Minnesota State Fair Discounts, Deals and Savings

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The Minnesota State Fair is underway now through Labor Day. I love the Fair, but it is not a cheap day out. We’ve compiled all kinds of information to help you get discounts, deals and savings at the Minnesota State Fair this year. We’d love to expand our list with your ideas, so please leave comments with what you found during your day there.

How to save money at the MN State Fair

Use a free Park & Ride. Instead of taking the Express bus, drive most of the way to the Fairgrounds and park in one of the 35 free park & rides. Shuttles run from those lots to/from the Fairgrounds every 20 minutes from 8 am through midnight.

Get discounted parking. If you purchased a discount admission ticket at Cub Foods prior to the Fair, then it doubles as a coupon toward parking in one of the State Fair-owned and operated parking lots.

Go on a weekday. The best discounts on both admission and Midway/Kidway rides happen on weekdays. Different groups are discounted on different days. Below are charts that show the discounted admission prices, plus another that tells who is discounted when and Midway/Kidway deals by day.

Use a coupon. The Blue Ribbon Bargain Book costs $5 and can be purchased at the State Fair Box Office. It contains hundreds of money-saving coupons, including one for $6 off a sheet of ride tickets for the Midway/Kidway. That alone covers the cost of the book. Plus, the State Fair app ties into the coupon book.

Use the free State Fair app. Download the free MN State Fair app for your iPhone or Android. You’ll get maps and finder tools. Use the Food Finder to locate food vendors who have coupons in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book.

Pack a lunch. You can bring your own snacks and food into the Fairgrounds. You might think it blasphemous to eat anything other than the Fair’s treats, but for families with kids this will save you a bundle. Pack nuts, apple slices, carrot sticks and other healthy hearty things and then splurge on a few of your favorite Fair foods.

Bring your own water bottle. Please, please, don’t pay someone else for water. Bring your own water bottle and then refill it at any of the Fair’s drinking fountains or water bottle filling stations.

Bring your own glow sticks. If you’ll have kids or teenagers with you and plan to be at the Fair after dark, then bring your own glow sticks. Otherwise you may be tempted to buy the overpriced ones being sold on every street corner. I’ve seen glow sticks at both Michaels and The Dollar Tree.

Buy food at closing time. Last year some Pocket Your Dollars’ readers were in the Food Building minutes before close when multiple vendors offered them food items for $1 or $2 each.

Discount Days

Admission Prices (Regular and Discount)

Group Regular Price Discount Price
Adults (ages 13-64) $12.00 $10.00
Kids (ages 5-12) $10.00 $7.00
Seniors (ages 65+) $10.00 $7.00


Discount Days Schedule for MN State Fair

Day Groups Given Discounted Admission Other Discounts on This Day
Thursday, August 23 Adults and kids Midway & Kidway ride discounts all day
Friday, August 24 Midway & Kidway ride, game and concession discounts until 1 pm
Saturday, August 25
Sunday, August 26
Monday, August 27 Seniors and kids Midway & Kidway ride discounts all day
Tuesday, August 28 Active military  and their families (with ID) are $7.00 each Midway & Kidway ride, game and concession discounts until 1 pm
Wednesday, August 29 All library card holders (must show card; limit 1 ticket per card) Midway & Kidway ride discounts all day
Thursday, August 30 Seniors Midway & Kidway ride, game and concession discounts until 1 pm
Friday, August 31 Midway & Kidway ride, game and concession discounts until 1 pm
Saturday, September 1
Sunday, September 2
Monday, September 3 Kids Midway & Kidway ride discounts all day


Best Deals at The Fair

This is the first year we are keeping a list like this and I’d love to see it grow. Please leave comments with great deals that you find throughout your time at the Fair and we’ll add them to the list.

Items are listed in price order (low – high)

Freebies from vendors. The third page of the Deals, Drawings and Giveaways brochure highlights all sorts of freebies that vendors will be giving away at their booths.

Free make it, take it craft for kids. Stop by The Home Depot tent so your kids can make a small project/craft that you can take home with you. It’s very similar to what kids can do in-store on Saturday mornings.

Everything under $1. Although the list is shrinking, there are still several dozen items on sale for $1 or less across the Fairgrounds. Find them all on page 3 of the Deals, Drawings and Giveaways brochure.

