Minnesota State Fair: Cheap and free things to do


Tomorrow, the gates of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds will open for 12 days of foods on a stick, baby animals, award-winning jams and flowers, friendly carnies running Mighty Midway rides, and free concerts on multiple stages. The fair is an event that is notorious for eating wallets, but with some frugality you can have fun for less, have things to take home, and even possibly win big prizes.

The following is a list of some of the cheap or free things to do, such as $1 food items, and what booths to hit up to enter contests with big wins (they're giving away cars this year, people!). Looking for free stuff? We've also got the best of the free items as well, such as sunglasses, backpacks, ear buds, and playing cards.

See also:

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair


Are you planning on buying things and sampling from a lot of different vendors? You should consider spending $4 on a Blue Ribbon Bargain Book. They're filled with freebies, discounts, and other special deals that will quickly add up if you've got a lot on your itinerary. You can buy them at the State FairWear Gift Shops and State Fair Foundation Souvenir Kiosks. You can check out all of the coupons inside here.



Getting there: Parking at the Minnesota State Fair can be a pain in the ass. Meanwhile, park-and-rides are free. You can see the list of locations here.

Free stuff:

Andersen Corp.

(Cosgrove Street, between Wright & Dan Patch Avenues)

Tote bags.

Auto City Glass

(Underwood Street)

Bracelets, keychains.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of MN

(Randall Avenue & Cosgrove Street)

Bracelets, T-Shirts, pails and shovels, hand sanitizer (which may come in handy at the fair), sunglasses, collapsible water bottles, backpacks.

College of St. Scholastica

(Education Building, northeast corner)

Fans and buttons.

Crossroads Chapel


(Underwood Street)

Bead cross necklaces.

Delta Dental Minnesota

(Cosgrove Street)

Dental floss.

Gedney Pickle

(Wright Avenue)

Pickle hats, pickle sampling, rubber grippers.


History Theatre

(Upper Grandstand)

Buddy Holly glasses.

Home Depot

(Underwood Street)

Frisbees, can coolers, yardsticks, buckets, Nerf footballs, water bottles.

Irish on Grand

(International Bazaar)


Calendar magnets.

Jim Hansel Editions

(Lower Grandstand)

Signed art cards.


(Nelson Street)

Sunglasses, beer koozies, playing cards, hot/cold packs.

Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog

Lupient Automotive

(Underwood Street)

Tote bags.


(West of Grandstand)

Sunglasses, earbuds, glow sticks, chapstick.

MN State Colleges and Universities

(Education Building)

Totes, cinch sacks, water bottles, bandanas, more.


PreferredOne Insurance Company

(Cosgrove St.)

Sunscreen, coloring books.


(Dan Patch Avenue)

Tote bags, mini flashlights.


Star Tribune

(North side of Carnes Avenues, between Chambers & Nelson)

Plastic bags, lip balm.

Stuff that costs $1 or less:

Dairy Goodness Bar

(Dairy Building, southeast corner)

Order up milk (white, chocolate, strawberry), yogurt, and cheese sticks for $1 each.

Frontier Bar

(Carnes Avenue)

Popcorn, hot dogs, and salted peanuts.

India Imports

(International Bazaar)

Ride the feather trend with affordable feathers.

MN Cultivated Wild Rice

(Dairy Building)

Quick cooking wild rice.

Panda Palace

(International Bazaar)

Enjoy a cream-cheese wonton.

Rainbow Ice Cream

(Upper Grandstand)

Small scoop ice-cream cone.

ZRS Fosils and Gifts

(Grandstand, lower level)

Fossil and tumbled stones.

Cool things to enter to win:

Better Business Bureau

(Education Building)

Samsung Galaxy tablet.

Buick GMC

(Cooper Street)

Win a fishing trip to Wiley Point Resort, or a half-day fishing trip with Ron Schara.

Craftmaster's Remodeling

(Home Improvement Building)

Win a home improvement project worth $10,000.

Custom Remodelers, Inc.

(Home Improvement Building)

Win new siding or windows for your home.

Driven to Discover, D2D U of M

(Cosgrove Street)

Win iPad Minis, iPods, Beats by Dre headphones, HDTV, Kindles, more.

ESPN 1500 AM Twin Cities

(Chambers Street)

Win a freakin' hot tub.


(Various locations)

Win a Honda Fit.

KMSP Fox 9

(Nelson Street)

Win a Mazda 6.

MN Pork Board

(East of Warner Coliseum)

Win free bacon for a year (8/29-31).

Up next: Entertainment and animals

[page] Entertainment:

Horse shows:

(The Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum, corner of Judson Avenue and Clough Street)

Do you have a horse fanatic in your family? Is that person you? Check out these free horse shows throughout the next two weeks.

Check out the schedule here.


Miracle of Birth Center

(Judson Avenue, at Clough Street next to the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum)

Meet baby cows, pigs, colts, and other adorable miniatures while learning about the circle of life.

Live music:

Can't afford to take in a show at the Grandstand? Check out the schedules for these free fair venues:

Leinie Lodge

(Shows start at 8:30 p.m.)

  • Aug. 21 & 22: Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring Bo Bice
  • Aug. 23 & 24: Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound
  • Aug. 25 & 26: Scott Stapp (Can he take you higher?)

  • Aug. 27 & 28: Dr. Dog
  • Aug. 29 & 30: Buckwheat Zydeco
  • Aug. 31 & Sept. 1: Charlie Worsham

International Bazaar Stage

(7:30 p.m., 8:45 p.m.)

  • Aug. 21 & 22: Hitchville
  • Aug. 23 & 24: Salsabrosa
  • Aug. 25 & 26: Good For Gary
  • Aug. 27 & 28: GB Leighton
  • Aug. 29 & 30: Sonny Knight & the Lakers
  • Aug. 31 & Sept. 1: The Belfast Cowboys

Schell's Stage at Schilling Amphitheater

(7:30 p.m.)

  • Aug. 21 & 22: Chastity Brown
  • Aug. 23 & 24: White Iron Band
  • Aug. 25 & 26: Monroe Crossing
  • Aug. 27 & 28: Deke Dickerson with the Trashmen
  • Aug. 29 & 30: The 4onthefloor
  • Aug. 31 & Sept. 1: Cash'd Out