The 2016 Nature-Lover’s Guide to the State Fair Urban Jungle
The busses and free shuttles still provide amazing service to the transit hub and the gate on Snelling. Or, if fair-goers are bent on American individualism, new Uber users can get up to $20 off their first ride by entering the code MNSTATEFAIR16 when signing up at t.uber.com/MNStateFair16. Uber has two designated drop-off and pick-up points: northeast end of the fairgrounds near Snelling & Hoyt (Gate 2 at 1806 Hoyt Ave.) and outside the northwest end of the fairgrounds (University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus CECC turnaround at 1890 Buford Ave.) To get home, use the Uber app to request a ride and follow the phone instructions to locate a driver.
First Stop, Eco-Experience (Open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
Located at Cosgrove St. and Randall Ave.
For people who love nature—and want to protect it, visiting the Eco-Experience building is a must. A partnership between the State Fair, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and more than 150 organizations and businesses across the state, the Eco-Experience has it all. There are engaging exhibits around each turn and the “Sustainability Stage” features hourly demos/shows on reduce-reuse-recycle how-tos, healthy cooking, innovations in green technology, leisurely landscaping using native plants, transportation and more. View the schedule at www.pca.state.mn.us/ecoexperience/shows-and-demos.
Before entering the building, be sure to join the West Metro Water Alliance’s campaign Pledge to Plant—for Pollinators and Clean Water near the enormous windmill blade sticking out of the ground at the building entrance. There is even a native plant scavenger hunt near the pledge station to familiarize fair-goers with suitable native plants that offer benefits beyond just looking beautiful.
Inside, a 15-foot Paul Bunyan donning a new outfit and calls attention to a giant-sized waste problem: Minnesotans throw away nearly 12 grocery carts of clothing and textiles every MINUTE. Another symbol of Minnesota—hockey. Check out the Watershed Partners’ storm drain goalie exhibit to find out how to be a local legend in protecting water.
Kemps Little Farm Hands (Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
Located at Cooper St. and Randall Ave.
To quote father of conservation Aldo Leopold, in the Sand County Almanac, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” Exiting the Eco-Experience through the west door leads right to the Little Farm Hands area, especially for fair fans ages 3 to 10. Kids get to take a journey from the farm to the grocery store by riding a tiny tractor, milking a cow, gathering eggs, planting crops. New this year, kids will explore why soil erosion occurs, the importance of pollination, the work of honey bees, how water travels in a cycle, and what rain barrels do. They can also meander through a new path in the “Field of Knowledge” to look at soybeans, wheat, a straw bale garden, and a variety of sunflowers.
New Fair Food!
As the wee ones enjoy the farm, the adults can try one of the 34 new fair foods: Iron Range Meat & Potatoes. Envision a hearty portion of seasoned beef with a layer of cheddar cheese, topped with mashed potatoes, baked, and drizzled with a wild rice gravy at Giggles’ Campfire Grill, located on the southeast corner of Lee Avenue and Cooper Street at The North Woods.
Selfie Spot. Click. #mnstatefair
Next site, Agriculture Horticulture Building , of course! But first take advantage of two of the selfie spots on the way. Five iconic fairgrounds spots are marked them with a Selfie Spot badge on the ground. Stand on the badges to snap fabulous State Fair photo memories. To find the exact locations, visit http://www.mnstatefair.org/pdf/Selfie_Spot_Locations.pdf.
Agriculture Horticulture Building Open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. on Labor Day)
Located between Underwood St. and Cooper St., north of Judson Ave. (or between the Ye Old Mill and Space Tower)
New this year is the “Garden Kaleidoscopes & Floralpalooza: Color Your World.” Peer into garden kaleidoscopes to see fantastic flowers transform into mesmerizing images of color and movement as a player piano accompanies the wonderful sights.
At this point, it’s probably been at least an hour since food was sampled, so visitors might want to find one of the 17 new fair foods that surround the Agriculture Horticulture Building and come back for a seat at the Minnesota State Horticulture’s “Dirt Stage” (near the Skyride). There’s never enough seating at the fair, but there’s plenty of shaded benches in here while for visitors to learn as they lunch.
Hen House at the CHS Miracle of Birth Center Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (3 p.m. on Labor Day)
Located on Judson Ave. between the River Raft Ride and the Coliseum, across from the DNR park.
If the little ones are getting restless, head over to the new hen house at the Miracle of Birth Center. Discover more about how farmers use different egg production systems to produce safe and wholesome food, and see a backyard chicken coop up-close.
Animal Barns Cattle, Sheep & Poultry (including 4-H rabbits) and Swine open daily 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Horse Barn is open 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Located on the west end of Judson Ave.
Cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, poultry; the fair isn’t complete without checking out the animal barns
DNR Building: Nature Rocks Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Located between Carnes Ave. and Judson Ave. along the west side of Nelson St.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) area is another “not to miss” area for nature lovers! Enjoy music on the DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage and loads of other demonstrations from flying raptors to fly fishing and from comedy to paddle boarding. View the fish pond and learn about state parks, ATVs, fishing, hunting, birds, bees, DNR K-9 unit, campfires, aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, forestry, lands and minerals, moose, boat and water safety, laser fire extinguishing, prairies, biking and wildlife. http://dnr.state.mn.us/events/statefair/schedules.html
Wrapping Up with a Natural High
By this time, visitors’ feet may be reminding them to head back to the transit hub. But here’s a tip: slip over to the Giant Slide to round out the fair experience and grab some more fair food for the ride home.
Written by Dawn Pape on behalf of the Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission (BCWMC), a local unit of government comprised of the nine cities that drain to Bassett Creek, focused on protecting water. BCWMC is a member of the West Metro Water Alliance. www.bassettcreekwmo.org.