$1.50 Kids Meal. Visit Giggles Campfire Grill in the Northwoods and get a kids meal for $1.50. The meal includes chicken nuggets, waffle fries and cookies.

24-pack of batteries. Use coupon #115 from the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book to get a 24-pack of AA or AAA batteries from Northern Tool & Equipment for $3.99 ($0.16/each).

A dozen roses. A dozen fresh cut roses are $9.99 in the Horticulture building. With a coupon from the Blue Ribbon Bargain  Book the price drops to $6.99. (Too bad they don’t offer rainchecks redeemable in February, huh?)

Best Free Entertainment

These are listed alphabetically.

Free stage entertainment. Enjoy everything from music concerts, skateboarding, extreme trampoline demos, lumberjack contests, dancing and dog shows on the 12 free stages throughout the Fairgrounds. Get familiar with the complete schedules and bios of the performers before you head out.

Alphabet Forest. Step inside the Alphabet Forest and discover alphabet activities for all ages. Take pictures with Fair Letters, create alphabet Ferris wheels, add your fair words to the Fair Dictionary and more. Youngsters may enjoy this free printable State Fair Alphabet Game.

Giant Sing Along. The most public karaoke you might ever do is available free at the Fair. Join with other Fair-goers in a field of microphones.

Horse shows in the Coliseum. Every day of the Fair there are free horse shows in the Coliseum.

Laser Hitz show. Nightly at 9 pm you can enjoy high-powered aerial laser beams dancing above you while colorful images light up a gigantic screen – all choreographed to popular music from classic rock to today’s hits. Located at the corner of Cosgrove St. and Randall Ave.

Little Farm Hands exhibit. Sponsored by Kemps, pre-schoolers will love this free hands-on mock farm. They get to pretend they are farmers, earn tokens as they work and then trade their tokens for a freebie in the exhibit’s grocery store. Last year my girls each got a free box of instant oatmeal.

Mr. Bubble Bubble Pit. Kids can play in a giant Mr. Bubble bubble bath foam pit. Located south of the Family Fair at Baldwin Park.

Parade. Enjoy a parade complete with floats, high school marching bands, animals and special attractions each day at 2 pm. The 14-block parade route begins near the Haunted House, goes north on Cosgrove St., west on Randall Ave., and south on Underwood St. ending just south of the Haunted House.

Photos with State Fair mascots. Daily at 11 am and 4 pm you can get a photo with the State Fair’s mascot and his autograph. He appears at the corner of Fairchild and Fairborne.

Watch Carrie Rocha be on live TV. I’ll be live on KARE 11 News at 4 pm on Monday, August 27. Then I’ll be back at the Fair on Tuesday, August 28 for a live broadcast of Twin Cities Live in the KSTP booth.

Like I said up top, please leave comments after you’ve been to the Fair with the best deals and freebies you found. I hope to see you there!

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  1. JoAnna says

    My #1 suggestion (for next yr) is to buy the coupon book and tickets (discounted) at Cub before the fair starts. We even spend an extra $2 for my mom's senior ticket at Cub (as compared to what she pays on a senior day) because then we do not have to wait in a long line for tickets.

  2. says

    We go on the Military Day, and get there early to try to get street parking and avoid a lot of lines, then end up leaving around noon or a little after and eat lunch (if we're still hungry after all the fair food!) at home.

    My question for everyone else, though, is if you know where we can get the "good" reuseable grocery bags for free. There's a lot of places that give them out, but the ones with the stiff bottoms are the best. Anyone know?

    • kris t. says

      My Chinook book had one for Kowalskis (not a hard bottom but it mashes into a small size). It also had a coupon for a free one at Lunds/Byerlys, but not sure of what that looks like.

  3. Jeni H says

    I agree with the bringing drinks. I always bring a backpack with bottled waters at the fair they are $2-$3 a piece. For my youngest we bring a refillable water bottle filled with kool aid. Then I use the backpack to put everything in that everyone picks up at the fair – brochures, freebies, etc. keeping my hands free.

  4. Kari Mc says

    I watch all the demos for kitchen gadgets in the buildings because they usually have samples at the end – one year we were there for six hours before I actually purchased any food because I had been enjoying samples all morning!!

