“Only 3 more weeks till the fair!”  I hear this countdown throughout the year from my husband. As soon as spring comes around I hear something to the tune of, “Soon it will be summer, and near the end of summer, the fair will be here!”I don’t know about you, but I never really got into state fairs. I mean I never even attended the Wisconsin State Fair until my senior year of high school when I went with friends.

I have always enjoyed festivals and fairs; however one trip each year was usually sufficient. (Summerfest in Milwaukee being the exception – especially once I hit college and the drunken music lover / people watcher in me NEEDED to be there multiple days… like every other Wisconsin teen-early twenty-something…)

Then I met my husband. His family is OBSESSED with the Minnesota State Fair. I’m serious about this – he’ll leave the house at 6am on the 1st day to head to the gates (if you leave any later than that you apparently miss out on so much – you know, with most buildings not opening until 9 and all…) and not returning until quite late into the evening.

It has definitely grown on me, because basically it was either I jump on the fair bandwagon, or our relationship would suffer. Now, we go 5-6 times typically during the 12 day run (if we did not have full time jobs, we would go more. We had to schedule our wedding so it did not interfere with the Fair. Our son, born August 11, 2013, went to the fair four (4) times (!!!) that summer – a mere 2 weeks after his birth. (Yes – I walked the fairgrounds five (5) times 2 weeks after giving birth.) In 2014 – we went 6 times with a one year old. So basically, I consider myself to be a quasi-fair expert at this point. So if you’re a normal human and are not so familiar with all the Fair has to offer you and your family, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll have several State Fair themed posts over the next few weeks.

So to start it off, I bring you –

6 Things to do Before the Minnesota State Fair

  1. Buy your tickets! Regular ticket prices for 2015 are $13 for adults, $11 for Seniors, and $11 for kids aged 5-12. If you buy them early, tickets will cost just $10 each. If you’re unsure how many times you’ll make it to the fair, I say it’s best to buy extra because you can always sell extras at the gate. . (people hate waiting in line, and you can even stand to make a couple bucks off each ticket this way) Even on the discounted days, the adult tickets are still $11 (unless you qualify for Military appreciation day – then it’s $8) http://www.mnstatefair.org/tickets_discounts/admission.html 
  2. Get your Blue Ribbon Bargain Book! These can only be purchased before the fair starts. We always go through beforehand, and earmark the coupons we want to use. All booths that accept the coupons have a sign indicating what page their coupon is on as well, so it’s hard to forget to use them. http://www.mnstatefair.org/tickets_discounts/blue_ribbon_bb.html
  3. Check the Daily Schedules. OK – it’s still a little early to really plan out your trip- the daily schedules aren’t even available online yet. But over the next couple weeks, the fair website has links to the schedules for each day of the fair. If you know you’ll only be at the fair one day, you’ll know what’s happening at what times so you can see and do as much as you can in your one day. http://www.mnstatefair.org/general_info/daily_schedules.html
  4. Print out a Fair Grounds map ahead of time. If you don’t that’s OK, they have them there as well. But if you’re a planner like me, it’s sometimes nice to take a glance at the night before. Especially if you have a must-do list, this comes in handy, as before you know it, the parade has started and you’re waiting on your blueberry beer in the West End and now you’ll never be able to forgive yourself for missing Smokey the Bear. http://www.mnstatefair.org/general_info/get_here/maps.html 
  5. Get Cash. There are ATMS at the fair, however they charge a $3 service fee, and even more annoying than that is the stupid long lines. Seriously – everyone in front of you is going to forget how to use an ATM , and then the machine WILL decide to process your request slower than the slowest process ever before. Not to mention, waiting in line to only find out the machine is OUT OF CASH is the worst. And if you wait in line, your kid is GUARANTEED to throw a fit because you’re waiting in line to get cash to spend in the next ridiculously long line when all they wanted was a flippin Sweet Martha’s Cookie! So do yourself a favor, and stop at your freaking bank. 
  6. Download the App The Minnesota State Fair App is available for free on both the iPhone app store and Android Market. You can search for food, entertainment, merchandise and a fair grounds map. You can add the events from each day that you want to check out to your “Fun Favorites” before you go, so you won’t miss anything you wanted to see. Also while you’re there, you can download the adorable and addicting Sweet Martha’s Cookie River Run game just for funzies.

Do you have any other tips for the fair? Leave your comments below!