When you spend a day at the State Fair, what’s your strategy?

Among the animal barns and the food booths, from Machinery Hill to the Midway, the Minnesota State Fair is crowded with new attractions and old traditions. It can be a challenge to hit all the nostalgic spots and still get the most out of the latest exhibits. When you spend a day at the State Fair, what’s your strategy?

Mini doughnuts for breakfast, prontos for lunch, cheese curds for a snack and finish off with cookies. There’s no such thing as a diet at the Fair! -Michael, St. Paul, MN

Start when it opens at the cow barns so my city children could see the loving care farm kids give their animals as they prepare for judging, see where milk comes from, and experience the lovely aroma of the fair. End with the art show where it is quiet and air conditioned AND there are clean bathrooms. -anonymous text message

Eat just eat. -anonymous text message

Share your reply in the comments: What’s your State Fair strategy?

  • Karen

    As an introvert, I stay as far away from the State Fair as possible. =)

  • Wally Shelstad

    Start by pacing your self and then enjoy the day!


  • Aaron

    I leave my wife at the Miracle of Life center and then follow my nose.

  • My strategy: Fried food on a stick first, then to the dairy barn for more food and Princess Kay, and wind down at the Miracle of Birth.

  • Al

    We only have a straegy for the first couple of hours. Start with cheese curds at 8:30 while waiting for the Creative Activities building to open. Once it opens, we look at all of the items entered by our family (1st place on hand painted wood furniture and 4th place on hot salsa this year!). Then it is on to the judging of the Spam recipe contest which my mother-in-law will be entering.

  • Marie

    Find a open Adirondack chair, get an overpriced beer, and people watch.

  • kennedy

    take the shuttle bus … get there early … go during the week for smaller crowds … throw the budget out the window … enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes

  • jb

    avoiding snelling ave and the entire area around the fairgrounds at all costs

  • Tory James

    We go right to the mini donuts and buy 2 bags. Then we go on Ye Olde Mill. We work our way thru the fair and come home totally exhaused and tell ourselves “we need to have a battle plan for next year!”

  • Tai Koma

    We hit the animal displays first before the mid-day sun has a chance to bake their poop into a lovely ‘crispy’ smell. Then we find the foot long hot dogs and fries for breakfast while we hit up the buildings as the day heats up and their lovely fan-provided ‘air conditioning’ helps keep us from melting like ice ceram.

    We eat mini donuts with lunch, thus avoiding the morning breakfast mini donut line AND the foot long hot dog lunch rush.

    Then we play the annual ‘Where’s Northern? I thought YOU knew where it was!” game, because we can’t leave the fair without my dad getting new power tools, of course!

    We usually end up seeing horticulture last, as we wind our way back down towards where we came in so we can exit.

  • Jim Kirby

    It’s straight to the cheese curds, then the strawberry milk. Efter that everything else is (sometimes literally) the gravy on top.

  • KPM

    I apologize if this is too long, but this my Yelp.com review of the state fair from last year. I believe it covers pretty much all the deep fried bases on sticks:

    Every year it’s different, but here’s a sampling:

    1 p.m.ish: Arrive at the fair, quick grab a fried oreo, because it has to be the first thing I eat or I won’t eat it.

    1:30 p.m.: Head over to the barns. I have to see them all. I don’t know why – I grew up in the suburbs and now live in the city, but I love the cows, the chickens, the sheep, the state’s largest boar, the horses.

    2:00: Some cheese curds and a (large) beer.

    2:30: Ready for air conditioning… Haunted house, anyone?

    3:00: Fine, I’ll succumb and and have a pronto pup (and a beer).

    3:15: Space Needle. Go up and rotate for a few minutes with a great view of the entire metro area.

    3:30: Must see the arts and crafts – Horticulture building for seed art and giant freakish produce. Arts building for, well, art. Crafts building for pies, jams, homebrewed beers, things that always make me say “damn, why didn’t I enter any of these contests?”, and of course the Eco building to learn all the ways in which I’m falling short of my duties to the Earth.

    4:30: On the way back southward, stop in at political booths, trade and service buildings, etc, for free stuff. I still use my Home Depot yardstick from two years ago.

    5:00: Food building time! Jamaica patties, more cheese curds, anything on a stick, pasta, hotdish, ridiculous amounts of fatty, midwestern sustenance. And beer. Take food outside to the south in the courtyard between food and horticulture buildings for easy access to dessert – frozen key lime pie dipped in chocolate on a stick. I think this one is my new favorite.

    5:30: Must head west – if I have the $3 to spare, I’ll take the Sky-Ride gondola down to the Grandstand. After disembarking, second dessert. Grab a bucket of Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies, and head on over to the “All the milk you can drink” booth in the shaded yard of the DNR building for a while.

    7:00 : Ready for beer again. Grab a large tap and head over to Heritage Square. I freaking love Heritage Square. The walk-through train car exhibits about fair history, the MN newspaper museum, it’s so nerdily spectacular. It always offers some dustbowl-era golden-age circus style snapshots, and this year with the sesquicentennial, I can only imagine the historical fun to be had.

    8:30: Soon, I shall head home, but first I need to hit the midway. The fun houses, the games, the sideshow (I hope it comes back this year), and the neon lights against the sunset. I may just get another beer, too. This is Americana at its best – someday I’ll write a very academic paper on why the fair midway is still culturally relevant in our society.

    There is still so much I didn’t see today, but will get to next year. The MPR booth, machinery hill’s exposition of farm equipment, Ye Olde Mill, the Grandstand shows (and retail booths inside!), and the international bazaar, just to name a few.

    A couple of years ago I heard an interview on the radio where Penn Jillette called the MN state fair the most important fair in the country. I am inclined to agree. Every year I go, I love it, I regret it, but I go again the next year. It’s a bacchanal of proportions that match our wide horizons, and I love that every August I have to physically prepare myself for a FAIR.

    P.S. I’ll be volunteering at a political booth there this Saturday – ten points if you guess which one!

  • Scott Strand

    First, I don’t try and take it all in. If I am going to be there multiple days I divide things up with the machinery hill area, the barns, and the International Bizarre area. If I am there just for a day, I simply wander where I haven’t been for a while. If I miss something there is always next year.