  5. Carla says

    I use the coupon book and if I find that it is buy one get one free, but I only want the one I make a friend with someone else in line. It really isn't too difficult to find someone who is willing to save themselves some money.

  6. mark says

    We bring our Mn. State Fair big plastic cups ( 33 oz. ) from years past and refill them with pop for $1.25 at the Cub Foods building. We also bring zip-lock bags and buy food as we are leaving to keep fresh for the next days meals like the Gizmo sammich and the Brat mit Kraut. We always go on the first day to take advantage of deeply discounted items at the Twins and Vikings shop that definetly would not last for the whole 12 days. Some specialty shops have some one of a kind items and once they are gone, they're gone. Get there early ! We have learned the hard way in the past.

  7. kris t. says

    We eat a big lunch before going!

    Since there are no lockers and I don't want to carry around huge amounts of food, I stick to small items like jerky and granola bars. I also bring along a collapsible water bottle. We never buy drinks at the fair.

    A backpack is a great idea to fill with the freebies you accumulate as well as to hold the importants such as sunscreen, hats, etc. I end up holding everyone's stuff though!! LOL.

    We usually let the kids pick out 2-3 must have food items, such as Sweet Marthas, but as far as gifty items, I tell them they must wait a few hours while we mull it over. More often than not they decide they really don't want the item after all.

    I agree with the above posters' comments about spitting the b1g1 items with a stranger, although the coupon book this year doesn't have a lot of those..mostly "Save $1.50 when you buy xxx". I didn't think the book was that good of a deal this year as in past years.

  8. says

    One thing I forgot to talk about in the post is setting expectations with your kids. Give your older kids a budget. You agree in advance that you'll buy lunch (or whatever) and then they have xx amount for anything else they want throughout the day.

    For younger kids, which is what I have, we talk in advance about what the day will be like. I tell them that there will be LOTS of rides and they will get to choose a few to go on, but we won't get to try every one. I tell them in advance that we aren't going to buy any toys we see and encourage them to bring along a favorite one and we can put it under the stroller. When my kids know what is coming, they do better without having a melt down.

  9. Pam says

    A great deal and one of our stops every year at the fair is the $1.00 cider apple freezie in the agriculture building. You can also find $1.00 snowcones up in Baldwin park.

  10. says

    Thanks, Kris. I really do like the ones with the bottom in them. I have tons of them that I've gotten for free from the fair or other places. But I've found the ones I like, so I'm trying to just get more of them for free. :)

  11. Melinda says

    I was thinking that maybe next year you could do a coupon book exchange. Or if you have one or know of one could you post the link? Most people don't use all the coupons, and it's nice to give it to someone who's going to use them and not just throw it away.

  12. Sheila says

    I do have a coupon book left. Like was mentioned in earlier posts- there were not many coupons that I used. I think we used the one for $ off of french fries and the Fried Veggies. Otherwise the book is unused. We live in Farmington and if you'd like to make arrangements to get it, email me. kskronbeck@charterdotnet

  13. says

    I do that, too. However, last year I had accidentally put the change from a $50 in with the coupon book, so whoever I gave it to got a HUGE bonus! (I didn't realize it until we were in the truck driving home.)

  14. Becky says

    I left my coupon book there (at the Fair, in the food bldg – and another one in the Kidway), hoping someone would pick it up and be blessed by it. But good idea, about a coupon exchange. Even before the Fair would be great if we get them at Cub and know we won't use some.

    The one thing about the Blue Ribbon book is that I feel I have to chase down the deals and it's hard enough to get through the fairgrounds without worrying about where the next deal is… I'm not positive how to overcome that feeling… :)

  15. Becky says

    I love the Fair – but can't go a third time because I ran out of money. I'm setting up a vacation savings account at my bank for next year's Fair! Count on spending around $100.00 (between ride tickets and moderate to conversative food spending, my 9 and 5 year old and I didn't have much left over. I already had admission tickets from Cub and one sheet of ride tickets from there.) I heard that one person had trouble using the admission ticket for parking… Maybe it lets the people in free, but you still have to pay for parking? I personally park at the U of M for free and take the hassle free shuttle.

    I hear that Mike's Hamburgers – a yellow stand at the fairgrounds across from the Midway- has great deals.

