Minnesota on a Stick: Surviving the MN State Fair With Kids

We braved our annual trip to the Minnesota State fair, on a Saturday, this year. My son was very concerned about getting there before it was crazy busy and wanted to be to the bus by 8:00am. I am glad we went early. The attendance record was broken for the 1st Saturday of the fair at 222,194 people (you can see all the attendance records at mnstatefair.org). We didn’t get home until 7pm and we logged 17,000 steps according to my husband’s apple watch. We were smarter this year and brought our collapsible wagon. Last year, my kids entered the gate and complained immediately they were tired and we sprung for a fair rental stroller. I was amazed of how many different types of wagons there were. Weird things you start noticing when you are a parent… when you get jealous of the parent who has a push wagon instead of a pull wagon.

Here are 15 recommendations from our experience:

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15. Take the bus. Avoid Parking.

We parked at the Dunwoody/Parade parking lot, and paid $5/person (round trip) to ride the express bus, as we normally do, instead of looking for parking. The express bus drops you off at the gate entrance and picks you up in the spot. It truly is the easiest way to get to the fair.

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14. Buy Tickets Early and Save

I was smart this year and bought discounted tickets at Cub foods. We pre-purchased gate admission tickets, ride tickets, and a $5 coupon book (which offered a $5 cub coupon in it so that pays for itself). With pre-purchasing, we were able to bypass the ticketing counter.

13. Kids Identification Tags

Our first stop was the Information Booth. I find it very important to put one of the identification wrist bands they provide on my kids. My kids know my phone number, but if they are lost… I don’t want them to get scared and forget. I love that this is an option at the MNSF and I suggest to all parents/grandparents/guardians to make a brief stop and put one on your kid. That or just tattoo your number on your kid.

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12. News and Price is Right Wheel

A stop at the WCCO booth, we managed to be briefly seen on TV while they were taping; I was excited to see Mike Augustyniak in person, a local weather man. That’s when you know you lead an exciting life, when you are excited to see the weather man in person! The Price is Right wheel was also at the WCCO booth, for the first weekend of the fair. We did get in line, but after not moving for the first 10 minutes in line and discovering the prize you got for hitting 1.00 was a tote bag and entered into a drawing, we took a photo and skipped waiting hours in line.

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11. Minnesota Twins

The Twins batting area was a highlight because both of our kids tried batting. My 7 year old son has been too scared to play t-ball or baseball because he has been afraid to bat. However, getting to do it with Twins baseball logos all over gave him the courage to try it. And he hit the ball. They both hit the ball. Every time my daughter hit the ball, the crowd cheered. Something about seeing a 5 year old do anything makes random people always cheer for her.

10. AARP and Music Trivia

The AARP was surprisingly fun. The kids love stopping to spin the wheel … EVERY SINGLE wheel they see they want to stop at. While there my husband and I both tried our knowledge at music trivia. I got on the leading score board, in 3rd, but was probably quick to get booted off. However, I beat my husband so that’s all that matters, right?

9. More Minnesota Sports

One of our favorite stops is always the MN Sports tents. Again, the kids like to play the games and spin the wheel with the MN United. My daughter won a free ticket to the MN United 50K to Midway game, October 21, against the LA Galaxy. We’ve been planning to go to a game anyway, so we decided to buy three more and head to our first professional soccer game, this fall. (Good marketing on their part.) We also stopped by the MN Vikings tent and got this super awesome 3-D photo.

8. Kemp’s Little Farm Hands

The kids had a blast in the Little Farm Hands exhibit. Here they got to collect [play] eggs, milk a cow, and pick vegetables along the way. I think they had the most fun riding the little tractors.

7. MN National Guard and Cub Scouts

The MN National Guard Booth was definitely worth a stop. Not only did I chat with one of the members about my dad’s military background, when he asked if I was interested in joining, but my husband talked me into this punching game. Although, I woke up with a sore arm, I would seriously consider a punching bag in my house.

