What is your best advice for people attending the Minnesota State Fair?

Crowds fill Cooper Street on the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights, Minn. Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

“Nobody does a state fair like Minnesota,” writes MPR News producer Meg Martin.

And nobody does The State Fair like Minnesotans.

Everyone’s got a fair hack — that little trick that makes you an insider, the one you swear by, the one that makes your trip (or trips!) to the fair the best possible time — till next year.

Today’s Question: What is your best advice for people attending the Minnesota State Fair?


    Bike parking is easier than car parking. Ride your bike to the Fair.

  • Larry Sanderson

    Don’t go! Ittsa cookbook!

    • Hi Larry, do you have time for a quick interview about reasons why people don’t go to the fair? If so, please send me your contact info: molson [at] mpr.org

  • Erika

    Like @d0036347ab97ca6366d560eab548484f:disqus said, ride your bike! If you can’t, park a mile or two away and walk in, walk out. Your bucket of cookies and ___ on a stick will thank you!

    • Erika

      Umm, yeah. That was supposed to say TWIN SIX. ?

  • Gary F

    Go tomorrow and see the Cretin Derham Hall marching band in the parade at 2 PM.

  • Ralfy

    Too hot? The Blue Flame Lodge (across from the Giant Slide) has A/C and cold water!

  • PaulJ

    Be cool, go at night.

  • JQP

    if you are from out of town … get a hotel …. then go into the fair at 6:00 AM – have breakfast, check out the info boths and the arts building, DNR , Energy Conservation display and some MPR shows. Visit the barns if you want to check out the animals. Then go home/hotel and crash for a few hours… because the great MN get together is a massive game of musical chairs with 200,000 players and 12,000 chairs. If you can get one at Leine lodge – stay there. then come back after 7:00 PM. have a beer and do some people watching, take a ride in the midway, eat some dinner, take some pictures and hang for the fireworks. Later

  • Jim G

    Wear a hat. Ride the bus: it’s way easier. Use your Blue Ribbon Bargain Book as your route guide. Visit the MPR Booth. Come twice: once to revel in this, our one last Minnesota common experience, and again to visit the goats. A personal word: If you recognize a college Sweetie from 40 years ago with her husband, have the courage to walk up and say “Hey! I remember you.”

    • Jim G

      Oh yes! Avoid rainy days.

  • Jane

    Take the shuttle!! If you park in the neighborhood, be mindful people are living there, so watch how loud you are early AM or after concerts, don’t wander the neighborhood drunk, don’t throw your fair food trash on the ground.

  • rocky

    Smile! – and take the shuttle.

  • Emmet

    Avoid the hours of 11am – 5pm. Take a shuttle. Share a bucket of Sweet Martha’s with your mates and drink plenty of milk to wash them down. Stay hydrated! Ask around the booths and stands to ask what you should do. This method introduced me to the Lumberjack Games, which are consistently entertaining.

  • Pearly

    Drive around North Minneapolis. Not through.

  • MrE85

    The express buses are great, easy to use, and much less hassle than driving/parking at the fairgrounds. Look for the Fair General Store (hint: it’s near the animal barns). Visit the Fine Arts building early, before it gets to crowded. Wear comfy shoes.
    Oh, and you are there on Aug. 22, you can hear me speak at 4 p.m. (Eco Experience) or watch me drive in the Parade. I’m in the “Clean Air On A Stick Truck.” This year we have a new, blue F-150 that runs exclusively on E85.

    • Renae

      Park and ride, or take the free UMN shuttle. Bring a stroller or wagon for kids 5 and under. Bring a bike lock to lock the stroller up if you want to go inside a crowded building or go on a ride. Bring your own water. Cheapest pop ($1) is the RC pop stand by the Fair offices. Drinks at the fair don’t have lids, so if you have kids, bring sippy cups or your own juice boxes. Use the restrooms in the (air-conditioned) Fine Arts building. Think ahead about what you’d like to eat or you’ll end up buying the first item you see that doesn’t have a line a mile long. Get popular items (cheese curds, pronto pups) during non-meal times. $1 frozen apple juice in the Horticulture building is a healthy treat that occupies small hands and mouths for awhile. Get lots of pictures- Goldy in the UMN building, TC Bear in the Twins tent, Fairmont the fair mascot wherever you can find him. Free play break for the kid at the Rainbow swingset display near the Home Improvement building; cheap thrills at the big slide ($2). Wash your hands in the animal barns and leave the strollers and pacifiers outside!