    I packed a backpack with small Gatorades (and reused by filling with water), vegetables and Lunchables – but the backpack was heavy. :) Not an issue if you have a stroller, though.

    The Bubble Bath pit was fun for my kids – they got wet, which was perfect (but messy) for a hot day. They fill the pit on the half of the hour (1:30, 2:30, etc.)

    We went yesterday when the forecast was for 95 degrees – it kept people away and it was a great day at the Fair! A friend also said they went last Saturday when rain was forecasted and it was less busy then too.

  16. Marne says

    The Kids meal at Giggles Campfire Grill in the Northwood is actually $1.75. It comes with 2 large smile faced chicken "nuggets", the waffle fries, a cookie AND a small blue rapberry drink. It is a great deal and located across from The Little Farm Hands so easy to get your kids (& even yourself) a cheap and tasty meal! Very fast service and friendly people too!

    The idea about refilling the water bottle was great! I froze 3 ahead of time, after taking some of the water out and then carried them to the fair in a backpack. The free places to fill the bottles was great and the water was pretty cold too. We drank a lot of water and saved on buying drinks! Thanks, Carrie!

    I also brought along some small bags of chips and some fun fruit type snacks. Great to have on hand when the kids start to get hungry!

  17. H says

    For anyone with picky toddlers or just looking for cheap eats, we found two great no-coupon-needed-deals…

    As mentioned – $1.75 for KIDS' MEAL at Giggles' Campfire Grill in The North Woods includes two chicken smiley-face rings, fries, cookie and fake juice box. Of course, our kiddo guzzled down the juice box which tastes like a melted blue slushie. We wrapped the second chicken nugget in a napkin and put in our insulated cooler, as he is notorious for grazing and wanting something after we've thrown it away. Next time, I will remember to pack a few extra sandwich baggies.

    For $2, you can get a HOT DOG at Peters Hot Dogs in the Food Building. If you have the coupon book, you can get the chili cheese dog for $2 (reg $3) and they will put the chili on the side or in a separate cup for you. Hot dogs are also $2 at Mike's Hamburgers or $1 for HOT DOG with the coupon, by the Giant Slide. Hot dogs can run up to $7 apiece at other booths, especially if you're getting all-beef, or specialty dogs, neither of which matter to our 3YO who is not picky about hot dogs only his sushi.

    Pizza also is cheap and there are quite a few coupons in the State Fair Book.

    We did a great job staying within in our budget! Brought our own drinks (mineral water in cans, water in reusable bottles and juice boxes) as well as portable snacks for the family, so we wouldn't just buy food because we were starving. It helped us "save our stomachs" for the things we really wanted, really wanted to try, or make it to the booths with coupons. We were comfortably full, actually ate pretty healthy choices and didn't have the sugar spikes like in previous years. :) We did waste some energy, walking this way and that (our quest for coffee upon arrival sent us to the wrong end for activities) so I'll spend a little more time looking at the map next year!

  18. H says

    To tag onto Carrie's comment… We go to Como Town and Mall of America enough to know the importance of setting our child's expectations!

    I bought one sheet of ride tickets in advance and when we got to the Kidway, we walked around the ride area and explained how many rides our 3YO could go on. I was really proud of him when he decided not to go on a ride that required a chaperone – "Do you want Daddy to go with you on this ride? Or, do you want to go on two rides?"

    Naturally, all our reasoning went out the window when we ran into some friends and our 3YO wanted to go on a 5-ticket-ride with their 4YO, but we only had three tickets left. HUGE THANKS to the sharing folks who gave us their two extra tickets. Totally saved us!

  19. H says

    Becky – we chased the deals a little this year, too. I'm saving the map and next year will try to match up our activities and the map with the coupon book deals before we head to the Fair. I did really appreciate that the vendors post the coupon picture and # on their booths. The worst is buying something and realizing you overpaid!

  20. H says

    Anyone want our BLUE RIBBON COUPON BOOK? Normally, I'd leave it at the Fair or give to someone on the way out, but I thought our neighbors would want it. We live in South Minneapolis. Email XXXX [comment edited per H's request] Lots of good deals left including all the ride coupons, battery coupons, roses (shoot-missed using that one!) and food. I think we used 10 of the 126 coupons.

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