State fair tips

9 Tips for Minnesota State Fair Newbies

October 2, 2019 by Michelle

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First time headed to the Fair? You need these Minnesota State Fair tips to enjoy it as much as possible. Visit Roseville hosted me on a press trip and paid for my entrance to the Fair and provided me with a gift card to pay for travel and food.

Sweet Marthas Cookies

I grew up going to the Fair. And yes, it’s awesome enough that it is simple the Fair, no qualifications needed.

Every year, I spent days at the Fair in between classes where I competed in the horse show. Needless to say, I figured out all sorts of tricks. Coming back to the Fair as an adult, I’m so glad I know about them.

9 Minnesota State Fair Tips for First Time Visitors

Choose your day carefully

The Minnesota State Fair is (rightly) popular. They have over 2 million people visit over 12 days, which can be overwhelming.

If you are ok with crowds, visit on whatever day is most convenient for you. If you want to avoid some crowds, visit early in the Fair or on a weekday.

Labor Day weekend is always the busiest time, starting with that Friday. Early in the week tends to be less busy, but weather also plays a big role.

We attended on a Monday this year where it drizzled most of the day. The attendance was under 100,000 (barely) for the first time in who knows how long, which meant lines tended to be shorter.

Watch for the special events

Each day at the Fair offers different activities and concerts. When I can attend during the hunter/jumper shows, I love it. But there are plenty of concerts, special animal activities, magic shows, and more.

If you have something you’re interested in, make sure it happens on the day you plan to visit. That goes double for the concerts.

Why? Each night, the Minnesota State Fair offers a name act, for an extra charge. Minnesota State Fair tip? Even if you don’t attend the full concert, you can still enjoy the act as you walk nearby.

The concerts this past year ranged from Hootie and the Blowfish to Weird Al Yankovic to Clint Black. Regardless of your musical preferences, there has to be an act you want to see.

Buy your Blue Ribbon Bargain Book – before the Fair Starts

This is one of my favorite Minnesota State Fair tips. Every year, my family always bought this book at our local Cub Foods. You can also get it at Minnesota Visitor Information.

You used to only be able to purchase this before the Fair, but now you can purchase the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book at State FairWear Gift Shops and Bargain Book & State Fair Poster Carts during the Fair itself.

The book offers discounts on food and rides with 150 different coupons. For $5, this book pays for itself quickly. 

One note: the most popular vendors don’t put coupons in the book – they simply don’t need to. I always find plenty of coupons I want to use from the boozy pies to an ice cream soda from Bridgeman’s to discounts on Mighty Midway tickets.

Plan your visit in advance

There is no way to experience the entire Fair in one visit. You’ll find far too much to do and to eat, and you likely won’t even walk the entire area.

If you go in without a plan, you may miss something you truly want to visit. I have a list of must visit places, and even still I usually don’t hit everything before we leave. Somehow.

This last time, we made it to the Miracle of Birth building and arrived just in time to watch a cow give birth. In all my years, I’ve never witnessed a live birth, but that meant we spent over an hour there.

Newborn baby calf

We did visit some animals, rode the Giant Slide, ate our way through the Fair, wandered the Grandstand, and more, however. The good news is that there’s so much variety, you’ll never be bored.

Don’t drive and park at the Fair

Traffic around the Fair is… awful. With 150,000 or 200,000 people attending, it turns to gridlock easily, and parking costs $15 per vehicle.

Thankfully, you have fantastic alternatives. You can take advantage of free park and ride buses to get to the Fair from 34 locations. 

These 34 locations do fill up (and then empty) during the day, so go early or watch for updates on Twitter @mnstatefair. You can take the bus anytime from 8am to midnight.

Alternatively, you can park further away – again for free – and take an express bus for a small fee. If you do so, use the Metro Transit app or buy your ticket online to save $1 and pay $5 for the round trip.

Bring cash

For the most part, vendors don’t take credit cards at the Fair. If you want to buy food, you need to pay for it in cash. The same holds true for most experiences at the Fair, though there are some exceptions.

Yes, the Fair offers ATMs throughout the grounds, but your bank will likely charge you fees, as will the ATM. Instead, plan ahead, and bring more cash than you think you’ll need. Just in case.

Share with your family

There is SO much food at the Fair. So much more than you could ever eat, and you know you’ll want to eat it all.

The portions are not “have a taste” type sizes. No ma’am. They are full on ENJOY this life size, which means you can spend the entire day and only try a tiny percentage of the offerings.

State Fair fried pickles

Go with a group, and order one item at a place, then share. Everyone gets a bite and enjoys it, but you then get to enjoy so much more variety without stuffing yourself.

Except Sweet Martha’s. And the cheese curds. Those you might want to order your own.

Take advantage of the transportation options onsite

The Fair grounds are absolutely huge. You can easily walk tens of thousands of steps as you explore, but you may not want to.

Thankfully, you have a couple great options to get around the Fair. 

You can ride one of the two free trolleys from Dan Patch Avenue to Underwood Street to Murphy Avenue to Cooper Street to Randall Avenue to Cosgrove Street and back to Dan Patch Avenue from 8am to 9m daily – except during the daily 2-3pm parade.

State Fair free trolley

You can also purchase tickets for the SkyGlider to ride from the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Underwood Street to Murphy Avenue and Cooper Street. Or vice versa.

The SkyGlider gives you a bird’s eye view of the Fair. Minnesota State Fair tip: make sure you have your camera out during the ride for some amazing pictures!

Minnesota State Fair SkyGlider

You can purchase a one way ticket for $4.50 or round trip for $7, and yes, you can choose either station to start.

The Minnesota State Fair is accessible

Thankfully, there are plenty of options for anyone who needs accommodations. You can rent electric mobility scooters, strollers, wagon and wheelchairs on a first come, first serve basis, although you can reserve wheelchairs and electric mobility scooters in advance with at least 24 hours notice for full day rentals.

Aside from that, there is accessible parking both onsite ($15) or park and ride. Obviously, many of the buses (though not all – you may have to wait) are also accessible.

All entertainment areas have accessible seating, as well as entry and exits that will work for those with mobility concerns. The seating is first come, first served.

Are you ready for your first visit after these Minnesota State Fair tips?

9 easy Minnesota state fair tips

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