MN State Fair Favorites: Cheap and Free Fun!

MN State Fair Favorites: Cheap and Free Fun!

We love the MN State Fair! We started taking our kids when they were 4 months old, double stroller and all.  We usually go at least once if not twice, spending almost a whole day there.  Typically we don’t arrive when the gates open, we get there around 9 or 10 but we are there until it closes.

A couple years ago  we arrived in time to see the Milk Run take place, before many of the buildings were even open. We still stayed until almost close, and enjoyed a full day. Even spending an entire day there, we still didn’t have enough time to see everything.

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The best part about the fair is that it’s for all ages and it can be a thrifty fun day.

One of our must do’s at the fair is to head to the Educational building.  Each year we get a free calendar with our picture on it. The Minnesota Education booth, just inside the big doors, has been giving out free photo calendars for many years.  It’s a simple and free process and the line moves fast.  A great free souvenir, of course we try to do that before anyone spills fair food on their clothes!

One of our favorite inexpensive foods that we seek out is the Apple Freezies.  These are great, especially on a hot day. With a bargain price of around $1.50, it won’t break the bank.  Located in the Horticulture building in the apple area.


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There are countless places to stop and relax your tired feet.  A smaller unique venue is a seat inside in the Blue Moon Cafe. Not only do they have some unique food (this year the new thing is the Smoked Soft Serve Ice Cream), but they show old movies.  Yes old, like the black and white movies from the 1950’s era.  I recall one of the films was “Teenagers from Outer Space”.

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Another place we almost always stop at is called Sausage by Cynthia, located next to the Current Radio Station.  Their portions are perfect for sharing and our kids like it, especially the wild rice sausage.

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We don’t typically do rides, many people do, we just choose to skip out on the Midway.  (If your family does rides, then get the Minnesota State Fair Blue Bargain Book. The first coupon is to save $8 on a sheet of Midway or Kidway Tickets, so you’ve already made back more than the $5 price of the book.) We’ve done the Giant Slide, and the Skyway Rides occasionally. 

A couple years ago we decided to ride the Space Tower ride, three of us had never been on it. It wasn’t very expensive and cheaper than some of the food choices.  A fun birds eye view from the top:

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With kids, we don’t always move through the fair really fast, but we cover a lot of ground.  We love that there are so many spots to stop and catch a break or listen to music. 

The animal barns are always a huge hit, just make sure to check the hours when you arrive.  Sometimes they close early for cleaning or changing out the animals. You can also hang out in the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum to watch animal judging or horse shows. There is LOTS of seating and it’s air conditioned inside, so it’s a comfortable place to spend a long stretch of time.

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It’s really true that the State Fair has something for everyone who goes.  Food, Fun and variety is the name of the game for the Minnesota State Fair.  You can find schedules, maps and more information on their website if you’ve never been, or just need a refresher course on the hours, schedule or layout.

Minnesota State Fair Butter Sculptures

Would love to hear why you love the fair, your favorite must see and do things each?  Or maybe a favorite food?

Ready to eat? Check out the Minnesota State Fair NEW Foods for 2018 HERE!

Minnesota State Fair Free and Cheap Fun

Dorset Boardwalk Art Festival

If you’ve never been to the quaint town of Dorset, put it on your list and check it out.  Not far from Park Rapids or Itasca State Park is the town of Dorset.  Not a big town, with a population of just 22.  Check it out this weekend, June 23rd happens to be their annual Boardwalk Art Festival.  If you can’t make it this weekend, August 5th is their annual Taste of Dorset.

I can still remember my first visit to Dorset.  I was about 5 and my uncle took my sisters and I there for lunch.  It’s grown since then, more businesses have been added.  Have you been to Dorset or any other fun places you would like us to spotlight or share.  We love to explore so please let us know.  Minnesota has some great off the beaten path places and we love to explore them.

Northland Arboretum

Northland Arboretum

For those of you who are lucky enough to live in the Brainerd area, the Northland Arboretum is probably a familiar place.  To those of us that might visit the Brainerd area, the Northland Arboretum is a hidden gem.  This wonderful place encompasses over 500 acres and offers activities year round.

With this fresh snow it would be great time for snowshoeing or cross country skiing.   The Arboretum also offers a unique fitness trail, where you can journey through 12 different fitness stations.  The Arboretum offers a wide range of activities and events, with an easy access calendar on their website to spotlight everything.

