Play Minnesota State Fair Bingo with this free template

The Minnesota State Fair’s website is a must-visit before you head out to the Great Minnesota Get Together. Watch my segment on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live to learn about State Fair Bingo cards and how to create a custom list of what you want to see and eat at the Fair.

You’ll find the State Fair’s Bingo template here.

Advertisements

10 tips for planning a trip to the Minnesota State Fair

When you look at gross sales per day, you could say the Minnesota State Fair is the biggest restaurant in the world. In 2017, they brought in over $51 million in food and beverage sales in 12 days. In comparison, Tao in Las Vegas brings in $42 million in sales over an entire year.

Attendance during the State Fair is big, too. In 2019, over 2.1 million people walked onto the Fairgrounds, making it the most attended in the Fair’s history. Six daily attendance records were set.

I have worked at the State Fair for more than 15 years. Each year, I’m there at least 10 days. I have attended the Great Minnesota Get Together every year since 1990. I have seen (and eaten) a lot.

With that, here are my top tips:

  1. The day you go makes a big difference. If you don’t want to battle massive crowds, go on the Tuesday (day 6) or Wednesday (day 7) of the State Fair. Many kids are in school and historically, those days see the lowest number of people walk through the gates. I also recommend going the first Thursday (day 1), especially if you do your homework about what new foods you want to eat. The Fairgrounds are also clean. Get a list of my 10 favorite foods going into the 2020 State Fair.
  2. Don’t park at the Fairgrounds. It’s $15 to park at the Fairgrounds, which is the cost of an admission ticket (the cost of three Pronto Pups). Oh, and it’s cash only for parking. My best bet: use the park free, ride free service overseen by Metro Transit. To avoid being crammed on a Metro Transit bus with a bunch of people for 45 minutes, park at a park and ride site near the Fairgrounds. I really like the station on the University of Minnesota campus. The bus takes the U of M Transitway, which goes directly from the Fairgrounds to your car on a road not open to the public, making for a quick trip. See the full list of free park and ride spots here. The U of M lot is #14 on the map. Note that many of the lots fill up quickly; the State Fair does a great job updating which lots are full on their social media channels.

    28_grandstand
    If you’re planning to attend a Grandstand show, taking a Lyft to get home is a best bet.
  3. Don’t overpay for tickets. You can purchase 2020 admission tickets on the State Fair’s website for $12, saving you $3 a ticket. Typically, on the first day of the Fair, adults will save $2 on every ticket at the gate. The State Fair offers discounts to kids and seniors on various days, including multiple days where kids and seniors will save up to $3 on tickets. Check out this page for details. Remember kids four and younger always get in free.

    13_butter_sculptures
    Whether your friends are made of butter or are actual human beings, take a picture of them when you enter the Fairgrounds. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair
  4. Take a photo of your group when you get inside the Fairgrounds. The Fair is massive. Some days, nearly a quarter-million people come through the gates. It can be easy to lose your little ones. Take a picture of those tiny Fairgoers right when you get in the gates. You’ll be able to show the photo to police and will know exactly what they’re wearing. Information booths also have free wristbands kids can wear so they can reunite with you quickly in case they get lost.
  5. If someone in your group needs a wheelchair or scooter, reserve it before you go. You can reserve a wheelchair or scooter online, even before the Fair begins. They must be made 24 hours in advance and are only good for full-day rentals. See the price breakdown, along with a link to reserve, here.
  6. Don’t pay for water. Backpacks, bags and coolers are allowed on the Fairgrounds, meaning you can pack water, pop and snacks for the kiddos. Just know that you’ll have to carry around whatever you bring with you — the Fair doesn’t have lockers or a bag check. You won’t be able to bring a cooler with you to a show at the Grandstand. No outside alcohol is allowed onto the Fairgrounds.
  7. If you have to buy water, don’t pay too much. Prices for bottled water can vary greatly on the Fairgrounds. The Coca-Cola booths are one of the worst spots to get hydrated. Please don’t pay more than $1.75 for 20 oz. Check out this article for spots you should circle on your map if you need H2O. Remember you can bring a water bottle on the Fairgrounds and water bottle filling stations are scattered about. I’m serious about this one. A great food vendor (they shall not be named) is charging nearly $4 for a 20 oz bottle of Dasani. It’s robbery.
  8. Speaking of beverages, start studying what you will drink. A list of the specialty beverages served only at the Fair is available online. The brochure will also be available in print form at information booths (you may have to ask for it, as it’s not always sitting on the counter).
  9. Don’t get stuck in the Food Building. The Food Building is one of the most congested places on the Fairgrounds. It’s also one of the most delicious. Two of my top 10 Fair foods come from that one spot. But don’t get stuck in the hot, sweaty mess. Check out my video tutorial on Food Building shortcuts which are rarely used.
    13_giant_slide.jpg
    One of the best parts of the Great Minnesota Get Together is the people watching. Photo courtesy: Minnesota State Fair
  10. Enjoy the people watching. All walks of life make their way to the Fairgrounds, and State Fair officials embrace that, offering a State Fair bingo card that’s free to download. The State Fair does not offer prizes for completed bingos.

