We always try to make it out to the Minnesota State Fair a few times before summer comes to an end. Yep, here in Minnesota summer doesn't officially end until the day after Labor Day - at least that's when everyone goes back to school.
Since I've already written a post about some of our favorite foods at the fair, I'm sure you're now wondering what we do at the fair when we're not filling up on fried foods. With or without kids, here are some of our favorite ways to have fun at the fair...
What would a trip to the fair be without a stop at the Animal Barns? They're filled with all kinds of fun farm animals! Newborn piglets - check. Fattest pig in the world (er well, at least Minnesota) - check. Noisy chickens, ducks, and other farm birds - check. Watch sheep being sheered, cows being milked, and even a sheep herding competition!
In the Miracle of Birth Center, you can occasionally witness chicks hatching from their eggs or pregnant farm animals giving birth. They also let you pet some of the baby animals, so it's a much better option for little kids than the full grown "sometimes you can pet them, sometimes they look like they might bite your hand off" animals in the other barns.
The Little Farm Hands exhibit is a cute little farm where kids can help with some of the chores there are to do around a farm. Abe loved riding the tractor...
...and collecting chicken eggs. At the end the kids "sell" all the eggs and plastic produce they collect along the way, and earn some play money to spend at the market. Abe bought a small bag of potato chips with his money, but they also had little boxes of cereal, fruit, and some other snacks to choose from.
My husband loves to stop at the painted cut-outs around the fair for pictures. There are tons of them!
One of the most well-known traditions at the Minnesota State Fair is the display of busts carved in butter that can be found in the Dairy Building. The buttery heads represent Princess Kay and her court, and since they carve these heads (one per day) during the fair, you'll often see a frigid princess in the rotating cooler, as the artist, Linda Christensen, carves away at the 90 pound blocks of butter.
Oh, and as long as you're in the Dairy Building, stop by the Dairy Goodness Bar for one of their delicious malts. I'm pretty sure I've tried every flavor and there isn't a single one I don't love!
The Agriculture Building hosts a number of flower, plant, and crop shows throughout the two weeks of the fair. Many of them last only a couple days, so it's best to plan ahead if you want to catch a specific show. We always try to hit up the Minnesota Bonsai Society Show (usually the second weekend of the fair - Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2012)...
...and the Minnesota Orchid Society Show, which is held the same weekend. The bonsai trees and orchids that people bring in are amazing to see, and always make me wish I had the patience for that kind of gardening.
Even if you miss the bonsai and orchid shows, there's always something interesting to see in the Agriculture Building! Check out their list of agricultural and horticultural competitions for other shows to watch for.
The Agriculture Building is also home to Minnesota Apples, which sells Minnesota grown apples (the best in the world!), hot or cold apple cider, applesauce, and frozen cider pops. I never turn down a glass of apple cider!
I also enjoy the amateur gardener exhibits in the Agriculture Building - although for "amateur" they sure grow the best looking vegetables I've ever seen. I mean honestly, have you ever seen onions like that at the grocery store?!
Before you leave the agriculture building (or as soon as you get there), be sure to stop at the Minnesota Honey Producers stand. They sell honey, Honey & Honey Nut Fudge Ice Cream, Honey Nut Frozen Yogurt, and a super refreshing Honey Lemonade. I've been known to walk clear across the fairgrounds for a glass of their lemonade...
Need a break from the buildings? The fair has rides too! Lots of them. There are two locations for carnival rides at the fair. The Kidway has rides for little kids, while the Mighty Midway has the more exciting stuff for older kids and adults.
Abe's been to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America, so he's no stranger to carnival rides, but I think this was the first time he went on a ride without Noah or I sitting next to him. He didn't cry or try to climb out like I thought he might, but he sat there the whole time with his finger in his mouth and didn't crack a smile once! I did catch him turning the steering wheel at one point though. Maybe we'll try again when we go with his cousins.
Another one of our favorite places to stop is the Fine Arts building. The artwork displayed in the building are the winning entries chosen from the thousands submitted by amateur and professional artists from all across the state. I've entered a few times, but the only piece that ever made it in was the photograph above (taken with my Holga). A lot of the artwork that gets in is really amazing so it's always worth a look. (Unfortunately, some kids aren't as interested in art as their parents would like them to be.) I could spend all day staring at the pictures...
We always swing by the MPR booth (located next to the giant Fresh French Fries stand on Judson Ave.) at least once during our trips to the fair. They have live broadcasts from the fair, and if you're lucky (or plan ahead) you might catch a live performance by some great local bands. They also have a Minnesota Public Radio shop, and are always giving away free buttons, window decals, and other goodies at the booth. We picked up an "I'm a Current" fan, which Abe played with for the rest of the evening.
So that's a few of the many activities and exhibits we try to pack into our trips to the Minnesota State Fair. Of course no trip to the fair is complete without getting some roasted corn on the cob! Check out this post to see some of our other favorite foods at the fair.
Anyone else going to the fair this weekend? What foods/exhibits/activities are you looking forward to the most?