Minnesota State Fair on a Budget

Minnesota State Fair on a Budget

The Minnesota State Fair is one of the most important events in this state. Everyone from across the state come together to see all the wonderful things the fair has to offer. People even visit from other states and countries just to see the spectacles.

The state fair has been a tradition of both Ms Blue Ribbon’s and my family since we were kids (her family takes it a little more seriously).

When it comes to the state fair the BR family are pros. They have taught me a lot of tricks about how to do it on the cheap. This isn’t just true of the state fair but other events too.

Take a look at our top 7 ways to save money at The Great Minnesota Get Together!

1. Bus in

While MN doesn’t have the transit system like other major metropolitan areas we still make it useful. The state fair went through a major update a few years ago to emphasize their already robust busing options. Municipal and private options can bring you in from all corners of the metro.

Ride for free at the fair

There are even free park and rides. We like to hop on at the U of M and ride to the fairgrounds for free. That saves us $13 right off the bat. (Parking is a growing nightmare every year.)

2. Buy tickets in advance

If you are going to the fair, and you know you want to, you should stop by one of the many discount  ticket locations or don’t waste your gas and buy online.

We picked up our tickets at the local grocery store for $11 saving $3 per person. Since the fair already started you can’t pick up those tickets but you can still check out their special discount days for military members, seniors, kids, and thrifty Thursday.

3. Blue Ribbon Bargain Book

This one is probably the BR families favorite! There are foods and shops they always plan on hitting up and having a coupon for it is icing on the funnel cake.

For $5 the bargain book can save you a hefty amount of money but just like any coupon you end up spending more money than you should. Just be careful to only use the coupons on things you already planned on buying. Makes even more sense when you get one book for an entire group.

Want to pay it forward? Give the book to a fellow fair goer when you are all done to pass on the savings.

4. Plenty of free activities

If you don’t hit up at least one of the free activities you did the fair wrong. There are too many free kids activities to count. Mini Donut’s favorite is the kids stage where he gets to get up onto the stage and dance with the DJs.

Families listening to music

Ms Blue Ribbon and her sister always have to stop at the Giant Sing Along where you can join your fellow fair goers and sing along with your favorite song.

See all the baby animals

Being the son of a farmer, I love to stroll along the old tractors and bring Mini Donut to the Miracle of Life building and see all the baby animals that are just days  and even hours old.

Don’t worry there are plenty of other educational areas like the Eco Experience where you can learn all about green technology or the Math-on-a-Stick booth.

5. BYO…Water Bottles

This should be obvious. In Minnesota the end of August/beginning of September can be brutal. Sometimes we go and it is in the high 80s and then other days it is low 70s and raining.

Either way you need to keep hydrated and you don’t want to be buying a $3 bottle of water every hour. A good insulated water bottle will save you plenty for a 8 hour minimum fair adventure, even if you have to buy it special for the trip but you will get to use it next year.

6. The Grand Stands

Aug 24-sept 4

The grand stands is full of cool and innovative products…not to mention being sold by amazing salespeople. I don’t blame you for wanting to go in there but be sure it is something you really need.

Remember some of the principles of buying things you don’t necessarily need:

  • Research to make sure it is good quality
  • Sleep on it at least 24 hours if not more
  • Figure out if the item will bring meaning to your life

7. The Midway and Kidway

I can see why you want to go here. Filled with all sorts of classic fair rides and games but come on. If you are in Minnesota you know there are better places to go for this. Valley Fair and Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America are far superior. They have amazing rides and their main focus is on those rides.

I’m not saying the fair rides aren’t fun but I don’t go to a Mexican restaurant and order a hamburger. The state fair has endless food, shows and educational displays.

Make a plan

The state fair is massive and if you don’t have a plan of attack you are going to miss out on all the great things you can do. I’m actually surprised we don’t have an entry in our budget like we do for Christmas for the state fair.

To be fair we probably have more fan fair for the state fair than for Christmas. (ok at this point I’m trying to see how many times I can have the word fair in the post 😄 )

Like any vacation or family outing you should always have an agreed upon amount of money you plan to spend and stick to that…the Minnesota State Fair is no different for us.

What is your favorite part of the state fair? For those not from Minnesota, do you like going to your state’s fair or something else? (We like to do the Renaissance Festival every few years.)

10 thoughts on “Minnesota State Fair on a Budget

  1. Yeeees!! I love that you’re allowed to bring your own water bottles. At about $1 – $2 a pop at the fair, the savings are awesome. 🙂

    I’d also say to know what you actually want. I can’t tell you how often I’ve bought stuff at the Texas state fair and later wonder why I even bought it! Now I walk around for a few hours before I decide to buy anything (especially the tasty fried foods!). Packing healthy snacks and a lunch, if allowed, are also great ideas to save money.

    1. We’re pretty lucky they haven’t stopped people from bringing stuff into the fair but they probably aren’t concerned because most come just for the food! 😂
      They also have lots of water bottle filling stations too.

      We only bought one thing and it was a plush tractor at the John Deere location… after Mini Donut sat on all the tractors.

  2. I love the MN State Fair! I went opening day last Thursday and couldn’t believe how many people were there.

    There are so many free things to do at the fair. My favorite is the Horticulture building to see the seed art. It’s amazing what people can do with various types of seeds! I also like the Fine Arts building. A friend of mine had a drawing displayed this year, so it was fun to see that.

    The Miracle of Birth is also a favorite, but there weren’t many babies that first day. Disappointing but what can you do? There was a cow giving birth when we walked in, though.

    Paula Deen was there on Thursday so I sat in the audience as she tried various fair foods. It was actually pretty amusing.

    Don’t forget all the freebies — I picked up my free lip balm from the Star Tribune (stick flavored), a gift from my alma mater in the Education building, and I also got fancy facial wipes for being in the Paula Deen audience (although the product was not affiliated with her in any way). Most of the stuff I skip – totes, yard sticks, etc. But it’s amazing just how much you can get for free at the fair.

    As far as food, my recommendation is to go with someone who has similar tastes so you can share everything. Makes it more affordable and better for your waistline! I would also recommend the coupon book, as long as those are places you’re going to hit anyway. The fair website has the vendors listed so you can check before buying.

    1. Oh yeah I could have a post 10k words long with all the awesome stuff to do 😉
      We went on Sunday which was terribly crowded! (One of the highest attendance for the first Sunday) Ms Blue Ribbon said no matter what we are going opening day next year.

  3. My wife and son would love to be at the Miracle of Birth Center. They would have a blast seeing all the baby animals. My son is really into animals these days so I’m sure he’d point out all the fun animals along the way 🙂

  4. We’re going this weekend. I can’t pass up the opportunity to eat gluten-free buttermilk scone holes filled with chocolate, marshmallow and Nutella®, deep-fried and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar at the French Meadow booth. I already went to the local fair so I’ll be happy trying all the fancy MN fair food!

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