If it’s your first time at the Minnesota State Fair, I recommend using this guide to make sure you taste the most iconic foods at the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Click here to see a feed with all of my Minnesota State Fair advice.

The 2020 Minnesota State Fair runs August 27th thru September 7th.

All photos courtesy Minnesota State Fair

The 3 best days to attend the Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair is over 320 acres of food on-a-stick, animals and people watching. However, when there are nearly a quarter-million people walking around — or worse, huddled in one spot eating corn-on-the-cob — you could get a bit frazzled.

Historically, the State Fair sees its lowest attendance on days six and seven, which are the only Tuesday and Wednesday dates during the Fair’s 12 day run. It’s considerably different. You can see previous State Fair attendance numbers here.

My other favorite day is Thrifty Thursday, which is always the first day of the State Fair. Everything is clean, people are happy, there are discounts on admission and there are typically less people who attend the first day, although it is higher than days 6 and 7.

So what dates should you avoid? The second Saturday, which is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, is always the worst when it comes to large crowds. In 2018, more than 270,000 people attended the Fair that day alone. That was an all-time single day attendance record. Compare that to the 120,000 people who attended on day 6 — a difference of over 150,000 people.

You can eat new State Fair foods before the Fair even starts

It’s not the most publicized, but it’s truly a fun night. And it’ll make your friends jealous.

Every year on the Thursday before the Minnesota State Fair starts, traditional and new Fair food vendors gather in the International Bazaar for an event called Taste of the Fair.

And you can attend.

In addition to the food, event-goers can play Midway games, listen to music by performers playing during the Great Minnesota Get Together. And guess what? There aren’t mile-long lines to try even the most sought after food! I have gone before — it’s a lot of fun.

07934A7E-49D4-46B6-9CCC-1AAFF90787B5
Me with the Minnesota State Fair’s mascots, Fairchild and Fairborne, at the Taste of the Fair in 2015.

Tickets to Taste of the Fair are $85 (as of 8/6/19, they are $100 with late registration) and benefit the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, the group responsible for maintaining and upgrading the buildings and fairgrounds. Your ticket price is all-inclusive, meaning you will get food and drink provided once you enter the event.

The 2019 Taste of the Fair is on Thursday, August 15, 2019 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Learn more online.

View my complete Minnesota State Fair guide by clicking here.

There are secret alleyways in the Food Building at the Minnesota State Fair

The Food Building at the Minnesota State Fair is a blessing and a curse. There’s delicious food but it can get so crowded. I’m here to help you know exactly where to go so you’re not stuck sifting through the masses of people.

Before I go any further, you need to know exactly what you want from the Food Building before entering the Food Building. If you want a Wild Rice Cheeseburger (my favorite Fair food) and are on the west side of the building, you really need to walk around the outside of the building before going inside.

They may not be glamorous, but once you’re inside the Food Building, there are multiple shortcuts you can take.

