A local’s guide to the Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota’s Great Get-Together, where food-on-a-stick is a novelty and other strange food combinations become the center of attention. The Minnesota State Fair is a big ordeal in the state of Minnesota, locals travel from all the corners of the state to feast their eyes on the midway lights and enjoy greasy, unique foods on a stick. Minnesota’s State Fair is the largest in the nation in terms of attendance and deemed the best state fair in the United States

Every year, it’s a tradition for my family to go for a day and fill up on the greasy delights and check out all the new baby livestock. I’ve been the fair 10 consecutive years in a row!

As a regular fairgoer (and nearly a certifiable fair expert!) I’m going to share a few of my tips and tricks on how to fully enjoy the Minnesota State Fair and all it’s hidden gems. 

How to save money at the Minnesota State Fair 

Heading to the Minnesota State Fair can be an expensive ordeal! Admission is fairly expensive and if you want to taste-test any food on a stick, it’ll come at a cost. On average, it’s estimated that people spend around $100 at the State Fair. Though it is doable to bring the entire family for the same price, you just have to be savvy with your money! 

Save on parking

To park at the state fairgrounds, it costs $14. But there are numerous ways that you can avoid that hefty price. There’s free parking at University of Minnesota’s TCF Stadium for the entire day. There are many shuttle buses that will take you to the fairgrounds and pick you up, again, for free! 

Nearby the fair there are also other parking lots that offer discounted parking rates. In fact, down all of Snelling Avenue locals sit on their front yards selling parking spots in the yard to fairgoers. You might even be able to score a deal there. 

Save on tickets

At Cub Foods you can visit any customer service desk and purchase discount tickets for the State Fair. You can save a few buckets on each ticket if you purchase multiple days at a time.

Also, check out ticket discount days at the fair. On Wednesday discount there was Read and Ride Day, which offered two dollars off each ticket to patrons with a valid library card. There is a whole schedule of discount days listed on the Minnesota State Fair’s website. 

Grab a Blue Ribbon Bargain Book

Every year, my family saves about $15 per day with the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book. The Blue Ribbon Bargain Book is a hefty book that can be purchased at various fair vendors for $5. There are more than 150 coupons in the book that can be used throughout the duration of the 12-day event. 

The coupon book lists savings for greasy eats, souvenirs, attractions and much more. The majority of the coupons are food-related. There are some State Fair cult classics such as Blue Moon Dine-In Theater burgers, Bucket of Fries, and Pronto Pups (the modern-day corn dog). 

Where coupons can be redeemed is listed on the back of each coupon with a handy map of where the booth and vendor are located. This makes it really to identify what deals are located nearby and to plan accordingly. 

My family shares one coupon book among the six of us. We all like different foods, so sharing is easy. Since the book only costs $5, it makes sense to purchase the book which can triple your savings. Totally worth buying the coupon book, in my opinion. There are no duplicate coupons in the book, so if you want to enjoy something at a steal twice, try bartering with another couponer. 

A floral kaleidoscope in Horticulture Building at the Minnesota State Fair. One of the many interactive exhibits to explore at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

Exhibits to see

Every year all the exhibits change at the fair, which is one of the many reasons, I love the Great Get-Together. Some buildings that I always check out are:

The livestock barns

Who can say no to cute animals? It’s a great time to look at all the different animal breeds and ask the owners and showmen and women about their pride and joy! I grew up in a farming community, so I love petting and scratching the muzzle and heads of these furry creatures. 

The Miracle of Birth

Again, who can say no to cute, fluffy, baby animals? The Miracle of Birth barn is a live exhibit that houses expecting mothers. All the animals in the barn are expected to go into labor during the two-week run of the fair. There’s all livestock including cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, pigs and more. It’s a great exhibit that teaches and appreciates the act of labor. This past year I watched a cow go into labor. Unless you live on a farm, this might be a once in a lifetime experience for you. 

The 4-H art and fine art buildings

I loved looking at all the projects from quilts to a handmade boat. They are all so gorgeous with their intricate details. Every year I’m astonished at the creativity and impressed by the level of professionalism these crafts have. The 4-H art and fine art building showcase art from Kindergarteners to adults, which is fabulous. The variety is vast and you’ll always be entertained. It’s also a good time to escape the heat and soak in the cool A/C. 

