The end of August is always such a bittersweet time of year…summer is winding down, the bees seem to be especially moody, and school is right around the corner.. BUT August also brings with it one of the greatest joys on this Earth, or at least in Minnesota – the Minnesota State Fair!
The Fairgrounds are spread out over 320 glorious acres in St. Paul – that’s a lot of pavement to pound! We’re very proud of our state fair and there’s good reason to be! It is the largest state fair in the United States by average daily attendance. Our fair dates back to 1859, the year after statehood. Since then, the fair has run annually except for five different years.
This year the fair runs August 25th-September 5th. The Fairgrounds are open from 6am – midnight, Labor Day the fair ends at 10pm.
Everybody seems to have their own State Fair game plan. The sKIDaddlers team was lucky enough to attend a MN State Fair blogger event in order to make sure you all had the down low on these top 12 days of summer. The State Fair can be a bit daunting.. so much to do in so little time. Let us help you make the most out of your trip to the fair this year!
FOOD Let’s be honest, for most people the food is the reason for the fair. Here are our favorite new offerings for 2016:
- Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread from Blue Moon Dine-In Theater – Our favorite of the new foods we tried! A savory, pull-apart artisan bread loaf filled with caramelized onions, cheese and beef broth, then baked in a wood-fired oven. Though not on a stick, it is worth the fork!
- Grilled Cheese Bites from O’Gara’s at the Fair – White cheddar cheese blended with beer batter, cubed and deep fried for a taste reminiscent of a grilled cheese sandwich. Served with a blood mary mix marinara. We were worried this was going to be another version of a cheese curd, but it’s definitely a new finger licking good cheese bite of it’s own, and the marinara is awesome!
- Rustic Beef Pastry from French Meadow Bakery & Café – Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and baby spinach topped with creamy goat cheese and nestled in a flakey butter crust. French Meadow has done it again. Delightful!
- Tot–Boss (New Vendor) – Tot Boss takes tater tots to the next level, serving them in a variety of indulgent configurations – bacon-wrapped tots, loaded tots, chili tots, tater tot nachos to name a few. Give me some of your tots!
- Minnesnowii Shave Ice – 100% sweetened condensed milk drizzled over your choice of flavored shave ice for a creamy, sweet twist. Exclusive flavor at the State Fair – Maple Bacon shave ice topped with bacon bits and a maple syrup drizzle.
SHOPPING There are loads of shopping vendors at the fair. If you planned it right, you could probably get the majority of your Christmas shopping done. This year check out one of the shopping “neighborhoods”. Don’t worry, if you don’t want to carry your new treasures around with you, then just ask the vendor to hang onto until you’re ready to go. Here are some cool ones we found:
- Birchberry Native Arts and Food – White Earth Tribe inspired coats, mittens, blankets & more. Located in the International Bazaar.
- The Holly House Boutique – Seasonal boutique items showcasing local artisans’ handmade designs, pillows, slippers, bird feeders, soaps, signs, pottery, bags and flasks. Located in the upper level of the Grandstand.
- i like you – Locally made items by Minnesota artists and crafters. Located in the West End Market.
- Machine Age Lamps – Designed from salvaged early American factory parts and are all one of a kind works of art. Located in the West End Market.
- Wish Boutique – Mixed-material reversible skirts, vintage Minnesota patched baseball caps, men’s and women’s side zippered sweatshirt, and more. Located in the upper level of the Grandstand
FAMILY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES Who knew there were so many activities geared towards the kiddos?
- Fairchild the Gopher – the beloved State Fair mascot turns 50 this year! Stop by Visitors Plaza at 11a and 4p daily to meet Fairchild and get a special birthday pin!
- Alphabet Forest – Open daily 9a-8p in Baldwin Park. Play the Alphabet Game and win a ribbon!
- Math on a Stick – Daily 9a-8p in Baldwin Park.
- Equimania! Presented by Equine Guelph, this fascinating exhibit allows kids to get hands on with a full size horse model. See the anatomy, braid the tail, wrap the leg and more. Located in the Horse Barn.
- Little Farm Hands: Always a big hit with the kids. The mock farm allows little ones to follow the path to learn where their food comes from. At the end they get to use their “earnings” to buy something from the store.
- Giant Sing Along – Sing Karaoke style in a large group in a field of microphones with lyrics on a big screen
- Great Big Sandbox – Baldwin Park
- Home Depot Booth – Kid projects done daily
- Thank a Farmer Magic Show – Daily at the Miracle of Birth Center
- All-Star Stunt Dogs Splash – Daily at the North Woods
- 3rd Lair SkatePark – Daily at The X-Zone
- Nature Adventure Play Area – Outside EcoExperience
- Parades – Daily at 2pm
- And of course there’s always the Animal Barns, Mighty Midway & Kidway
Did you know…
- You can enter your child’s arts, crafts, baked goods, photography, etc. into the competition? You do not need to enter through a school. Entering is easy and free. Check out more details here.
- Those trolleys going to the north end of the fairgrounds and back.. they’re free.
- Complimentary sunscreen at all information booths
- Want to escape the crowds? Go early! Little Farm Hands opens at 8am. Some Carousel Park & Expo Place days begin at 8am as well.
- Free identification bracelets offered at guest services to help reunite lost children with their families
- Instead of driving, park your car for free and take a stress-free, non-stop, air-conditioned ride straight to the fairgrou nds. Gotta stroller? No problem! Click here for the State Fair Bus Service
- Kids under 5 are ALWAYS free; Adults & Kids 5+ priced at $11-13
- Pre-fair discount admission tickets for the 2015 Minnesota State Fair are on sale NOW for just $10. Click here to purchase!
- Hey Pinners, check out the MN Fair’s Pinterest page for more fair tips geared towards little tykes
- Uber to and From the Fair: Grab a free first Uber ride to or from the Great Minnesota Get-Together! Enter code MNSTATEFAIR16 when you sign up at t.uber.com/MNStateFair16 for up to $20 off your first ride. (New Uber users only.)
- Deals – If you love a good deal make sure to check out the State Fairs Deals, Drawings and Giveaways brochure before heading out. Thrifty Thursday is August 25. Admission is discounted and there are numerous deals to be found throughout the fair. Other discounted admission days include Kids and Senior Day Aug 29, Military Appreciation Day Aug 30, Read and Ride Day (discount with public library card) Aug 31 and Kid Day Sept 5.