Ahhhh the “Great Minnesota Get Together”, formally known as the Minnesota State Fair.
It’s a time for gluttony without guilt, exhilarating rides that bring child-like abandon to people of all ages, smelly yet adorable animals, a market full of merchandise for every quirky collection, and every joy you can think of… All on a stick (naturally).
It can be quite fun… And yet, quite exhausting; especially with children in tow. But what’s a state fair without families?
These are my tips on how to not only survive the state fair with children in tow, but how to ENJOY it!!
- Leave the kids at home. Haha. The funny part is that I’m not joking. If you really want to enjoy the fair, consider going twice. Arrange for a babysitter, budget effectively for two trips to the fair, grab your honey, and have some child-free fun. Drink flights of beer (don’t worry- I didn’t forget I’m pregnant, we skipped that part), go see some live music, be in a news audience, eat food without having to sharing it with little humans with snot crusted above their lips, walk fast if you want to, walk slow if you want to. Heck, use the bathroom only when YOU want to. Do you. Trust me on this one.
- Once you’ve had your time to be child-like and have your OWN fun, share it with the little ones! There are so many great activities for children of every age. Since you’ve already had your fun, you can truly relax and enjoy the little things that bring your kids joy. (See below for toddler aged suggestions! …I’ll update with more categories in a few years when we have older kids to entertain 😉 )
- Have a plan. You know your children better than anyone, and what they will or will not do well with. Ours hates being confined to the stroller. Enter: child leash and Ergo. SERIOUSLY SO GOOD. When the stroller is necessary, we are NOT above giving her handfuls of french fries, or when the day starts to catch up with her lack of napping, a little YouTube kids on my phone. No shame.
- Study the map. Did you know that there are several lactation stations? These are super helpful for nursing in a quiet, cool place. Most of them also have relatively clean areas to change your diaper aged kiddos. So much nicer than the hard plastic (FILTHY) changing tables in the bathrooms. It’s also helpful to know where the bathrooms are as well, for the sake of small can’t-hold-it-very-long children. Lactation stations located at/provided by: MyTalk 107.1 (Underwood St), Tpt, Twin Cities PBS (outside 4H building), and at Care & Assistance (West Dan Patch).
- Coupons!! Our family swears by the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book. We buy it at Cub Foods for $5 every single year and save a TON of money. The coupons apply mostly to food, but there are several for rides and merchandise as well. You CAN give your kids every experience the fair has to offer without breaking the bank.
Activities for toddlers:
- Pet a bunch of animals. This one is kind of obvious. It’s the fair. Duh. Ellavie LOVED making all her favorite animal noises!!
- Outside of the barns there is a stand (forgive me- I can’t recall what it was called!! Pregnancy brain) that gives out FREE string cheese! That’s a win in my toddler’s world.
- Kidway offers age appropriate rides that even tots can enjoy! (we skipped this year).
- For a decent (or, you know, strap your kid into a high chair) meal, check out the dining halls. We went to the Hamline Dining hall because of a coupon from the bargain book. It was cool, relatively quiet, and had restaurant style high chairs. We were able to get a burger, roasted potatoes (several other sides to choose from as well!) and a pickle for just $5! There was also a soda machine where we were able to fill our water bottles and her sippy cup with ice and cold water.
- Near the Kidway and north of the 4H building there is the Baldwin park area that has an ENCLOSED large sandbox complete with dozens of buckets and shovels (and it’s FREE). We spent a good chunk of time here. An area where your child can run and play freely without getting trampled by day drinkers or run over by the elderly scooter drivers is GOLD. Plus, she absolutely loved it.
- Organized activities: depending on the age and attention span of your toddler (ours is only 1.5), there are DOZENS of organized activities and exhibits geared toward children (many in the Baldwin Park area, Kidway, and PBS area mentioned above). They can do spin art, chalk drawings, “farm”, sing, meet characters from their favorite pbs kids shows, there’s a swing set vendor where you can test out equipment, etc.
I HIGHLY suggest downloading the Minnesota State Fair App- it lists all these activities and more; not to mention, provides an interactive map. Yay!
I hope you enjoy the fair as much as we did!!