There’s a small fee to use the trails or you can purchase a membership and access is included.   You can find more information about this hidden gem on their website.

Northland Arboretum is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting the community involved in and aware of nature.  We have a wide, beautiful area for you and your family to explore.   Have a peaceful walk on our nature trails.   Winter time?  We’ve got that covered too!   You can cross country ski on our spectacular groomed snow covered trails.   Snowshoe or winter hike on non-groomed trails.

Minnesota Fire Towers and Scenic Views

Photo courtesy of the MN State Park System

Regardless where you live in MN you can most likely think of a place you’ve visited, one with a memorable view.  Was it the color of the leaves, the water or perhaps how you got to the view?

I recently learned that the Minnesota State Parks have five different fire towers, all open for climbing and viewing.  I’ve climbed just one of them, Itasca State Park, the other four are now on our summer bucket list.  Have you climbed all of them?  Which had the best view?

If heights aren’t quite your thing, there are overlooks, hikes and cliffs at some of the State Parks that also have great scenic views, just without all the steps.

Would love to hear where your favorite view is in Minnesota, we could add it to our bucket list of spots to check out.

 

 

2018 Hudson Hot Air Affair

Even though I’ve yet to actually ride in a hot air balloon, I love to watch them.  The 2018 Hudson Hot Air Affair takes place this coming weekend ( Jan 26-28).  A chance to see countless balloons all in one area.

The complete schedule of events can be found here on their website.  The weather can and many times does affect the schedule for balloons so make sure to check their website for updates.

 

2018 Hudson Hot Air Affair :: Touchdown Hudson XXIX

 

Join us in Hudson, Wisconsin along the beautiful St. Croix River for Hudson Hot Air Affair, the premier winter ballooning event and winter festival in the Midwest.  This family friendly event includes activities such as an evening Torchlight parade, hot air balloon launches, geocaching, marketplace and craft fair, smoosh boarding, 5K fun run, bingo, balloon moon glow or field of fire, just to name a few.

Please note due to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, the Hot Air Affair will be moved forward one week to January 26-28, 2018.

Join us for all the great fun to be had in  Hudson, Wisconsin.  Please view the 2018 schedule for a complete list of events and activities.

Minneapolis Public Art Tour

Public Art Tour Minneapolis

The Minneapolis area has a wide range of public art all around the city. Some, we walk by each and every day and don’t notice.  Other pieces are a bit more famous.  I bet you didn’t know there are approximately 300 individual pieces of public art to visit in Minneapolis!  Yes 300 just in Minneapolis, then if you add on the surrounding suburbs plus St. Paul that number jumps even more.

It doesn’t matter if you’re from here or just visiting, walking around the neighborhoods can be a great way to learn something new.  The City, and Park Board recently launched interactive maps for self-guided public art tours.  There are six different, self-guided tours to check out.  The best part is, it doesn’t cost anything to walk around.

You can pick any of the six tours here on their website, then follow the map and learn a little about the art around Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Public Art Tour

The City of Minneapolis has teamed up with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on six self-guided, interactive tours exploring public art. There are approximately 300 individual pieces of public art to visit in Minneapolis.

The interactive maps feature detailed information about each artwork and directions to the pieces. The maps also provide information on how long each tour will take for those who choose to bike, walk or drive.

To find out the number of artworks, featured artists and more, visit the Minneapolis Public Art Tour interactive website. Tour goers are encouraged to share their adventures using the hashtag #TourMplsArt.

Northwest Airlines History Center

Do you remember the days of Northwest Airlines?   Seems like just yesterday, while at the same time many years ago that Northwest was the hometown airline.

We recently discovered a small museum that displays much of the history of Northwest Airlines.  The hidden gem is located in Bloomington, not far from the airport.  On the third floor of the Crown Plaza Air hotel you’ll step back in time to the Northwest Airline days.   There’s no admission fee to the museum, although donations are appreciated to defray the cost of upkeep.

You can find more specifics on their website here.

Our Mission

Founded in 2002 with the mission to preserve the memory of Northwest Airlines’ exciting and colorful history.

Chateau Jazz Festival – Chateau St. Croix Winery

We do our best to stick with events, festival and locations in Minnesota.  Occasionally we do see something with a location across the border that grabs our attention and we feel deserves a mention.