Say you just picked up your cheese curds and want that Wild Rice Cheeseburger. Instead of walking through the entire building, you can take the doors near the Seafood Shoppe and walk straight ahead to get right to that burger.

This video shows the opposite route. Say you have a Wild Rice Cheeseburger and want a cinnamon roll (one of my other favorite Fair foods). You don’t need to push your way through crowds.

There’s also a shortcut that takes you out near the cheese curds. That can be helpful if you need an immediate exit from too many people.

The Minnesota State Fair’s Food Finder specifically tells you which wall a specific vendor is on. You can find that Finder on their app, which is a free download for smartphones.

The best non-alcoholic beverages at the Minnesota State Fair, and the cheapest pop

Sure, there’s always buzz about the best brews and specialty adult beverages you can find at the Minnesota State Fair, but there are some delightful beverages off the beaten path that all can enjoy.

I appeared on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live with three of my favorites, along with the shops who consistently have the best deals on pop at the Fairgrounds.

Remember: you can bring a water bottle with you onto the Fairgrounds. Use their water bottle refill stations and save lots of money on bottled water!

The 27 new craft beers and beverages at the 2018 Minnesota State Fair

In addition to the 27 “official” new foods making their debut at the 2018 Minnesota State Fair, (see the full list and my reviews here) there are 27 new beverages you will find around the Fairgrounds.

Related: click here to find the cheapest beer at the Minnesota State Fair

The State Fair prints a Specialty Brews & Beverages brochure, which is available online. You can also ask for it at any information booth on the Fairgrounds.

Some new beers to look out for:

  • Mankato Brewery is pouring the Cake’d Up Celebration Ale, a deep-fried cake flavored beer. It’s description: “The lightly hopped ale features a distinct vanilla aroma and ends up with a comforting, cake-like finish.” They’ll be serving inside The Hanger, an aviation-themed food hall on the north end of the Fairgrounds (formerly the Pet Center).
  • Funnel Cake Cream Ale, available at Coasters, near the Midway
  • LimeLight, available at The Blue Barn, in the West End Market

That’s in addition to two returning beers I adore:

  • The Mini Donut Beer is a delight. Last year, I ate a bag of mini donuts while sipping the beer. I have no shame. They rim the cup in sugar. You’ll find it at the Ball Park Cafe on the outside of the Food Building.
  • Grain Belt’s Blu beer is now available at bars around Minnesota, but it was debuted at the Minnesota State Fair. In the West End Market, you’ll find it as a frozen drink and a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer afternoon. My recommendation is to grab one (or two) and bring them with you to the rooftop of Lulu’s Public House, which offers prime people watching from above.

Get my full Minnesota State Fair guide here.

A free show State Fair officials call ‘a hidden gem’

Check out History On-A-Schtick, a daily, 30 minute show that teaches you about important figures in Minnesota’s history. But this isn’t a lecture. And State Fair officials say it’s highly underrated.

Plus, learn about an app that’ll help you find the closest pronto pup when you’re on the Fairgrounds.

 

The best ways to get to the State Fair

This article was first published in 2017. For updated information, check out this article.

Make sure to plan ahead for how you’ll get to the Minnesota State Fair. I was on KSTP’s Twin Cities Live with advice.

  • There are over 30 free park and ride lots are near the Fairgrounds. Be careful: they fill up fast. Check the State Fair’s Twitter page before you head out to see if your go-to lot is full.
  • There are 20 express stations around the Twin Cities. Note not every single route runs daily.
    • These trips are $5 roundtrip.
    • They are cash only — however, you can download Metro Transit’s free app and use it to buy your ticket via PayPal or credit card. Plus, you save $.50 a ticket!
  • You can park on the Fairgrounds, but it’s not recommended. And it’s $14. They only take cash.
  • If you have a motorcycle, use it! Motorcycle parking in the lot south of Como Avenue is $8. If you park your hog elsewhere at the Fairgrounds, it’s $14.
  • Uber and Lyft are offering discounts to new users looking to go to the Fair. Find those promo codes here.