      • MrE85

        This isn’t Renae’s first rodeo, as they say. A couple more tips: Visit the Heritage Village this year. Next year, it’s gone forever. It has several unique food venders: Spring Grove sodas, Ole’s Cannoli and what many consider the best turkey legs in the Fair.

        • Renae

          I didn’t know that about Heritage Village! So sad! As a proud former 4-Her I have examined every square inch of the State Fair while living in the 4-H Hilton. Which reminds me of another tip- the 4-H building cafeteria is open to the public for meals, which are very reasonable.

      • Meg Martin

        Renae, these are great #fairhacks! Would you be willing to chat with us (over the phone or at the fair) for a radio segment on fair tips and tricks? I’d love to hear more. You can reach me at mmartin@mpr.org.
        Thanks! — Meg Martin (I’m a digital editor here at MPR News…)

  • James

    Drink two beers immediately, for medicinal purposes. That’ll make the hot, sweaty, oblivious crowd less of a problem. Then share one of a wide variety of food with your fair-mates. You can try a lot more items if you don’t have to eat the whole thing. Then grab a bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies and head to the All You Can Drink Milk booth.

  • Rebecca

    Take advantage of buses, stay hydrated, bring extra cash. Wear comfy shoes. Visit the Heritage Village- there are great ice cream treats there. Pace yourself, bring a stroller for young kids. Grab handheld fans when available.

  • Corinne

    Go see some of the horse shows at the Coliseum! There are some really cool western barrel races and rodeo skills etc. that are great to watch. Nice place to get out of the heat, too. http://www.mnstatefair.org/entertainment/coliseum_shows.html

  • Amanda

    Do the free park and rides!! Easy and free!!

  • lindblomealges

    Enjoy it! It truly is a magnificent spectacle and the best part is you can travel to it for free and walk all day long there for exercise.

  • Fairee

    (3) affordable rides are owned by the State Fair: Ye Olde Mill, the Sky Ride, and the Space needle. They are a tradition. Raymond Avenue is under construction this year – my back door to the fair. There is a one block neighborhood going east on Como turn left before Snelling. The neighbors all pool in on being parking attendants and charge 10. We have gone back and rested in the car in relative quiet and shade.

  • Jen

    Shoes, water, hat, shade, energy level- Pay attention to these and your day will be great. Do one thing you have never done before, and don’t be too busy to strike up a conversation with someone you’d otherwise never meet. You could be very surprised.

  • barblibrarian

    Go early, go home and nap in the middle of the day, and come back for the evening. Eat the fresh fries after dark. For some reason they taste better then!

  • Lotsajim

    We live conveniently close to the Fair Grounds and are retired so we usually attend the fair 2-4 times. We aren’t too rigid about this, but we try to see specific areas of the grounds each time we visit. We also like to break our visits down to various times of the day. (Morning breakfast, afternoon lunches, evening shows!) Of course all these “plans” give us pleanty of time to always enjoy the fellowship of the beer gardens.

  • Dave Carr

    I grew up in Roseville and attended the fair more times than I can count, it was usually every day from junior high on. I can often stop in the big indoor beer garden (Cattlemen’s? I think it is called something else now) and often run into friends from high school.
    Along with bicycle parking, I think there is still a motorcycle only lot on Como.
    A lot of people don’t know that there is a convenience store at the fair too (see http://www.mnstatefair.org/general_info/visitor_guide/Convenience-Store.html).
    My grandparent’s house is only a block or two away, so my Dad and uncles were avid fairgoers when they were young boys as well. It is a family tradition!

  • Lisa

    My kids (12 and 10), mom, and I like to get there early enough to park inside the fair – we’re usually there between 7:30-8am. It’s not so crowded and you can stroll around and watch people as the buildings open. You can also go back to the car and take a load off if needed. We like to get our photo right away at 9am at the MEA booth in the education buildling. I carry a backpack with our Thermos water bottles (which we refill all day at Culligan – using THEIR cup ha!) to cut down on buying beverages, a compact “neat sheet” that we can put on the ground to rest in the shade for a break, we only take the freebies that we’ll use and leave the rest otherwise you amass way too much junk. Don’t try to do it all. Pick your favorites and mix it up each year.