue Ridge from Western Boulevard over to Hillsborough is not an option. From that direction, Blue Ridge Road ends at Beryl Road, so drivers and walkers cannot cross the railroad tracks to get to Hillsborough Street. This may have been a popular route in the past, but it will not work this year.
  • Drivers heading south on Blue Ridge Road from Lake Boone Trail/the N.C. Museum of Art/Wade Avenue toward the fairgrounds will be able to turn left or right onto Hillsborough Street, but back-ups are likely since there are fewer lanes. Southbound drivers still can’t go further south to cross Hillsborough Street or the railroad tracks toward Beryl Road and Western Blvd.
  • Drivers on Hillsborough Street headed from Downtown Raleigh/N.C. State/I-440 toward the fairgrounds will find fewer lanes and more congestion. Drivers will have one turn lane to head north on Blue Ridge Road and one lane to go straight on Hillsborough toward Dorton Arena. There is no left turn to cross the railroad tracks and head toward Western Blvd.
  • If all this makes your head spin, just remember to be patient and follow the guidance of State Troopers directing traffic.
This rudimentary map shows the general area of the fairgrounds (red), the park and ride lots (purple) and the parking at Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena (yellow). The purple lines show the routes for the park and ride shuttles.

About Tractor Pull

Tractor Pull is the fair-themed alias for Brandon Herring, a public information officer in the Public Affairs Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He's no stranger to the fair or the farm. A North Carolina native, he grew up helping on the family farm just east of Lumberton. After more than 15 years in TV news, he's sharing news of a different kind these days. He loves the rides on the fair's midway, but also loves that the fair has so many other things to see and do that are grounded in agriculture. His favorite fair food is a funnel cake with just powdered sugar - a classic!

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