The Great Minnesota Get-Together – we wait for it all year and it’s two weeks of food on a stick, farm animals, butter sculptures and more. Our fair is so popular that people travel here at the end of August just to experience it! We cannot wait to drag our kids through the fair this year and would love to help guide you through. If you’ve never been it can be overwhelming and we’d love to share our favorite must-see spots for your family. Join us as we gather with thousands of Minnesotans, and all of those who wish they were, for a fantastic time at this year’s Minnesota State Fair!
You could spend all ten days at the Minnesota State Fair and still not hit every booth. So, while we’d love to provide you with an a comprehensive guide, including any and all stops you could make while at the fair this year, instead, we’ve got the highlights for you. So, if this is your first year at the fair, these are our “must-see” fair favorites.
Where to Park
Planning on driving to the Great Minnesota Get Together? Be sure to have cash. Parking is available on several official lots surrounding the fairgrounds for $13. Many residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the Fair also offer up their private lawns, driveways and yes, gardens, to fairgoers for fees of $10-25, depending on their proximity to the gates. Finding a spot is as easy as turning into a residential area and keeping an eye out for the (many) signs and residents waving cars in.
Sure, you can drive to the Fair. But why battle traffic (and long lines) when you can sit back and ride? That’s why we’re big fans of the Fair’s super convenient, stroller friendly Metro Transit Park & Ride bus options. Not only will you save time and your sanity, you’ll also park and ride for free from many convenient Metro locations. Plus, most kiddos will get a kick out of the novelty of riding a bus. Bonus!
Insider Tip: Saddle up the Burley and cycle your way over. Not only will you burn calories (more cheese curds!) and have fun on the way, you’ll also score the Fair’s best – and cheapest (free!) – parking spot.
Classic Fair Hot Spots
These are the booths that everyone talks about all year long – basically, if you haven’t hit these spots, you were never really at the fair.
Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar: Do NOT leave the fair without a cone full of these, though it never hurts to upgrade to the bucket.
The Giant Slide: worth every step up that giant staircase.
The SkyRide: A bird’s eye view of the best celebration of summer.
What to Eat
While 2015 looks to be the year of spicy foods at the Fair, there are still plenty of fun, new kid-friendly options. And we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of some of the best! Here are a few of our favorite new Fair foods:
Think lightly seasoned tater tots topped with cheese sauce, seasoned sour cream, scallions, bacon bits, and the option to add chicken or beef. Then, think yum. Gluten-free. At Boulevard Grill in the Warner Coliseum.
Salted Caramel Puff Ice Cream Treat
It sounds a bit weird. It looks a bit weird. But it’s soooo creamy and delicious you just may be elbowing out your 5-year old to nab the last bite. Available in malt or sundae form, this treat is vanilla ice cream topped with a luscious caramel sauce and topped with crunchy Old Dutch Puffcorn. At the Dairy Goodness Bar in the Dairy Building.
Mac & Cheese Cupcake
It’s simple: the kid classic baked in a light breadcrumb crust topped with a swirl of Cheez Whiz. We dare your littles not to like this. At Lulu’s Public House at the West End Market.
Grilled Venetian-Style Pizza
Familiar with a delicious twist: this crispy-crusted pizza is grilled over an open flame, not baked. We loved the Margherita (tomatoes, cheese, basil), but think the Farm Fresh (olives, red peppers, arugula, goat cheese) and Spicy Salami (salami, cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes) look like winners as well. At Mancini’s Al Fresco, on Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood.
Maple Bacon Funnel Cake
Hold on to your funnel cake-loving hats. This salty sweet confection is infused with bacon pieces, topped with a maple glaze and then sprinkled with more – you guessed it – bacon. At Funnel Cakes in the Food Building.
Insider Tip: Drinks at the Fair don’t have lids, so bring your own water bottles and sippy cups. Refill with fresh, cold water at the Culligan booth or Eco Experience Pavilion or score cheap milk at the All the Milk You Can Drink stand (Northeast corner of Judson and Clough St).
Best Booths for Kids
Math on a Stick
When you’re ready for a break from foods on a stick, head to the Family Fair to explore the Fair’s most unusual “on a stick” offering – math! Geared towards kids ages 4-10, this booth aims to help parents and kids alike learn how to bring fun math concepts into every day life. From playing with geometric and reptile (Frogs! Turtles!) shapes to create fun patterns to sorting and counting activities to a fun Number Game scavenger hunt to count their way through the State Fair (with a blue ribbon for all kids who return a completed card), this is one booth you won’t want to miss! At the Family Fair at Baldwin Park. Open daily, 9am to 8pm. *New in 2015*
You won’t find any trees in this forest, just lots and lots of ways to turn learning about words into fun. Kids of all ages can step inside the Alphabet Forest and take pictures with colorful State Fair letters, create alphabet Ferris wheels, add words to the Fair Dictionary, play alphabet games, make alphabet necklaces and other crafts, take a book break, even visit with a different author each day at the Blu Ribbon Homegrown Author Showcase. Take the word fun with you as you explore the Fair by picking up a Fabulous Fair Alphabet Game card from any information booth or download one from the Fair website. Open daily, 9am to 8pm.
