The fair can be expensive but you can still do and see some really wonderful things for free or cheap.
Here are a few of my FREE picks:
I love the DNR building. I can spend a good bit of time watching all the fish in the pond and in the new indoor fish exhibit. I hear there is a huge sturgeon in there this year.
You can also get a free lake map from the DNR. In the past, they have had someone outside at a little store selling fishing licenses but they will also give you a copy of a lake map if you know the name of the lake and the county it is in. Yes, there are 30 Long Lakes in Minnesota.
Head over to the Eco Experience building, they have many free demonstrations each day. I am interested in many of the topics such as vertical gardening, rain barrels, eco fashion, straw bale gardening, healthy local foods cooking demonstrations, and chickens in the city. I mean where else can you learn how to become an urban chicken farmer?
You can look at the full schedule at the Eco Experience HERE.
Minnesota Public Radio broadcasts from the fair and many times they have performances from musical artists that are performing later that night. P.O.S. will be at the MPR booth on August 29th at 4PM and the pre-show music-on-a-stick is from 3-5PM on August 30th.
See the full schedule at the MPR booth HERE.
There is free entertainment on many different stages at all times of the day. I think this is one of the best benefits of coming to the Fair.
Here are my picks:
Hanson– Known for their hit from the 90’s MMMBop, they are making a come back. August 26-27 at 8:30PM.
Jared Sherlock– Great for families, Jared is a magician who will surprise and amaze you. September 1-2 at 10:30AM , 11:30AM , and 3:00PM.
The Okee Dokee Brothers– Great for families, these Grammy award winners are fun and know how to get your children dancing. August 24-25 at 10:30AM , 11:30AM , and 3:00PM.
The full schedule is available HERE.
Always do the free park and ride or bike to the fair. It is way less hassle then trying to park at the fair.
If you volunteer at the fair usually you get in for free. If you have some extra time and know of a place where you want to volunteer, it is a great way to do something good and get in free.
You can listen to people sing “Call Me Maybe” at The Giant Sing Along for free or even sing along yourself. If you are into that kind of thing.
Not sure where this is at the fair, but the Boy Scouts have a climbing area for kids and it is free.
It is free to walk through the Fine Arts building. You will get to see art from local artists and the building is air conditioned.
If you are looking for free swag, don’t miss the Education Building where most of the colleges give away something such as the purple St. Thomas bag. All of the news stations and construction type companies give away stuff at certain times during the day. Stop by early on to see when you get in line for free stuff. KARE 11 is giving away blue sun glasses, Home Depot usually does make it and take it crafts, and Menards has nail aprons.
I also suspect the health fair will be giving away pretty neat stuff this year since MNSure is launching and Healthcare Reform is underway.
Gopher State One Call is giving away free bright colored yardsticks if you promise that you will call before you dig. They are located across from the Giant Slide. Give it to your favorite teacher as a beginning of the school year gift.
You can see a list of all the free items on this deal list HERE.
Here is a list of cheap items at the Fair:
Get an Apple Cider Freeze in the Ag/Hort building, they are only $1 and made from cider from the Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake.
Also in the Ag/Hort building you can get a Honey Stick from Mademoiselle Miel for only 50 cents. They have a smoked scotch version that I have to try. Plus, the money goes to benefit the University of Minnesota Bee Lab.
All you can drink milk for $1 is always a favorite of mine. I can taste the freshness of the milk and it actually is quite refreshing.
Because many of the best things in life are free
What is your favorite free thing to do at the fair?
Recently named one of the Top 50 New Restaurants by Bon Appetit, World Street Kitchen is truly worthy of this title. Minnesota has not seen a restaurant like this before. Yes, they do sell 40 ounce bottles of Miller High Life.
There are many things that I appreciate about this restaurant such as ample parking on the side of the building, vegetarian options, and spice. It is really nice to have a place that doesn’t serve the same stuff as everyone else.
That being said, most everything on the menu is pretty spicy for those of us with Mid-Western taste buds. This is not a bad thing, I really like it. But, I feel as though people should be warned that most of the food is more spicy than what you can find at other restaurants.
Here are some of the highlights:
The Bangkok Burrito: I have tried the Red Curry Burrito. It is spicy, creamy, and flavorful. If you ever need to get your sinuses cleared out this will do it. Watch out Chipotle, this is going to be the new burrito roaming the streets.
