August 23, 2023

Minnesota State Fair Guide (2023 Update)

The fair starts this week! What better way to get excited for opening day on Thursday than to put together my Minnesota State Fair Guide? I love everything about the two weeks, and while I may not be there every day, I try to spend plenty of time enjoying the food, seeing the sights, and recording live Jason Show TV episodes and a  Weekly Dish radio show.

I put together this State Fair guide so you can find the new food and drinks in one place, plus some of my favorite things to do and see at the fair by day. This year I am excited that Adam Turman’s booth (ahem, really, it’s a store, wait its actually a TURMALL) at the Minnesota State Fair will be carrying the True North Cabin Cookbook! Join me for a book signing on Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m. at the new Turmall in the Grandstand shops. And find more details on my appearances below!

Minnesota State Fair Schedule

If you’re a fair veteran, you probably know this by now, but let’s start with the fair basics:

Dates: Thursday, August 24 to Monday, September 4 (Labor Day)
Hours: 7 a.m. to  11p.m. 9pm the final day)
Ticket Prices: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and kids (or check out some of the discount deals)

Pro Tip: Mornings are a great time to visit. You can try some different breakfast-style foods, and the crowds are usually smaller and the weather much better. Make sure to start your morning at the Peg Diner, the State Fair’s only full service restaurant for a breakfast sandwich and hashbrowns.

Fair Entertainment

The Minnesota State Fair website does a great job of breaking down all the entertainment options with easy menus. You probably already have your tickets to your personal must-see grandstand shows, your list of favorite rides, and a plan to see all the animals, but you can always get a refresher by looking through the options and planning your daily route to the must-see attractions.

If you keep your eyes peeled on Sunday you may find me filming an episode of Taste Buds on the Fair Grounds with the lovely, talented and hilarious Melissa Peterman, host of the new show Person, Place or Thing.

New for 2023: Can Can Wonderland has Stae Fair-themed mini golf in the North End, and at $10 a game it looks like a fun way to burn off some fair food.

Pro Tip: The free music and entertainment stage is a great place to stop and rest. There are some really good acts throughout the fair, and you can get the live music without paying the grandstand prices. This year I am excited about the Bacon Brothers (yes Kevin Bacon) playing the Leinie Lodge the first Thursday and Friday. (Keep your eyes peeled for Kara Sedgewick sightings!) I also love banjo music and Bluegrass and the Minnesota Americana-Roots Music Showcase on September 1 and 2 never disappoints

Minnesota State Fair Food and Drink 

This is what we’re all here for, right? The food and drink are the big draw at the fair. The events and attractions are fun, as is the spectacle of the fair itself, but the whole experience is elevated by wandering around with your cheese curds and pronto pups. There are some classics I eat every year, but my favorite thing is to make a list of new food and drink to try and get to as many as I can.

New Foods

The new fair foods post is one of my favorites to write yearly. It’s so exciting to get that list of new options and whittle it down to the ones I have to have. You can find all the new Minnesota State Fair foods here. These are some of the highlights:

  • Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at Farmers Union Cafe
  • Holy Ham Loaf from the Hamlin Church dining hall with a fried egg plopped right in the middle of the loaf and griddled bread
  • Chicken Momos With Tomato Chutney from MomoDosa at the Midtown Global Market
  • Fruity Cereal Milk biscuit from Jason Matheson’s Betty and Earls Biscuits at Lulu’s West End

New Drinks

The list of new drinks has become as exciting as the new foods. Local breweries, distilleries, and makers of all kinds have upped their State Fair game and brought some fun and innovative drinks to the fair. There are all kinds of options on my list of new fair drinks, and these are some highlights:

  • Kind of a Big Dill Pickle lemonade by Urban Growler at the Nordic Waffles booth
  • Lemonade Cloud Coolers in three flavors topped with Spinning Wylde Cotton Candy
  • Birramisue at Mancinis Al Fresco, a coffee, chocolate, and vanilla beer brewed by Lift Bridge
  • Cosmopolitan Martini Slushie from Coasters brewed by Lift Bridge
  • Duck Duck Blue Duck Lemonade Blue twist by Surly
  • Lucifers Lager, a spicy chili beer brewed by Shells at Lulu’s West End

I had a sneak peak and loved the Orange Honey Blossom Mead For Spead by Sociable Cider at Lulu’s Public House West End.  It was so light and refreshing and not overly sweet. The mead was the perfect balance for the chorizo and pimento cheese biscuit at LuLus.

Pro Tip: Make lists! And if you are serious about trying a bunch of new foods, as well as getting in classics, you have to do more than one day. Make a list of your must-have food and drinks, then plan your days accordingly.

State Fair Classics

I finally compiled a list of my favorite State Fair classic foods. It’s pretty tough to whittle down to the must-haves, but doing it makes you think about which foods are truly worth the wait for the yearly event! My highlights include:

  • The Gizmo at the West Side of Cooper Street between Murphy Ave. and Lee Ave.
  • Onion Rings and Garlic Fries at Ball Park Cafe
  • Minneapple Pie at Judson and Underwood (just outside the Dairy Building)
  • Pronto Pop of course (not a corn dogger sorry)
  • Midway Mens Club is the annual tradition Stephanie March and I have for sharing a beer and a burger after our radio show. The Midway Mens Club has the best prices at the fair and the booth is staffed by volunteers with the money raised going back into the community at the Midway Mens Club.

Minnesota State Fair Hidden Gems

One of the things I love about the Great Minnesota Get Together is combining the old with the new. The yearly rhythm of the fair is a joy and comfort, and it’s mixed with all the new foods and attractions for a combination of new and old. One of the challenges can be finding things that feel new and exciting outside the food, so I always encourage people to try something new at the fair when they can. These are some of my tips for finding new and exciting ways to enjoy the fair that you may have overlooked in the past!

  • Llamas and alpacas are some of the coolest creatures to walk the fairgrounds, and you can interact with them starting August 30. DON’T MISS! Stop by the insanely popular 4-H Llama-Alpaca Costume Contest beginning at 6 p.m. that night in Warner Coliseum
  • What are the Top 5 Questions asked at the Minnesota State Fair Information booth? Mike Marcotte from Give Me the Mike has the answer that may surprise you.
  • Stump your friends and learn some fun facts about the fair with Minnesota State Fair Trivia. Want to make a fun game out of it? Put together a list of facts and quiz each other when you stop at different locations around the fairgrounds.
  • New competitions happen every year but this year I am excited about cookies and Cake Decorating – “Roadside Attractions” and Decorated Cookies – “Shoes” are the themes.
  • The Ag Hort building is one of my favorites and in addition to the seed art poster original you will find original scarecrows, bees and honey with all the flowers
  • It’s the question we all have but never want to ask: Where are the best bathrooms? We actually talked about this on the Podcast on A Stick podcast a few years ago, and you should really listen because it’s important stuff.

Meet Me at the Fair — True North Cabin Cookbook Signings

True North Cabin Cookbook by Stephanie Hansen

Date Location Time
24-Aug Fox 9 booth next to the Giant Slide at the Minnesota State Fair 11-11:30
24-Aug Adam Turman booth in the Grandstand at Minnesota State Fair 12:30-2
25-Aug Fox 9 booth next to the Giant Slide at the Minnesota State Fair 11-11:30
26-Aug My Talk booth near machinery hill  following a live Weekly Dish episode 11-12 pm
27-Aug Adam Turman booth in the Grandstand at Minnesota State Fair