Now in its 3rd year, this hands-on equine education exhibit lets visitors explore the ins and outs of these beautiful creatures. Featuring everything from a full size horse skeleton and dental health and tools to nutrition and digestion displays to tail braiding stations and learning how horses sleep standing up, this is one exhibit you – and your little horse lovers – definitely won’t want to rush through. In the Horse Barn. Open daily, 9am to 7pm.
Little Farm Hands
Kids ages 3 to 10 will love pretending to be farmers at this free, hands-on exhibit. They’ll don work aprons and fire up their imaginations to pitch in on farm chores, collect crops for the farmers market and then spend their earnings on real products at the grocery store. Consisting of a series of five miniature barns, a grain bin, tractor yard, six garden plots, an apple orchard and farmer’s market, this mock farm allows kids to milk a fiberglass cow, drive pedal tractors to haul hay, and harvest grain to feed faux chickens. At the southwest corner of Lee Avenue and Cooper Street. Open daily, 8am to 7pm.
CHS Miracle of Birth Center
Whether or not witnessing a live animal birth is your thing, this is one building you won’t want to pass by. With nearly 200 calves, lambs, goats and piglets born here during the 12 days of the Fair, every stall is chock full of adorable newborn farm animals. When you’re not watching the little ones nurse or take their wobbly first steps, you can ask questions of staff veterinarians and FFA students, learn about animal agriculture production, or take in a performance or story time just outside at the Christensen Farms Stage. Located just east of the Warner Coliseum. Open daily, 9am to 9pm.
Barns & Animals
A trip to the State Fair just isn’t complete without a stop at the barns. Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and rabbits compete throughout the 12 days and are available for up close viewing (& smelling!) in the Fair barns. Open daily, 8am to 9pm.
Insider Tip: Come early! The barns open at 8 am, allowing visitors to beat the heat as well as the crowds of the afternoon. Plus, kids will love the up close and personal experience of watching competitors – many of them kids themselves – arrive to the barns early to bathe and prepare their animals for competition.
More Cool Kid Stuff
There are more kid-friendly activities and things to see at the State Fair than we could possibly hope to feature here. Here are a few more fun activities and experiences you’ll want to check out.
- Nature Adventure Play Area, featuring an outdoor playground made with natural materials (outside Eco Experience Pavilion, open daily)
- PAW Patrol Tour, meet the characters, enter giveaways, have green screen fun and check out product showcases (August 29-30 only)
- Moo, Baa & Oink Booths, swings open the barn doors to give visitors a “cow to kitchen” view of dairy, sheep and pig farming (Animal Barns, open daily)
- Kidway, with 30 rides and games just for kids! (Open daily)
- Pet Center, meet different four legged pet breeds, view a live veterinary surgery, watch a canine agility competition and check out adoptable pets (Open daily)
- Boy Scouts Adventure Summit, featuring a rope climbing course (next to the Eco Experience Pavilion, open daily)
- All-Star Stunt Dogs Splash, cheer these amazing stunt dogs (all are rescues from shelters across the country) as they compete in challenges, leap for discs, do paw stands and more! (At the North Woods, daily at 11am, 2pm and 4:30pm)
Insider Tip: The Fair is a pretty safe place, but it’s natural to get squeamish about leaving an expensive stroller unattended to enter a busy attraction (we’re looking at you, Miracle of Birth). To browse worry-free, toss a bike lock in the strollers’ basket & use it to either lock up the buggy or loop through the tires. Overkill? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely.
Good to Know
Lather up then leave the sunscreen bottles at home. New this year, the Fair will have free SPF 30 Vanicream sunscreen available in dispensers at every information booth.
Free ID Bracelets
Make sure any wandering kiddos can get back to their family (and the fun) quickly and safely with a free yellow plastic ID bracelet available at any Fair information booth.
Nurse, change diapers and even pump in comfort (and privacy) at the myTalk 107.1 Lactation Station on the corner of Cooper and Randall Avenue. Fully equipped with diapers, wipes, rocking chairs, electrical outlets, drinking water and cooling fans, mamas can easily tend to their babes while older children stay entertained with puzzles, coloring books and other fun activities. Open daily, 9am-8pm. Additional nursing areas available at the Care & Assistance Building on West Dan Patch Avenue and at the TPT book on the street level of the 4-H building.
Stroller and Wagon Rental
If you’re worried about dragging that doublewide stroller on the bus, don’t. Metro Transit buses are surprisingly stroller-friendly. But for even greater ease you can rent a single or double stroller or wagon at any of five stations located right on the Fairgrounds.
Fun & Food Finders
Want to find a certain booth? Searching for a specific food on a stick? Check out the Fair’s easy to use online Fun Finder and Food Finder tools. Both are also available on the free State Fair App.
Even if you missed the pre-fair admission discount tickets, you can still save at the Fair. Check out these discount days to save on regular admission prices. Discounts vary by day.
- August 27: Thrifty Thursday
- August 31: Seniors & Kids Day
- September 1: Military Appreciation Day
- September 2: Read & Ride Day
- September 7: Kids Day
And, just for fun, follow along with our Instagram Photo-A-Day Challenge – we’re hosting a State Fair Scavenger Hunt and you could win a $30 Caribou Coffee Gift Card for joining in! Find us on Instagram @twincitiesmomsblog, using #TCMBattheFair to find our posts.