Plate O’ Dips: As a fan of Saffron, I knew that the dips were going to live up to my expectations and they did. I would come here just to get this dish with pita. The hummus is so creamy.
YumYum Rice Bowl: The short rib beef bowl was exactly why you come back to this restaurant over and over. That secret sauce and soft cooked egg make this dish one of the highlights of the menu. Just look at it.
Jerk Beef Tacos: Meh, these were just okay compared to everything else that I tried. One of my tacos had a huge chunk of fat in it that was cubed. After having that surprise when I chomped down on it I didn’t care to eat anymore.
Next time I want to try the MFC Biscuit Sandwich and a dessert. I have heard from multiple people that both are amazing.
I should also note that this is a get up and order yourself place. There are no servers and it has more of a laid back vibe. I was a bit disappointed in the service that I got from the person I ordered from. I said specifically that it was my first time here and that I was not sure what was good. She looked at me annoyed that I was taking too much time to order. Remember you are a new restaurant which means that you might need to explain some of the menu to your new guests.
Because any place that serves forties is cool in my book.
1. People Watching.
Where do all these people reside when the Fair is not going on?
2. Trying all of the new foods.
Okay, maybe not all of them. The one that caught my eye was the new candied bacon cannoli from Ole’s Cannoli.
3. Free Hanson concert (or any of the free concerts).
My middle school self is thrilled. Mmmm Bop. You can watch Hanson for free at the Bandshell on August 26th and 27th at 8:20PM. I heard their new single is pretty good. I am sensing a come-back.
4. Visit the new attractions.
You can ice skate in August at the D1 Backyard Rink near the Fine Arts Building. Go to the Luminarium Exxopolis, whatever the heck that is…
5. Seed Art.
Art made from seeds, it can not be missed in the AG & HORT building.
6. The Fine Arts Building.
This building houses great work from local artists. I always love to walk around and see amazing work that people have created.
Meow. Wednesday, August 28 at 7:00PM. Tickets are $10. I went last year to the one at the Walker Art Center and it was purrfect.
8. All you can drink milk & Martha’s cookies.
If you haven’t figured out how to do this yet it is pretty easy. First, buy a bucket of Martha’s to share. Next, walk over to the all you can drink milk booth and buy a cup. Then, eat cookies with ice cold milk. Enjoy!
When will they put the booths next to each other?
I want to see the rabbits in the poultry barn. Why? because they are cute and fluffy.
10. Eat all of your favorite foods.
Get the staples: Corn Dog, Pronto Pup, Cheese On a Stick, Deep Fried Candy Bar, Luigi Fries, Cheese Curds, and Mini Doughnuts.
Have any questions about the fair? I am somewhat of an expert, so ask away.
My post from the 2012 Minnesota State Fair: HERE
because “Our state fair is a great state fair, don’t miss it don’t even be late. It’s dollars to donuts that our state fair is the best state fair in our state.”
What do you look forward to at the MN State Fair?
Almost every year my family gets together at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd. It is one of my favorite places in the world because I have memories from there when I was very small. It was the one thing I always looked forward to during the summer as a child.
Mostly, I looked forward to spending all day at the swimming pool and when I got older playing in the golf scramble with my aunts, uncles and cousins.
Now, I like the nostalgia of coming back to this place that I loved as a child and slowing down for a few days. I know that each year I will come back and get to participate in the traditions of Madden’s.
On Sunday nights when we first arrive, we eat at Parfecto Pizza. On Monday nights we go the social where we get to meet other families and have appetizers before we go out on the town. But, one of our most beloved traditions is playing Bingo on Tuesday nights.
It is important that we hang on to these traditions and remember the magic of when we were younger and won loser bingo, spent hours in the pool, and rented a pontoon that fit our whole family.
This year I get to head up to Madden’s for a second time to attend Food and Wine Weekend. This is my first time attending this event and I am looking forward to learning from many different chefs and drinking wine in the sun. I might even jump in the pool if there is time. I can’t wait for a weekend full of delicious food. Is it the weekend yet?
because family traditions should live on. We can always add new ones.
Is there something you do every summer with your family?
In the summer there is nothing like a refreshing soda on a warm day. A local company, Boundary Waters Brands, started a line of all natural sodas called Joia. They have fresh flavors and add a bit of fun to a dinner party.
