Minnesota State Fair: Top 10 places to poop
Because you never know when nature will call, especially when you've eaten a corn dog, carmel apple, corn, cheese curds, falafel, Snickers on a stick...
All photos by Jake Nyberg
The world doesn't need another recap of the newest, weirdest, on-a-stickiest foods at the Minnesota State Fair. At least not from this omnivore. When it comes to fair grub, it's fun to experiment -- to try things for yourself -- to share as many items as you can with as many people as possible. That's the secret to gastronomic success. It's about volume. Trial and error. It isn't rocket science and it sure as hell isn't a fancy tasting dinner with white linens. The fair is a gathering of people, animals, smells and tastes. It gets messy and the mess is part of the adventure.
Having said that, if there's one part of your State Fair experience that you don't want to experiment with, it's the inevitable (and, often regrettable) trip to the commode. We're not talking about taking a quick whiz. I mean a full-on, legitimate, can't-eat-another-thing-until-I-take-care-of-this bowel movement.
Let's move past the pleasantries and get real here: Everybody poops... and, while we'd all prefer to coax out a championship deuce before leaving for the fair, sometimes you have no choice but to pop a squat at a place that draws more visitors in a single day than almost any event in the world (look it up). But how can you guarantee maximum comfort during an evacuation while surrounded by 200,000 of your closest friends? Don't just head for the first bank of biffies... read on and jot these down. Remember, we're all in this together. The quest for a clean restroom is thankless, but necessary and I did the heavy lifting (or sitting) for you. If you're like me, I think you'll find this list provides a lot more real world value than some deep-fried highlights. You can find those on your own.
10. Main Gate (Dan Patch and Cosgrove)
Tucked just inside the fair's main gate is a brick building with some restrooms. Typically best reserved for a quick number one on your way in or out, these johns were suitable enough when I checked them out. Perhaps because they were just cleaned, or because most folks venture deeper into the fair before a true urge strikes. These toilets are also the closest to the administration buildings -- a clean restroom tactic I employed often in college.
9. Creative Activities Building (Dan Patch and Cosgrove)
On the other side of Dan Patch as you enter the fair is the Creative Activities Building. This bizarre hall-of-homemade features bad scrapbooking, dried out pies and bland pickles that have been awarded with ribbons. If you're nearby and need to perform a "creative activity" of your own, you'll find some quiet, award-winning restrooms in the middle of this shrine to grandparents with too much free time.
8. Giggles Campfire Biffies (Behind Giggles Campfire Grill)
I debated putting any porta-johns on this list because, by definition, they're not a real bathroom. As such, these blue plastic outhouses are generally worth avoiding, save for a standing leak. I included these, though, because they're hidden in a remarkably low-traffic area (which tends to be a common trait of clean shitters). Simply put, few people know about these biffies, so, if nature calls while you're three sips into a S'mores beer at Giggles, just set it down and walk confidently just past the bar to find relief.
(For more, click to page two.)
Right behind the deep fried pickle stand near the west Skyride station there's a small little bathroom building that everyone seems to pass. It's not flashy and it can be a little hit or miss, but if you slathered the hot sauce onto those pickles a bit too liberally and you can't make it to the nearby West End (which we'll get to later), these johns are a suitable place for a hurried go.
6. Coliseum (Northeast side nearest Miracle of Birth Center)
For a building filled with horses and horse folk, the Coliseum actually boasts a couple surprisingly tidy lavatories. I surveyed the one on the northeast side nearest the Miracle of Birth center. While a bit outdated, the bowls were spotless and the seats welcoming. This is a winning spot if that Harry Singh's jerk chicken you wolfed down for lunch does a rodeo of its own...
5. Machinery Hill (Randall Ave.)
This newer building is clean and spacious. Nothing special or nostalgic, just plenty of room to find relief between test sits on the farm equipment nearby. Bonus: The stalls and urinals are numbered. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I would assume it comes in handy during a search and rescue operation for a guy fighting a losing battle with four orders of deep fried alligator bites.
4. Carnes Ave. (Near south end of grandstand ramp)
Right next to the DNR building just off Carnes Ave. there's another newer set of restrooms. Again, we're dealing with numbered stalls here. I think another fun use for the numbers would be a reference point for buddies who also need a refreshing pause. "How was that bathroom?" "Not bad, but avoid stall six. Yikes." If you're at the nearby fishing pond, you can "angle" your way to a pit stop here without hesitation.
(For more, click to page three.)
The international bazaar plays host to dozens of great musical acts during the fair. It also plays host to some of the cleanest, most plentiful toilet stalls on the grounds. So if you're rocking out to a wicked guitar solo and suddenly feel the need to "cut loose" with a featured performance of your own, rest assured the restrooms at the west side of the bazaar are at least as inviting as any rock and roll green room. Probably more.
2. West End (Far west end of Dan Patch)
These could really have taken the prize for best shitters at the fair. They almost did. Why? Because they're beautiful. The newest on the fairgrounds, this large restroom building (complex?) is the crown jewel of the new West End development (which boasts great beer and food spots, some shops, a museum and kick ass music stage). Head up to the second floor patio at LuLu's and just admire the building from the back balcony. Think about how much it must have cost to build, realize they could have just put up more outhouses instead, and then thank them for caring so much about the kind of world your little turtle head is born into. That's commitment to a quality guest experience, folks.
1. Fine Arts Building (Cosgrove near Randall)
A buddy who worked in sanitation at the fair for years told me about these bathrooms. They're the stuff of squeaky clean legend. I'm not sure if it's because nobody uses them or because art lovers conduct remarkably professional business in the john. Whatever the case, the fine arts building restrooms are consistently the most reliable on the fairgrounds. Hands (or drawers) down. They aren't sexy. They aren't new. They aren't even spacious. They're really just a hygienic anomaly -- an oasis of perfection in a 320 acre minefield where even the best restroom bets can find themselves littered with failed air drops, soggy toilet paper and the colonic wreckage of a thousand food building sprees gone awry.
The Fine Arts building johns are truly a secret -- a secret I hesitated to share. But, if you're reading this, I know you care about a clean, safe place to unload and recharge. We have a shared responsibility to keep these restrooms -- all ten of them -- ready for the next weary traveler. It's on you now. My work here is done. Godspeed.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.