It’s that time of year again: the Great Minnesota Get-Together has arrived! Although most states in the US have their own state fair every year, Minnesota’s is one of the biggest and best in the nation (although I might be slightly biased). The largest daily attendance in the country, and trailing only behind Texas in terms of total attendance (although the Texas State Fair runs nearly twice as long), the Minnesota State Fair is an institution.
With a lifetime of knowledge and years upon years of experience at the Minnesota State Fair, it is one thing you simply can’t miss if you find yourself in Minnesota and St. Paul during the last week of August until Labor Day (in September). Exciting, overwhelming, gluttonous, and with everything you could ever imagine served deep fried and on a stick: here are 12 tips, tried and tested, to make the most of your visit to the Minnesota State Fair!
1. Look up the new food list
Every year, about two months before the start of the State Fair, they release the details for all the new food items. Not only should you look up the list, but research what you’ll want to get and where it is. My favorite this year was Macaroni and Cheese Curds from Oodles of Noodles! Maple Bacon Beer was new just a few years ago, but I was a fool and never ended up getting it. That was rectified this year!
2. Park and ride is your new best friend
Seriously, don’t bother trying to park at the Fair. Driving is horrendous and expensive. It is much easier to get yourself to any of the convenient Park & Ride stations across the Metro area, and take public transportation in. I have always gotten to the Fair from the University of Minnesota Park & Ride, where it’s free to park and free to take the bus. Don’t stress yourself out with driving and parking!
3. Don’t go solo: divide and conquer
While I’m a huge advocate for solo travel and love exploring places on my own, the Minnesota State Fair is really best when you have at least one person with you. This way, you can sample the most foods and spend the least money with the divide and conquer theory. Split everything straight down the middle (both price-wise and food-wise), and you won’t regret it!
4. Pace yourself
Perhaps the most important tip of all: the Minnesota State Fair is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not a race to the finish line, but the end should be viewed as a triumphant final step as you roll yourself across the finish line. Don’t rush, but instead savor every bite and take your time.
5. Alternate between sweet and savory
I have always had the best results at the Fair when I alternate my dishes between salt and savory. Cheese curds then malts, foot long corn dogs then cookies. Your stomach will last longer and you will find that you are capable of eating far more than your wallet can afford!
6. Bring cash!
Speaking of your wallet… bring cash. There are ATMs located across the Fairgrounds (even marked on the maps), but it is best to get cash out before you arrive. It’ll also help to cut you off in case you need it—if you don’t have the cash, maybe you just shouldn’t gorge on that deep fried alligator on a stick (yes, it exists!).
7. Bring the essentials
Any day when you plan to spend the majority of the time outside, I always advise bringing sunscreen, a water bottle, a rain jacket, and good walking shoes. The weather in Minnesota can change quickly, especially from morning to evening, so be prepared and bring the essentials.
8. Go on the Ferris Wheel for the best view
I don’t really go on rides at the Fair anymore, since I seem a bit too old for the Midway (and obviously the Kidway)—but I ALWAYS go on the Ferris Wheel once at night. Why? It has simply the best view of the Fair there is—better than the Skyglide and Skyride (although I’d always pick the open-air Skyglide over the contained Skyride). It also goes slow enough when you’re at the top that you can usually manage to get a few good pictures.
9. Look for ride coupons on the ground
Rides are really expensive at the Fair—most rides are between 4-7 coupons, and the super impressive ones might be even more than that. Unless you’re buying 30 coupons, it’s all $1/coupon, which means a ride on the Ferris Wheel is 6 bucks. I found 9 (NINE!) coupons on the ground around the Midway and surrounding areas—meaning I saved myself NINE DOLLARS! They are small and square, and will say 2016 (and are valid at both the Kidway and Midway). Keep your eyes peeled and scour the ground, you might just save a couple dollars.
10. You can get unlimited milk for $2
The All-You-Can-Drink-Milk stand is located at the intersection of Judson Avenue and Clough Street, and it’s exactly what it sounds like—unlimited milk, either regular or chocolate! Unfortunately, they have upped prices from $1 to $1.50, and now $2. But it’s a great deal—just save your cup (stuff a napkin in it so it doesn’t leak in your bag) and you can keep going back all day. Get your money’s worth!
11. Don’t miss the Biggest Pig, Butter Sculptures, Seed Art, and Minnesota Mural
If you need a break from eating, there are a couple of things that you absolutely can’t miss seeing at the Minnesota State Fair. The Biggest Pig in the state is in the Swine Barn (you also get your own Oink Booth hat), the Butter Sculptures of Princess Kay of the Milky Way are in the Dairy Barn (in their rotating case refrigerated to 40˚F), the Seed Art contest is housed in the Agriculture and Horticulture building, and the “Greetings from Minnesota” mural, located on Cooper Street, between Dan Patch Avenue and Carnes Avenue, is a must-see.
12. Guard Sweet Martha’s Cookies with your life
Sweet Martha’s is a Minnesotan institution—they regularly make enough money from the 12 days of the State Fair that the business isn’t open for the entire rest of the year!! The cookies (chocolate chip only) are incredible, and are available in 3 different sizes: a regular cone for $6, large cone for $7, or a bucket for $16. If you’re by yourself, I recommend one of the cones—but if you’ve followed Tip #3, you absolutely have to get a bucket. They fill the bucket nearly half over the actual bucket size, so you definitely get your money’s worth. But guard those extra cookies with your life as you walk out of line—you don’t want to drop them!
The Minnesota State Fair is amazing and makes for an exceptionally unique experience in the Twin Cities. Cheers to a great trip to the Great Minnesota Get-Together—until next year!
Have you ever been to the Minnesota State Fair or another State Fair?!