I decided to have a BBQ with my family and ‘share the Joia’ with them. I cooked chicken, corn, asparagus, and potatoes from the farmers market.
Before dinner I served a caprese type of appetizer. It is very easy to prepare by combining fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and basil on top of a slice of a baguette then sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic.
These sodas are much different than what was in the market before. With combinations like pineapple-coconut-nutmeg and ginger-apricot-all spice these drinks are a treat for your mouth.
My personal favorite is grapefruit-chamomile-cardamom because of the hint of cardamom that comes out. It is one of the best and most forgotten spices.
Boundary Waters Brands is based out of Uptown in Minneapolis and we are lucky to have a company here who is being innovative and producing a quality product.
You can find Joia in local specialty grocery stores. Also, you can visit their website to ‘share the joia’ and host a tasting for your friends, family, or co-workers.
because fresh is in
*disclosure: I was sent samples of Joia to try. All opinions are 100% my own.
Sometimes, I feel like all I need is a burger. Burger Jones in Uptown is a great way to fill that need.
This place is very family friendly and has a nice outdoor patio that looks out on lake Calhoun. It also has an extensive menu with all different kinds of burgers, starters, salads, and shakes.
I would definitely come here again with a burger loving group. This place can cater to a larger group which makes it a good choice for group gatherings.
I was a bit disappointed with my burger choice. Only because it was clearly on a sandwich thin and it was horrible. It tasted exactly like a sandwich thin that you can get out of a package at Target. I think a better choice of bread for the gyro burger would be advisable.
Otherwise, the burger was good. I liked the lamb burger and the sauce. But, I would never order it again because of the bread.
I also tried the bison burger which I liked much more than the gyro burger. The bison burger is topped with gruyere cheese and red onion marmalade.
It was flavorful and the red onion really made the burger pop.
Order a side of the sweet potato fries and chipotle aioli because they are fantastic. I think I would go back just to eat the fries again with a shake.
because sometimes you just need a burger
What other burgers have you tried from Burger Jones? What do I need to try next time?
Spill The Wine Bar and Table may have changed locations but it is still just as great as before. Now located on Lake and Bryant in a new bigger location with lots of light, Spill The Wine is still one of those places that I love to go.
Okay, they could do without the hokey mason jar glasses but beyond that I recently had a great experience there.
One huge positive is the wonderful service. It isn’t uppity or pompous even though the food is upscale. They treat you with respect and are attentive.
The servers know their stuff and can speak to every item on both the food menu and the drink menu. They can suggest and I would highly recommend going with one of their suggestions. Our server, Carli, recommended a wine flight and a certain dish that was a huge hit. The people dining with me that night will definitely be back because of the suggestions.
They also help you order the correct amount of food. They have a mostly small plates menu which is meant to be shared, Minnesotans don’t really like to share. However, they do a good enough job of explaining how to eat this way that even the most unlikely people buy into the sharing.
These dishes were some of the highlights from my meal:
The lamb sausage and polenta. Holy moly, this is a must order. The sausage is made in-house and the polenta is nice and creamy. I could eat this every day and will be coming back to have this again. They should start selling the lamb sausage in local food markets.
I enjoyed the Lap Cheong Fried Rice, it was a larger dish that everyone at the table got enough of to eat. My only wish was that the egg was a tiny bit more runny.
A simple thing like bruschetta can taste very good. I really liked the two varieties served especially the olive tapenade. It was a great dish to break up some of the other ones.
The beet and goat cheese salad. This is fairly good but was very small. I am not sure if I would order it again since it was not enough to share with four people. I want more!
The fried blue cheese stuffed olives. A must order. These are fairly unique and I haven’t had anything quite like this before. They come out quickly and are a great little bite before the meal.
The Simi Estate wine flight. I highly suggest that when you go here, get a wine flight. They are a great way to try new wines and get a fairly good deal. They say you only get about 1.5 glasses but I would say it is more around 2. Great wines at a great value.
Finish the night with dessert, the tres leches cake is delightful. The fresh lime zest really added a nice touch and it was the perfect amount to share with four people.