Near the MN National Guard Booth was the Cub Scouts exhibit. Our kids waited in a really long line to do a ropes course. My poor son is afraid of heights, but completed every challenge (with the help of volunteers). My daughter was a little small and decided the obstacle courses weren’t something she wanted to try, so she just bypassed to the pole. They both said they had fun.

6. Pet Pavilion

We had to stop by the pet pavilion. My son is a diehard dog lover. We picked up a few treats for our dog, and stopped to watch the Minnesota Disc Dog Club do their tricks.

5. Adult Beverages

Both my husband and I are fans of ciders. We were stoked to find $5 cans of Sociable Cider Werks at the The Hangar. I’ve since learned there are 7 different locations with their local ciders, including the MN Craft Brewers Guild.

4. CHS Miracle of Birth Center

This is my husband’s least favorite because it is always so crazy busy, so I braved it with my daughter. She was only able to pet a bunny, which was exciting for her. I felt bad for the mama pigs, laying there on display waiting to have babies in front of a bunch of people…. I could only imagine myself pregnant, as an exhibit, waiting to give birth. My 5 year old says to me as we are leaving the Farm Babies building, “So where do you think all the daddies are? At work? I wonder what they do for jobs?”

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3. The Rides

Of course, the kids had to ride rides. We pre-purchased 3 sheets of tickets and told the kids once they were done, we weren’t buying anymore. Our kids are still little enough to stay in the little kids area of rides, so we didn’t [have to] venture to the bigger rides. Make sure to check the coupon book, it has a few coupons for rides.

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2. Parade

I was not expecting the parade to be one of my highlights of the fair, and honestly probably the funniest part of my day. We happened to be walking around Math on a Stick when the parade was beginning so we grabbed a spot to watch. Roughly the 3rd “float” to go by was a bunch of horses. And they all pooped. For the rest of the time, the whole crowd was waiting to see who would step in that poop. The roller skaters missed it. The many marching bands, missed. The clowns, pom poms, people getting thrown into the air… all missed. Dancers, missed. Every single time a new group would come up or almost step in the poop, the whole crowd would laugh, hold their breath, and you would often hear the entire crowd groan at each near miss. A mom, standing next me, and I were the commentators during the entire parade, guessing which person or vehicle would meet the poop. I swear, I was tempted to put a missed connection in craigslist telling the mom how I wish we could be friends because our back and forth commentary seemed so natural; we parted in our separate ways like it was completely normal commenting about horse manure with a complete stranger for 10 minutes. (So if you were this mom, please message me.)

1. Everything on a Stick

We ate our way through the MN State Fair, like most people there. I was impressed with the people who brought their own coolers and strapped them to a stroller, instead of using it for a kid, probably saved them a fortune. We, instead, began our morning letting our kids eat deep fried cookie dough on a stick and bacon on a stick. The coupon book was extremely helpful, for me who for health reasons am gluten and dairy free; I was able to find places I could eat, and use a coupon to save money. Win, win! Pronto Pups, Turkey legs, Bacon Ice Cream, Burritos, Taco Salad. And of course… my kids needed their dad to push his way through the RIDICULOUSLY long line to get their Martha’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We were bummed to miss one of our favorite events, 3rd Lair Skateboarding and BMX Biking, but we showed up as it ended, and we weren’t braving the crowd to make it back to that side of the fair again.

My least favorite part of the fair was when my husband was getting cookies on our way out of the fair, my phone died. I seriously was starting to think he got on the bus and went home without me, it was taking that long. My daughter and I waited and waited and waited (roughly an hour). THEN I did the unthinkable. I approached a stranger and asked if I could borrow her phone. She looked at me like I was a scammer. I was like, “look, I’ll show you my phone, it’s really dead.” Luckily, my husband and son showed up and we were able to go home without me continuing to creep out strangers. Who would think human interactions would be so hard. Maybe a phone booth or charging station by the exit would be helpful!

We will definitely return again next year, as our family tradition. Every year we try different things. Hopefully next year we can make it to a concert!

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