Minnesota State Fair – Ten things you won’t find at the Iowa State Fair.

I have to confess, I have never visited another state fair other than the great Iowa State Fair. My family has been attending the Iowa State Fair since I was a kid. No maps needed; the fair is like home. After visiting the Minnesota State Fair, I might just become a state fair junkie!  

A big thanks to the Roseville Visitors Association who invited us to join a group of really fun bloggers for a weekend in the Twin Cities. Don’t we make a cute bunch? Even in the rain, we had a great day at the Minnesota State Fair.

Group of Bloggers from the #MNStatefairbound 2017 tour with Rosevillie Visitors Association

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted, however, all opinions expressed in this article are completely ours and based on our own family’s unique experience.

The Minnesota State Fair is held later in the month of August running through Labor Day. Iowans can easily visit both the Iowa State Fair AND the Minnesota State Fair! 

Even in the rain, the fair has a staggering attendance record. Almost 2 million people visited the Minnesota State Fair in 2017.

Crowds even in the rain at Minnesota State Fair


Why should you consider visiting the Minnesota State Fair?

Here are 10 FREE things you won’t find at the Iowa State Fair! 

 All of our favorite family activities are located on the north end of the fairgrounds.

#1 – Northwoods Atmosphere 

Lumberjack shows, mounted moose heads and forest fire prevention are common themes at the Minnesota State Fair.  Children can enjoy a $1.75 chicken basket next to the huge stone fireplace at Giggles’ Campfire Grill

Timberworks Lumberjack Show at Minnesota State Fair


In good weather, visitors can climb to the top of the Fire Tower to get a bird’s-eye view of the fairgrounds. The DNR building focuses on the deciduous forest with hands-on displays and learning centers. 


#2 – Math On-A-Stick

Math on-a-stick is a hands-on children’s play area! Christopher Danielson (pictured right) shared his vision and excitement for how math can be fun for kids. 

“Every activity at Math On-A-Stick has two design principles:

  • It should be obvious how to get started: kids should want to interact with the materials, and whatever they start doing is just right.
  • The longer you persist, the more mathematics will spontaneously emerge, as you start thinking about designs, patterns, how many, will this work, why…”

I would highly encourage all teachers and parents to visit the Math on-a-stick website for more information and inspiration in creating fun math related activities in your school or home.


#3 – Alphabet Forest

Alphabet Forest is another hands-on education play space for kids! During our visit, the children were invited to sample some maple syrup made by author Alan Page and write a descriptive word on an activity sheet. Luckily, our children enjoyed the syrup and wrote nice things, because they did not realize that Mr. Page was sitting right there in front of them.  

Alan Page is a famous MN Vikings football star, former Minnesota Supreme Court  associate justice and author of several books, including Grandpa Alan’s Sugar Shack

Minnesota State Fair Alphabet Forest


#4 – Great Big Sandbox

The Great Big Sandbox is a large shady play space to rest and relax. It is sandwiched between the Alphabet Forest and Math on-a-stick (pictured in the background). 

Great Big Sandbox at Minnesota State Fair


#5 – Giant Sing Along

Grab a friend and belt out some tunes at the Giant Sing Along. Find an open mic and sing as lyrics from popular songs are displayed on a big screen. 

Boy singing into mic at Minnesota State Fair


#6 – Natural Play Space

Children are delighted in the outdoor play space hosted by the Minnesota Children & Nature Connection. Located outside of the Eco Experience, children can swing in a hammock, play with sand and water, find fairy houses and more. If you stop here, be prepared for the kids to get dirty! 


#7 – Boy Scouts Adventure Rope Course

Also near the Eco Experience is the Boy Scouts Adventure Rope Course which is free. Children are fitted with appropriate gear and encouraged to climb through the rope course. It took our children a few minutes to complete the course and they wanted to do it twice. 

Boy Scouts Adventure Rope Course at Minnesota State Fair


#8 – Eco Experience

In the Eco Experience, visitors are encouraged through hands-on activities and visual demonstrations. Children can slide down a giant sink and peddle a regular bicycle which makes a giant bike move.  There are enough exhibits in this building alone to keep visitors busy for hours.


#9 – DNR Building

The Minnesota DNR building is a unique peek into the different natural habits available only in the north. A large indoor taxidermy exhibit showcases the varied animal species that call Minnesota home.

Man showing child animal at Minnesota State Fair


#10 – Agriculture Horticulture Building

I honestly thought about skipping this building because we have seen a lot of giant pumpkins and other veggies. But, I am so glad I didn’t! Minnesota has a different horticulture focus than Iowa and it’s on beautiful display.

Bee keeping is a large industry and there are several beehives and an overwhelming amount of different types of honey being exhibited. Don’t miss the stunning themed table settings in the center of the building. 

But what about…?

If you only have time for one fair and choose the Minnesota State Fair, don’t worry, you’ll still see all your favorites! That’s right! The Minnesota State Fair has the Sky glider, Ye Old Mill, Giant Slide, contests, 4-H shows, and tons of food on a stick menu items! 

They also have a Little Farm Hands.

Little Helping Hands Farm at Minnesota State Fair


Cute, little baby animals to pet at the CHS Miracle of Birth Center.

girl pets goat at Minnesota State Fair


A few more fun things that you won’t want to miss.

Sweet Martha’s Cookies 

A staggering 4 million cookies were made in 2016 at this “little cookie stand”. Sweet Martha’s Cookies have been a Minnesota State Fair tradition for the last 30 years. Currently 600 employees help serve up 190,000 delicious cookies each hour during the fair. 


Thrill Rides & Midway 

Go Cart, River Raft Ride and more are a few thrills to check out while at the Minnesota State Fair.

Go Cart track and cars at Minnesota State Fair


Educational Opportunities

 Just like in Iowa, there are opportunities for learning all across the Minnesota State Fair. Our post only scratches the surface of what the fair has to offer. I would encourage all Iowa families to give the fair a try!

Visitor Tips

So have we convinced you to go? Great! Head over to the App Store and download your free Minnesota State Fair App.  This app is AMAZING! First, you can pick out the places you want to visit and the foods you want to try. The app will mark those on an interactive map that shows where you are as you move around the fair. 

Once you get to the fair, snap a picture of your kids, including what they are wearing and grab a kids I.D. bracelet from any information booth. Make a family meeting plan in case you lose cell phone juice. I suggest the Ramberg Rest & Recharge Station

Kids with I.D. bracelets on at Minnesota State Fair

Depending on how much you plan to eat and shop, the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book could save you some money! A map on the back of each coupon shows the location of the vendor. Make sure to bring lots of cash. Most food vendors don’t except credit cards. 

Blue Ribbbon Bargain Book at Minnesota State Fair


All good things must come to an end. 

At the end of a busy day of Minnesota State Fair fun, head to the Courtyard by Marriott to relax and unwind.  We suggest you take the free Park & Ride. This system is slick and easy to manage. The hotel or any transit staff will help make sure you have the correct information. 

You’ll need the rest because the Twin Cities offer more fun then can fit into a weekend. While you are visiting, don’t miss these 6 Great Stops for Families in the Twin Cities


Minnesota State Fair – Ten things you won’t find at the Iowa State Fair

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