I had no idea they did brunch until I was perusing their website. Huckleberry mason jar mimosas and some patatas sounds amazing. I would, however, suggest to Spill The Wine that they have so many of these items on their regular dinner menu that they need to expand the brunch menu. I want to see some new and fun stuff that is a bit different from your regular dinner menu items that you are experimenting with, please.
because sharing is caring
What are your favorite items from the Spill The Wine menu?
*This is part of a series of posts about my Turks and Caicos Vacation from April 2013.
Today was a very relaxing day. This was exactly the type of vacation I needed to get back to the slow pace of life. It was cloudy which was nice because the sun can be a bit intense sometimes. It was still warm enough to go swimming and spend time lounging outside reading a book.
One of the best parts of staying at Ocean Club East was that it was at the end of Grace Bay. This provided a more secluded feeling since there was an open part of the beach right next to the resort. It feels as if you are the only people there.
I went on many walks down that beach. If you walk around the end of the beach you will come to Leeward Beach. Also, a very nice place to spend some time. When I was visiting Leeward beach was empty which made it a nice place for adults to spend time swimming or soaking in the sun.
One thing I appreciated about Ocean Club East is that I never had to fight over chairs, tables, or umbrellas. There was always enough for everyone. Other guests were respectful and not too loud. Since some of them live there for a few months out of the year they are willing to share some of their favorite places. Suggestions from “the belongers” were always spot on. I would suggest that you spark a conversation with people who seem like they have a set tan and are used to the slow pace of life.
That night I went to eat at Coco Bistro. If you read any of the travel sites this is the one restaurant that according to reviews that you must go to when visiting Provo. I took their advice.
It was raining the night I went but they still kept my reservation. They have a large outdoor dining space and only a small space inside. It was a bit cramped but the restaurant was doing the best that it could trying to keep everyones reservations. They looked completely shocked that it was raining because the weather is usually perfect.
I would highly reccomend coming here. The food was very good, local and fresh. Plus, the service was top notch. It has a feeling of an oaisis with the palm trees that line the restaurant.
This was the most expensive meal that I had while I was on vacation. But, it was worth it. I would suggest ordering an appetizer, main, and dessert. You can always bring some of it back to your place to eat as a late night snack.
For an appetizer I tired both the lobster spring rolls and the conch two ways; both delicious. You cannot make a bad choice with the selection that they have on the menu. Conch when prepared well is something that I could eat almost every day.
I tried the special drink that they had which added to the fun of the special dinner. The drinks here are fun, tropical, and mixed well. I might stop by next time I visit Turks and Caicos just for a drink at the bar.
For mains I tried the lobster and grilled wahoo which was on special for the night. They put whatever fresh fish they may have on the special. So, it is a safe bet when you order. The lobster, since it was lobster season in Turks and Caicos, was fresh and locally caught as well.
I cannot tell you how fun it is to order these items off a menu and have them be fresh and local. When you are on vacation, learn about local foods before you go. That way, you know what to order off the menu. In the case of Turks and Caicos, go for the local fish, conch and lobster (when in season). Do not order beef. Do you see any cows on the island?
For dessert I had the coconut sorbet. It is made in house and was a refreshing way to end the night.
I cannot wait to go back and sit outside at Coco Bistro. Although, Coco Bistro is not on the water the food makes it a can’t miss on a Turks and Caicos vacation.
because fresh and local is best.
The Fringe Fest is going on right now and it would be a disservice to my readers to not mention Fringe for its final weekend. This is your chance to see some performances of some great artists.
Each performance was chosen by random selection, sort of like at a bingo hall, that way everyone gets a chance to participate. The core of the mission is that they believe everyone has the ability to create great art and more importantly they are given the chance to try.
All shows are 45-60 minutes long and every evening they have shows at different venues at 5:50, 7:00, 8:30, and 10:00. On Saturday and Sunday there are some afternoon performances as well.
On Sunday, the Audience Pick Awards preform at 8:30PM at each venue these are the performances that did the best during their run. It is your chance to catch the best of the best.
Otherwise, go online and read the audience reviews. They will give you a look into what the performance is like and if you would be interested in it.
If you want my suggestion: If You Give the Devil a Cookie is playing tonight at 10:00PM at the Cowels Center and involves a large baby suit. Seriously, you cannot go wrong with that.
Tickets are 12 dollars but you also need to buy a fringe button for 4 if this is your first show. So, 16 in total for adults. 5 Dollars for kids 12 and under.
because it’s time to try something new tonight.