Savvy Mom: Minnesota State Fair Family Fun and Food Tips

My first piece of advice for enjoying the 2014 Minnesota State Fair is this: GO NOW!

Today is Thrifty Thursday, and in my experience the best day for anyone, especially families, to go to the fair. It is historically the least crowded day of the fair, plus everything is brand-spanking new and fresh, from the streets yet to be paved with dropped food to the faces behind the counters. There is discounted admission for children and adults, plus rides require one fewer ticket than normal.

Other discount days for families are the Kids Days of Monday August 25 and Monday September 1. Bring your library card for discounts on Read and Ride Day, Wednesday August 27.

Here is my food advice for everyone, not just those of us with kids, followed by advice for families.

Food Tips
  1. Always order the small and share. I do not care how tempting that extra large bargain is. It is more expensive than the small, always. I approach state fair fare as tapas. We try a little of a lot of things.
  2. Carefully consider the Blue Ribbon Coupon book. It costs money, and will tempt you to buy things you otherwise wouldn’t. 
  3. Beware the new. The press every year is about what’s new at the fair. Do you really want to gamble your money and calories on an unknown? Memories haunt me of a grease-soaked breakfast lolly a few years ago.
  4. Go for the tried and true: Fried Cheese Curds, French Fries, Mini-Donuts, roast corn, apple freeze pops, sunflower ice cream, lingonberry snow cones, Pronto Pups (because corn dogs are IOWAN, people), mocha on a stick, 1919 root beer, sausage from My Sausage Sister n Me, fried green tomatoes and corn fritters with honey butter, Spring Grove soda, fried pickles, pork chop on a stick, macaroons from Salty Tart, fruit from The Produce Exchange. I’m sure I’ve left some worthies off. No, I didn’t forget Sweet Martha’s. I go for foods I can’t easily find outside the fair, or make at home.
  5. Allergic? It’s weed-pollen season. Take your allergy remedy of choice before you go, just not one that makes you sleepy. All food tastes better when you can breathe.
Family Fair Tips
  1. Use the free park and ride nearest you, then rent a wagon or stroller for smaller kids once you get inside the fair. Depending on your number of kids, it’s likely to be cheaper, and will certainly be easier, than parking at the fair (long lines and expensive) or schlepping your double-wide stroller on the crowded park-and-ride buses.
  2. Bring water bottles. You can refill them at the Eco Experience pavilion or other water fountains.
  3. Get kid ID bracelets at any information booth. Practice names and cell numbers with your kids before you go.
  4. When ordering food, always order the small, and share. I know I said that before. I think it bears repeating. Stomach room and money are finite resources; conserve them. I let my 8 and 10yo sons choose food or games or rides only they want to do, and take their allowance money to pay for it, while I pay for admission and shared rides and food. Because no way am I wasting money or calories on cotton candy.
  5. Take advantage of free stuff. This gives you time to rest your feet, digest your food, all while being entertained. Everybody wins! Sean Emery does great family-friendly free shows. Also check out the daily music offerings, lumberjack demonstrations, the Little Farmers pavilion, the baby-animal building, the Great Sing Along, the Eco Experience, the Rainbow play area across from the Kidway, and the X Zone.
  6. Put off the Midway as long as you can. I managed to make it to when my boys were 7 and 9 years old before hitting the more expensive and nausea-inducing rides of the Midway versus the Kidway.
The 2014 Minnesota State Fair
Admission and Discounts
Food Finder
Free Entertainment