You've heard of the Minnesota State Fair — you've probably even been to it. But you may be wondering about a couple of things. What's the best way to get there? What can we bring? What does it cost? Who's playing? Where are the new foods??
Read on, prospective 2023 fairgoer. Your questions will all be answered. We'll start with the basics.
What the heck is the Minnesota State Fair?
It's "The Great Minnesota Get-Together" — the North Star State's annual end-of-summer celebration of Minnesota life, industry and culture — encompassing food, live music, agriculture, recreation, animals, art, rides, entertainment and more.
How big is this fair?
It's no mere carnival! Minnesota's fair is historically the second most-attended state fair — trailing only Texas — but is firmly No. 1 in terms of daily attendance. More than 1.8 million people attended over 12 days in 2022, with a record of 2.13 million set in 2019.
When is it?
The fair traditionally runs the 12 days ending on Labor Day, so this year it lands on Aug. 24-Sept. 4.
Where is it located?
On the State Fairgrounds. The 322-acre fair occupies a chunk of the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. The official address: 1265 N. Snelling Av.
How much does it cost to enter?
Advance tickets (purchased through Aug. 23) are $15 online, at participating Cub stores and outstate locations, and at the State Fair ticket office. Once the fair begins, tickets are $18 for adults and $16 for ages 5-12 and 65 & older. Kids 4 and younger are free. Special discount days offer $13 tickets for seniors (Aug. 24, 28, 31), kids (Aug. 24, 30, Sept. 4) and active and retired military and their families (Aug 29). Also on sale is the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book ($5), with 100 coupons for fair food, merchandise and attractions. More information is at mnstatefair.org/tickets and etix.com/ticket/v/8597.
What are the fair hours?
Ticketholders can enter the fair daily between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., with reduced hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Labor Day, Sept. 4. The fairgrounds are open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., or 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Labor Day. Individual building hours may vary.
So, how do we get there?
There are many ways.
- Limited vehicle parking ($20) is available at the fairgrounds. There are also three free bike and scooter corrals onsite.
- A potentially easier, free way to reach the fair is via the 28 park & ride locations surrounding the fairgrounds. Buses run from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (9 p.m. on Labor Day) and drop off at the fair's Transit Hub or Gates 5 or 9.
- Express bus service from (mostly southern) suburban locations is available from Metro Transit, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and SouthWest Transit, with pickup and drop-off at the fair's Transit Hub.
What can/can't we bring?
Backpacks, bags, purses, coolers, etc., are allowed but subject to search, and all fairgoers will pass through metal detectors at the gate. Outside food and drink are allowed, as are service animals, wheelchairs and strollers. The no-no list includes weapons, fireworks, alcohol, illegal drugs, pets, drones, bikes, skateboards and hoverboards.
What about wheelchairs?
You can bring your own wheelchair, mobility scooter or stroller. HomeTown Mobility is also renting electric mobility scooters ($70/day), wheelchairs ($25), strollers ($20 single, $25 double) and wagons ($20) at five locations inside the fairgrounds. Advance reservations at least the day before are recommended; otherwise it's first-come, first-served on the day of.
Is there anything to eat?
You might say so! Thousands of menu items from some 274 vendors. The Star Tribune's Taste team has the rundown of 34 new foods, 65 new drinks and seven new vendors, and will provide dispatches on this year's fair food experience at startribune.com/fair.
What are the big grandstand concerts?
A marquee lineup of top touring acts (and the Turtles) are slated for the State Fair's up-to-17,000-capacity grandstand. Grandstand concert tickets are in addition to fair admission; here is a rundown of 2023 performers and availability.
- Aug. 24: The Black Keys ($69-$159)
- Aug. 25: The Chicks (obstructed view only via 1-800-514-3849)
- Aug. 26: Keith Urban (obstructed view)
- Aug. 27: Boyz II Men and Chaka Khan ($34-$51)
- Aug. 28: Happy Together Tour with the Turtles and more ($33)
- Aug. 29: Brandi Carlile with Wynonna Judd (sold out)
- Aug. 30: Yung Gravy ($29-$64)
- Aug. 31: Duran Duran ($77-$197)
- Sept. 1: Jonas Brothers (obstructed view)
- Sept. 2: The Hold Steady, Bob Mould Band and Dillinger Four ($27-$37)
- Sept. 3: Amateur Talent Contest Finals (free)
- Sept. 4: Blippi ($16)
Is there any free music?
Certainly — once you've paid fair admission. The fair boasts more than 100 acts of all types performing unticketed shows over the 12 days and nights, at such stages as the International Bazaar, the Schilling Amphitheater and the Family Fair Stage. At the flagship Leinie Lodge Bandshell, top headliners include the Bacon Brothers (8:30 p.m. Aug. 24-25), a Meatloaf tribute (8:30 p.m. Sept. 1-2) and Soul Asylum (7:30 p.m. Sept. 3-4).
Where are the rides?
All over the place! The Mighty Midway is the heart of the fun, and the Kidway has rides for fairgoers as little as 30-36 inches. Adventure Park is home to extreme thrills, and must-dos like the Great Big Wheel, Space Tower, Ye Old Mill, Skyride and Sky Glider are scattered throughout the fairgrounds. At the Midway and Kidway, special promotions are offered all day on Aug. 24, 29-30 and Sept. 4, and before 1 p.m. on Aug. 25, 28, 31 and Sept. 1.
Where do we go for lost children or lost items?
The Care & Assistance building and Lost & Found are located at 1838 and 1842 W. Dan Patch Av., across from West End Market. The fair encourages families to pick up a free ID wristband to assist in reuniting lost kids and their families. The wristbands are available at Care & Assistance or any of several information booths at the fair.
Is there a smoking/vaping section?
To find one, you'll have to look at a State Fair map, available at all information booths. We count 17 designated smoking areas, including four around the grandstand.
How about marijuana?
Sorry — under Minnesota's new cannabis law, adults 21 and older can consume weed at home, on private property or at licensed events. The State Fair website clarifies the matter: "Marijuana smoking is prohibited throughout the fairgrounds."
OK, well, are there fireworks, at least?
Yes! The nightly fireworks show usually happens between 10 and 11 p.m., weather-permitting. Usually they hold off until after the grandstand concert ends. The uncertainty of the timing is all part of the fun, capping a long day at the fair.