Note that this article is about the 2016 Minnesota State Fair. While many shops come back each year, we can’t guarantee that all of these offerings will be available in the current year.
The Minnesota State Fair is something my kids anticipate every year though we are not diehards like Anne and her family. We go once or maybe twice, but my kids start asking to go to the fair in January. It’s with much excitement that my kids anticipate the end of August.
This year, Anne and I were invited back to The Great Minnesota Blog Together to check out a preview of what’s to come. Alice Seuffert of Dining with Alice and Christine Noonan of the Minnesota State Fair have put this event together for three years now and we are always thrilled to go.
Minnesota State Fair Shopping
Pam Simon may not be a household name, but those of us who love to shop at the State Fair need to thank this incredible lady.
She single-handedly–okay, maybe not completely single-handedly–has created the Shopaholics Dream: a State Fair creatively organized into a small city of shopping neighborhoods. Find your gadgets and knickknacks in the Merchandise Mart, unique Western wear in and around the Coliseum, gifts from around the world in the International Bazaar – the list goes on. You name it, the Minnesota State Fair’s got it.
I do want to make a special mention the vendors that we met in person:
Holly House Boutique – A pop-up shop in the South Metro that is open during seven weeks in November and December (AND for the first time ever during the State Fair). Want to find that gift that the grandparents who have everything will love? Look no further. Also find gifts for the furry members of your family. Find it on the 2nd floor of the grandstand.
Wish Boutique – The brick-and-mortar is located in Rosemount, and 2016 marks its first appearance at the State Fair. Wish is full of things for men and women including their fun t-shirts, hats, Wisconsin-love items, and special Little Blue Bead bracelets. Find this fun shop on the 2nd floor of the grandstand, too.
i like you – Happy to be a part of the thriving NE Minneapolis art community, i like you returns to the Fair. If you are looking for a great t-shirt, head to the West End Market for an incredible selection. Also, this shop is in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book: $6 off one tee, tank or onesie OR buy two tees and get the third FREE.
Birchberry Native Arts and Food – Heidi Grika, a member of the White Earth Tribe of the Ojibwe is your one-stop shop for wild rice, birch bark baskets, baby moccasins, and incredible Native American art. Find her shop in the International Bazaar.
Machine Age Lamps – A dream of Shawn Carling, his company creates statement pieces for your home out of salvaged iconic Americana. Shawn’s team will ship your purchase to you anywhere in the US for free–so don’t worry about dragging that heavy — but amazing — light fixture around with you all day.
supports Family Fun Twin Cities
Other shops that are fun for families can be found in the following locations:
- Dairy Building: Askov GreenHouse
- Warner Coliseum: Horse Crazy Market, Usborne Books, My Little Rodeo
- West End Market: Greg’s Toys
- Grandstand: JM Cremp’s, Hare Hollow, You Name It Toys, Red Cherry Name Painting, Pony Pal Stable
- International Bazaar: Roseberry Kids, Ice-Ame, Fiesta in America, Global Mamas
- Merchandise Mart: Enchanted Tree House, Fairy Finery, Puzzles by Ribbon, Toys ‘n More
- Creative Activities Annex: Lucy’s Toys, Otter Creations
- Northern Fairgrounds: Doghouses & Playhouses, Rainbow Midwest, Red Wagon Books, Yarn Buddies
Minnesota State Fair New Foods
This is what I know you’ve been waiting for! Let’s just say, you won’t be disappointed this year (but honestly, when are we ever?). We sampled six new foods this year, and I have ranked them from my least favorite to my most favorite.
Blue Moon Dine-In Theater • Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread
Description: Blue Moon tends to go sweet with new foods, this year they chose to go the savory route. They created a portable french onion soup. That’s EXACTLY what it tastes like.
My thoughts: Eat it warm. Mine had gotten cold, so I could tell it had the potential for deliciousness. If I had bitten into it with melty cheese, I would have gobbled it up in a heartbeat.
Minnesnowii Shave Ice • New topping: sweetened condensed milk, New flavor: Maple Bacon
Description: If you’d like a creamy taste to your shave ice, try 100% Sweetened Condensed Milk (as opposed to what percentage…can you even find 95% Sweetened Condensed Milk?) drizzled over the top. And the Maple Bacon is shave ice topped with 100% maple syrup (yes, that percentage I understand) and bacon bits on top. If you are a breakfast fan, you will probably want to try this.
My thoughts: You gotta eat this fast. You let it sit for a minute and you will have to drink it. If you like sweets–you really can’t get sweeter than this. I’m not a huge snocone fan, but if I were to get one, Minnesnowii Shave Ice would be my choice.
O’Gara’s at the Fair • Grilled Cheese Bites
Description: The most incredible cheese curds you will ever eat. Even if they aren’t technically cheese curds, that’s what I felt like I was eating. The cheese is blended with a beer batter and then cubed, deep fried and served with a Bloody Mary-flavored dipping sauce.
My thoughts: I liked these a lot. I wished I could have had more!
French Meadow Bakery & Cafe • Rustic Beef Pastry
Description: Moroccan-spiced beef and baby spinach topped with crumbled goat cheese in a pastry.
My thoughts: This was Anne’s favorite and I was taken aback at how much I loved it. The spice didn’t overpower, the goat cheese was dreamy, the pastry flaky, and the only concern was picking spinach out of the teeth!
Quote of the day goes to Emily from
More Than Just Dessert.
“I appreciate that it has a little bit of vegetable.”
Tot Boss • NEW VENDOR selling tasty items such as Tater Tot Nachos and Loaded Tots
Description: Definitely not your typical school cafeteria tots! These are comfort food – tots with a wide variety of toppings.
My thoughts: We were so impressed with the Boss’s scratch-made sauces and commitment to preventing cross-contamination, a must for those with allergies and intolerances. One order is definitely generous enough to share!
Gass Station Grill • Minnesota Corn Dog
Description: The custom-ground sausage is speckled with blueberries, apples, wild rice, maple syrup and cayenne, dipped into a homemade corn dog batter and perfectly deep-fried.
My thoughts: I wasn’t the only blogger who was genuinely surprised how much they enjoyed this twist on the iconic Fair food. Corn dogs – now legitimately for breakfast!
But don’t just take our word for it; there is a whole host of other bloggers out there who have put their unique spin on what’s fresh at the Fair! Here are several we recommend checking out for their report: