Edit ModuleShow Tags

Savvy Mom: Free and Cheap Family Fun at the Fair


Some years our family has gone to the Minnesota State Fair and it's like someone put a siphon in our wallet. Eat, spend, ATM, repeat. But as our boys, now six and nine years old, have gotten older, the options to spend money have grown. Keeping to a fair budget is no longer a should, but a must. And I'm here to say, it is possible to spend hours at the fair without breaking the bank, while doing fun things and eating delicious (albeit unhealthful) food. Here are a few of my favorite bargains and freebies:

1. Free Park and Ride. My favorite lots are at the University of Minnesota. It's close, so the ride is short, and the buses run frequently.

2. Wrist ID bracelets. On the way in, I stop at the information booth to get ID bracelets for my kids and put parent names and cell numbers on them. We're grateful they've never had to be used, but having them makes me less panicky when they bolt.

3. Discount entry, rides, and games. Kid days are today, August 27, and September 3. Kid entry is $7 (regular is $10) and Kidway/Midway rides and games are discounted, one ticket all day. Wednesday, August 29 is Read and Ride Day. Children and adults with valid public library cards get discounted admission. Rides and games are discounted one ticket all day. Going another day? Fret not. Take advantage of Kidway/Midway early bird specials until 1 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, Thursday, August 30, and Friday, August 31. Additionally, the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book has a coupon for $6 off one $20 sheet of 28 ride and game tickets.

4. Free attractions. Not only are the free shows entertaining, but they also provide a much needed break for tired feet, overheated kids, and over-full stomachs. Some of our favorites include Sean Emery at Baldwin Park, the Timberworks Lumberjacks, and the 3rd Lair Skatepark shows. My kids also are fans of the Giant Sing Along (shown above), the Miracle of Birth Center, and the Eco Experience building.

5. Cheap eats. My annual advice on eating at the fair is to always get the smallest size and share it. Tapas-style fair food allows for maximum sampling for minimized money. But some of the best treats are also some of the cheapest! All You Can Drink milk is still only $1 a cup, while 1919 root beer and Minnesota Apples frozen cider pops are just a little more than that.

6. Pirate Tag. Behind the River Raft ride is Pirate Tag, where for $3 you get a bucket of balls to fire in an air cannon across a lagoon at an enemy pirate ship. Hits to the square targets result in a gush of water spraying the enemy. It's not open early in the morning, but is a less-crowded attraction we visit on our way out.

This year's family visit was a success. The boys were tired and happy, we still had money in our wallets, but not too much food in our bellies. I guess it's all about balance, even at The Great Minnesota Get-Together. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Taste Blog

Classic Minnesota-Style Walleye Sandwich Recipe

Enjoy the ever-popular walleye sandwich even more when you make it yourself—and hopefully with fish freshly caught yourself, too

Celebrating the Daiquiri, New Rums from Bacardi, and Creative Cocktails

Rum drinks conjure thoughts of toes in the sand and refreshing summer cocktails

Lawless Distilling Bartender Named "Most Imaginative"

Minneapolis bartender Brandon Sass won the 12th Annual Most Imaginative Bartender regional competition

Toast the Royal Wedding with British-Gin Cocktails

As Britain’s Prince Harry and U.S.-actress Megan Markle tie the knot, raise a glass to the happy couple—and those close to you—with wedding-themed tipples

Bottoms-Up Cinnamon Caramel Pinwheels Recipe

With this fast version of a sticky bun, baking at home can be no muss, no fuss—and delicious

Leslie Bock's Newest Bar Wants to Save the Future

"We're attempting to show humans as messy and complicated."

Rosé All Day: The Best Tastings (Some Free)

More than 100 different rosé wines available to try—many for free

Wine Clubs: The Perfect Mother's Day Gift

Sip Better figures out your taste for wine and goes deep

Gavin Kaysen Takes Midwest Gold

A quick note on our 2018 James Beard Best Chef: Midwest
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags