There is no question; the Great Minnesota Get Together is both great and a whole lotta get together. To be honest, I’ve only been to the Minnesota State Fair a few times, but we’re headed back this weekend and I am puuumped. I’ve researched a thing or two to make sure we hit the good stuff, but tried really hard not to make many plans beyond that, as the randomness is one of the reasons I love the fair. Where else can you see an animal give birth and then go grab a corn dog? But also Sweet Martha’s cookies, entertainment, and a whole lotta swag. It’s a different experience every time you go. Here are a few highlights and must tries for 2016 as well as a few tried and true tips.
Parking: This might be the most stressful part of the day, unless you have a plan. There are lots of options. There are onsite lots for $13/day (cash only), but you have to deal with traffic and unless you arrive super early or attend on day of the week that’s not as busy, it is a possibility the lots will be full when you get there. Heading into a random neighborhood and paying to park in someone’s yard is also an option, but again, this is someone’s yard… In my opinion, the best option is a park and ride. It’s free, the buses run every 20 min. from 8:00 am – 12:00 midnight. Plus there are TONS of bus stops so you can pick the option that’s most convenient.
Food Roundup: One simply does not go to the state fair and not eat their weight in food. Let’s be real; it’s the best thing about the fair. On my list for this year? I think I’ve covered the entire spectrum from sweet to savory and then some…
- Corn Dogs | Errrverywhere: Don’t worry, I’m just getting warmed up. I truly believe you can’t get a better hand-dipped corn dog anywhere else in the world. Plus it’s the only food I trust that will actually be good on a stick. Poncho Dogs or Pronto Dogs – it don’t matter.
- Paneer on a Spear | Midtown Global Market: Available only Aug. 30 – Sept. 5, Hot Indian takes over the Midtown Global Market stand in the International Bazaar. Paneer is an Indian cheese that I’m excited to try. I’ve yet to meet a cheese I don’t like.
- Walleye Mac and Cheese | Giggles’ Campfire Grill: This is the MINNESOTA State Fair afterall
- Strawberry Donut Delight | The Strawberry Patch: Strawberry shortcake with an iced donut.
- Candied Bacon BLT | The Blue Barn: Crispy, thick candied bacon, rancher’s slaw and green tomato spread on a sweet egg bun……
- Rueben Pickle Dog (or the Classic Pickle Dog) | Pickle Dog: The Pickle Dog (a pickle smothered in cream cheese wrapped in pastrami) has been one of my favorites. New for 2016, try the Rueben dog with pickle + kraut + thousand island, wrapped in pastrami.
- Burnt Butt Ends | RC’s BBQ: Everyone knows the crispy, burnt ends of a pork roast are the best. Smothered in bbq sauce, and I may never leave.
- Cracker Jack Sundae | Goertze’s Dairy Kone: New for 2016, think soft serve atop a bed a cracker jacks.
- Sweet Martha’s | Three Locations: If you don’t get a cone of these, you are legit crazy.
- Nut Roll | Colonial’s Nut Roll: Salted nut rolls times a million.
- Swedes in a Blanket | Lynn’s Lefse (in Food Building): Swedish Meatballs wrapped in Lefse. My Swedish ancestors would be proud.
Drink Roundup: Food vendors aren’t the only ones to get in on the fun. Local breweries, cideries, and soda shops create specialty brews themed exclusively for the State Fair.
- Sweetland Orchard Minnesota Mule Cider | Ball Park Cafe
- Bent Paddle Hopmosa | Ball Park Cafe: For you early morning fair go-ers.
- Schell’s Red Citrus Sangria Beer | Schell’s Pavillon
- Bad Weather Brewing Funnel Cloud | Mancini’s Al Fresco
- Sociable Candy Apple Cider |Giggles’ Campfire Grill
- Lakes & Legends Sweet Corn Summer Ale | O’Gara’s at the Fair
- Spring Grove Soda: Delicious craft soda made in SE Minnesota. SO many flavors.
The Minnesota Show with Garrison Keillor | Friday, Sept. 2 | 7:45 I am an MPR nut so you know I jumped on these tickets almost as soon they were released. Garrison Keillor is retired from Prairie Home Companion, so I’m extra excited to see him live.
Ladies in Butter: aka the Princess Kay of the Milky Way Butter Carvings | Dairy Building: A must see and impressive every time you see it, the Dairy Princess and her court are carved out of 90 lbs of butter.
Willy’s Excited for (aka Kiddo-Approved): Great Big Sandbox | $2 All-You-Can-Drink-Milk | The Okee-Dokee Brothers Concert | Kemps Little Farm Hands | Malt O’ Meal Stand – Sample 15 kinds of cereal!
Historic Walking Tour: Pick up a copy at an info booth, or get the deets here. The State Fair started in 1859… you can imagine the things this fair has seen.
Crop Art | Agriculture and Horticulture Building: Yet more wacky pieces of art that are seriously impressive – made entirely of colored beans and corn and seeds.
Art & Sculpture: DID YOU KNOW that the State Fair ground are actually full of great art exhibits, sculptures, and attractions that honor the history of the fair and Minnesota in general. They even have a follow along guide that shows you the locations of where sculptures of the Peanuts Gang on Parade, a Pronto Pup Statue, a mosaic of a commemorative MN postcard, among others reside!
“Land of 10,000 Beers” Craft Beer Hall exhibit | Agriculture Horticulture Building: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know craft brewing is big in Minnesota. This exhibit is both educational and delicious with presentations from the brew masters to flight tastings.
Sky Ride: Grab some food on a stick and have a seat for the best view of the fair!
Gopher Statues: So, the official mascots of the Minnesota State Fair are a pair of gophers: Fairborne and Fairchild (uncle and nephew). Find their statues throughout the fairgrounds OR see them live at the Visitors Plaza every day at 11 am and 4 pm.
Other Helpful Links: daily schedule | grand stand shows | map of the fairgrounds | full list of specialty brews available at state fair | food finder