Minnesota State Fair's Top 10 things to do

The main question we get asked when people learn we go to the MN State Fair four times each year is, "What do you do there?" When we learn that some people only go for a couple hours and then leave, we ask them, "How do you possibly see everything in such a short time?" For those of you who think it should be called the Great Minnesota Eat-Together, only go for the same food every year, and wonder what sane people do at the fair for more than an afternoon, here is a list of 10 things to do at this year's State Fair. There's more than just butter sculptures and Pronto Pups.

10. Pig out. Go in a group and share the food, just taking a bite of everything. That way you can sample more items without filling up on just a corn dog or two. Food to try if you haven't: Scotch eggs for breakfast, walleye cakes at Giggles Campfire Grill, or even the corn dog pizza in the food building (I didn't think it was all that bad).

Corn dog pizza
Corn dog pizza

9. Indulge your inner foodie. Go to the Agriculture building and watch the Ginsu knife guy go through his routine, buy an apple freezy, see the biggest pumpkin and largest tomato, try some wine ice cream, look at all the different kinds of honey and see the live bee show. There are some interesting things to buy and a lot to learn.

8. Be entertained. At 6:00 p.m. every night but Labor Day, there is a wonderful talent show in the band shell. It's a great hour to spend off your feet, and you can see whether you agree with the judges' decision to give it to the jugglers over the cloggers. This is one of our very favorite things to do.

7. Score some swag. There is lots and lots of free stuff at the fair: Get free fans, backpacks, and lip balms at the Education building; find free Sensodyne toothbrushes across from the 4H building; and get free drinks samples from various corporations around the Agriculture building and next to the Dog Building.

Largest PumpkinEXPAND
Largest Pumpkin

6. Get some culture. Built in 1907, the Fine Arts building contains some of the most incredible art in MN all under one roof. You can walk around and see if you agree with the judging (we almost never do), have everyone pick out their favorite piece, and then explain to the group why they like it. The variety, talent, and beauty is stunning.

5. Enjoy a musical. Three times a day in the 4H building there is a fun musical put on by a 4H group called Arts-in. The kids bring a lot of good Minnesota energy to the production, and it's something everyone will like. Show times vary, but most days the show starts at 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30.

Pull-up contests at the marine booth.EXPAND
Pull-up contests at the marine booth.

4. Go shopping. Walk through the Grand Stand and Merchandise Mart and see the newest gadgets. Whether you like snow that isn't cold, cool applicators for your nail polish, Sham Wows, magical massage lotion, or cool jewelry, there's something for everyone. While you're there, enjoy free samples of fresh pico de gallo and vitamix smoothies

3. Be impressed. In the Creative Activities building you can see how we MInnesotans spend our long winters. Everything from perfected baking recipes to quilts to intricate wood carvings of European cathedrals show that the skill in our state is beyond belief. In the back are some more gadgets, pop can carbonation sealers, and a sample bonanza of soups and dips. It's worth the trip.

2. Get farmy. If you have small kids, or young ones at heart, do the Little Farmhands tour just accross from Giggles Campfire Grill. It's a little corny, but it teaches the kids about working on a farm, and they get a prize at the end. At the entrance there are free Kemp's samples for the older at heart.

Petting an AlligatorEXPAND
Petting an Alligator

1. Get high. Walk down to the dog building, seeing the old machinery hill along the way, pet some rescued greyhounds and whatever other breeds are there that day, then ride the Sky ride back to the center of the grounds. The ride is just three bucks and it's worth it to get a bird's-eye view of the fair while saving your feet. You may see something you missed on the way out.

Bonus: Be a freeloader. There is free music at almost every eating establishment, free concerts all day at the Bandshell, bands and dancers at the County Stage, and much more. If you can't find what you're looking for in free entertainment, well, you aren't looking. It's an amazing 11 days of summer.

So, if I've missed anything you really like to do, let me know in the comments below. Otherwise, go and have a fun time. Winter is coming.

Rob Barrett www.cookingfordads.net

More State Fair posts:

Minnesota State Fair taste test: worst new foods

Minnesota State Fair taste test: best new foods

Texas man makes deep-fried beer. Minnesotans want some.

Butter head trivia: 5 things you never knew about butter sculptures

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Minnesota State Fairgrounds

1265 Snelling Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108


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