The Chateau Jazz Festival takes place this Saturday, July 22nd from 12-6pm. The Chateau St. Croix Winery is located just outside of Saint Croix Falls Wisconsin.  If you’ve never been, it’s worth a bit of wandering to check it out.   The Jazz Festival is FREE admission.

Enjoy food from local food trucks, tour the winery and of course drink delicious Chateau wine. For those guests who prefer beer, we will offer a selection of local craft beers by the bottle. This is the perfect mid-summer event!

Music:
Babatunde Lea Quintet – 12:00pm
Steve Kenny Quartet – 1:30pm
Twin Cities Latin Jazz Ensemble – 3:00pm
Atlantis Quartet – 4:45pm
Andrew Wallesch – 1:00pm, 2:30pm, 4:15pm

Food Vendors:
A Wandering Fire – Wood Fire Pizza’s
Jessica’s Cucina – Wraps, Soups and more

Kayaking in Southern Minnesota

Just this past weekend, on a bright sunny day we decided to give kayaking a try.  All four of us have tried it at a friends cabin, just skirting some lake shore.  This time we decided to step it up a notch, we rented some kayaks and headed down the Zumbro River.

I wish I could I tell you that we found a secret free adventure, we did not.  What I can tell you is that we found one of the least expensive options.  We found some discounts for places that offer kayaking on lakes but we wanted to go down a river.  We chose a smaller business called Zumbro Falls River Ratz, as they were the least expensive we found for what we wanted to do.  We each wanted our own kayak, not tandem for this excursion.  The company we chose offers several different kayak options as well as tubes and canoes.  The Zumbro Falls River Ratz is a company that offers transportation, another thing we were looking for.  They drove us up the river and then we kayaked down, ending up where our vehicle was parked.  Thankfully we chose an almost perfect day, nice and sunny and not too hot.  It took us a little over two hours to go the six miles route on the river.

Just a few tips if you decide to give kayaking a try:

  • Make sure you’re prepared with the right type of payment, the company we chose is cash only.
  • Check the water conditions or weather with the place you want to rent from the day of day or day before
  • Wear Sunscreen
  • Be prepared that you will get a little or perhaps a lot wet, sort of your chose which one will happen.
  • If you want to bring lunch or a camera make sure to bring waterproof containers
  • The right footwear, especially if you plan to get out during the ride
  • Watch for wildlife along the route, we spotted:  turtles, a beaver, as well as several different birds and bugs.

We all enjoyed our day and will either be back to this same company and location yet this summer, or we just might branch out and try a completely different river in MN.

If you’ve rented kayaks in MN, is there a company or location you would recommend?  We still have a lot of summer left and would love to go exploring so please share your tips and suggestions. 

 

Wandering the State Forest Areas of Minnesota

The best part about Minnesota is the variety of landscape it offers.  Sure, we don’t have an actual mountain range but we still have plenty of areas to climb on rocks.  There are pine trees, prairies and everything in between.  Lakes, rivers, and even some puddles to be found.  If you want to go exploring, check out the State Forest areas around Minnesota.  A great, budget friendly and thrifty way to enjoy a bit of nature.  If you go to the website, you can get more information on all the different places you can explore.

 

State forests

You can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities – hiking, camping, wildlife viewing – in any of Minnesota’s State Forests.

State forest campgrounds and day-use areas are developed with a minimum of disturbance to the natural environment and are often in remote locations. This means that they are less likely to be as accessible as many state park campgrounds and facilities. Also, state forests do not have full-time staff available.

 

What we offer:

  • 1000 campsites at 46 campgrounds,
  • 44 day-use areas,
  • about 900 miles of trails, and
  • 142 water accesses.

Campgrounds

There are two types of campgrounds in state forests, developed and primitive.

Developed campgrounds charge a fee and have at least one accessible campsite with a level surface, accessible picnic table, and fire ring. Accessible paths lead from the campsite to a well and accessible vault toilet.

Primitive camp sites are also available at no charge. Most of these do not have accessible features.

  • State forest campgrounds do not have electric hookups or showers.
  • Most drinking water is provided from hand-pumped wells. Some campgrounds have accessible wells with a concrete pad and level approach.
  • Reservations at state forest campgrounds are not required or accepted.

Day Use Areas

Many state forests have day-use areas equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, and toilets. They are often located on lakes and have hiking trails, boat access, and swimming beaches. Some have accessible picnic tables, vault toilets, and wells. Overnight camping is not allowed at day-use areas.