Horticulture Building

The horticulture building has a lot of educational booths, but also a lot of cool exhibits that are interactive. Recently the horticulture building boasts farm to table exhibits, which give visitors an educational and deeper appreciation for farm fresh foods. One exhibit asks how close the nearest grocery store is to fairgoers where each response is written on a plate.

Other exhibits dive into a more scientific approach to horticulture. One exhibit highlighted pesticides and how it is harmful to the environment and animals. While another exhibit dissected the science behind brewing beers and displayed hops. 

You may even luck out and get some food samples! In recent years I’ve been able to see the winners of the largest produce contest and have been able to taste some honey bee ice cream, which is delicious, by the way!

Giant Sing-Along

If you’re looking for something to get silly with, go visit the Giant Sing-Along at the north end of the fair. It’s a blast for all generations! They have songs from different decades, which is a great way to have fun with the whole family — Grandma can get her groove on too!

To view where these attractions are, find them on the Minnesota State Fair map. 

Rides

I typically don’t take a spin on any rides at the fair, because they tend to be expensive and do not change between seasons. There are a few cult classics that you should indulge in if you are visiting the State Fair for the first time. 

Old Mill Ride 

It’s a classic that’s located right in the middle of the fairgrounds. The ride is a small boat and passengers float through a scenic story. The ride is more than 100-years old and has a long legacy at the Fair. It’s great for all ages.

Sky Ride 

If you want to get away from the crowds, soar on the Sky Ride. It’s great for people watching and the view is incredible at sunset. As a bonus, it’s a fast way to get from one end of the fair to the other. I also love the aerial view you get of the fair, you definitely see the magnitude of the end-of-summer event by soaring above all the crowds. 

The Ferris Wheel

Is there anything more classic than taking a spin on the Ferris Wheel? It’s not a real trip to the fair if you don’t take a spin on the Ferris Wheel. This year the Fair introduced the tallest traveling Ferris Wheel. The Great Big Wheel is 15 stories tall — that’s more than 150 feet! 

Food

The much anticipation topic of food!

Every year I try one of the new foods at the state fair. In 2018, I tried the new Blazin’ Deep Fried Olives, which have become one of my favorites! If you enjoy fried pickles, this is definitely for you! 

Each year, Twin Cities publications release their reviews of all the new foods each year, if you need some guidance. But I also make sure to enjoy one or two classic foods while I’m there. Some of my favorite reviewers write for the Star Tribune, City Pages, The Growler, Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Magazine

Some of the State Fair food classics that local’s gravitate towards and foods great for any first-timer are: 

  • Pronto Pup
  • Strawberry rhubarb malt from the Dairy Building
  • Fried pickles
  • Cheese Curds
  • Corn on the cob
  • Sweet Martha’s Cookies with unlimited milk refills
  • End the day with one unique brew: The Sweet Corn Ale has been my favorite!

If you’re unsure of what you want to munch on, roaming around is your best bet. If you’re looking to try another cultural cuisine, check out the Bazaar or Heritage Square. The State Fair has a great search on their website that tells you exactly where you can find foods in the park. So if you know the name of the vendor, or if you’re just looking for any ‘ole corn dog, the search will find what you’re looking for!

Here are the newest food additions for the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. 

Minnesota is King

Though Minnesota reigns king, there are numerous other Midwestern State Fairs that you should take note of. The Wisconsin State Fair boasts to have the best cream puffs and concocts new flavors of milk each yet. The Iowa State Fair also attempts to revival Minnesota’s with their food on a stick. The Indiana State Fair also loves to deep fry anything that’s under the sun, including green tomatoes and cookie dough. Michigan is the only state that boasts two state fairs. Make sure to explore the Upper Peninsula State Fair as well as Michigan’s State Fair while visiting. 

Quirky Globetrotter

Hi! I'm Martha! The mastermind behind Quirky Globetrotter a feminist travel blog. Quirky Globetrotter is devoted to telling narratives devoted to female solo travel and hidden gems worldwide with an emphasis on intersectional feminism and how that impacts travel on a global and local level.

3 thoughts on “A local’s guide to the Minnesota State Fair

  1. What a great time. It reminds me of our days when we used to visit the Sydney Easter Show and ride our horses in the events. We loved all the different types of food and exhibits. We never had a coupon book back then for $5 with discounts – that would have been perfect as our Show also went for 12 days. It would have saved our parents heaps of money. A visit to the baby animals is always a must even as an adult. I loved your discount sharing tips.

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