Friday, August 24, 2012

Fun at the Fair

We always try to make it out to the Minnesota State Fair a few times before summer comes to an end. Yep, here in Minnesota summer doesn't officially end until the day after Labor Day - at least that's when everyone goes back to school.

Since I've already written a post about some of our favorite foods at the fair, I'm sure you're now wondering what we do at the fair when we're not filling up on fried foods. With or without kids, here are some of our favorite ways to have fun at the fair...

What would a trip to the fair be without a stop at the Animal Barns? They're filled with all kinds of fun farm animals! Newborn piglets - check. Fattest pig in the world (er well, at least Minnesota) - check. Noisy chickens, ducks, and other farm birds - check. Watch sheep being sheered, cows being milked, and even a sheep herding competition!

In the Miracle of Birth Center, you can occasionally witness chicks hatching from their eggs or pregnant farm animals giving birth. They also let you pet some of the baby animals, so it's a much better option for little kids than the full grown "sometimes you can pet them, sometimes they look like they might bite your hand off" animals in the other barns.

The Little Farm Hands exhibit is a cute little farm where kids can help with some of the chores there are to do around a farm. Abe loved riding the tractor...

...and collecting chicken eggs. At the end the kids "sell" all the eggs and plastic produce they collect along the way, and earn some play money to spend at the market. Abe bought a small bag of potato chips with his money, but they also had little boxes of cereal, fruit, and some other snacks to choose from.

My husband loves to stop at the painted cut-outs around the fair for pictures. There are tons of them! 

One of the most well-known traditions at the Minnesota State Fair is the display of busts carved in butter that can be found in the Dairy Building. The buttery heads represent Princess Kay and her court, and since they carve these heads (one per day) during the fair, you'll often see a frigid princess in the rotating cooler, as the artist, Linda Christensen, carves away at the 90 pound blocks of butter.

Oh, and as long as you're in the Dairy Building, stop by the Dairy Goodness Bar for one of their delicious malts. I'm pretty sure I've tried every flavor and there isn't a single one I don't love!

The Agriculture Building hosts a number of flower, plant, and crop shows throughout the two weeks of the fair. Many of them last only a couple days, so it's best to plan ahead if you want to catch a specific show. We always try to hit up the Minnesota Bonsai Society Show (usually the second weekend of the fair - Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2012)...

...and the Minnesota Orchid Society Show, which is held the same weekend. The bonsai trees and orchids that people bring in are amazing to see, and always make me wish I had the patience for that kind of gardening.

Even if you miss the bonsai and orchid shows, there's always something interesting to see in the Agriculture Building! Check out their list of agricultural and horticultural competitions for other shows to watch for.

The Agriculture Building is also home to Minnesota Apples, which sells Minnesota grown apples (the best in the world!), hot or cold apple cider, applesauce, and frozen cider pops. I never turn down a glass of apple cider!

I also enjoy the amateur gardener exhibits in the Agriculture Building - although for "amateur" they sure grow the best looking vegetables I've ever seen. I mean honestly, have you ever seen onions like that at the grocery store?!

Before you leave the agriculture building (or as soon as you get there), be sure to stop at the Minnesota Honey Producers stand. They sell honey, Honey & Honey Nut Fudge Ice Cream, Honey Nut Frozen Yogurt, and a super refreshing Honey Lemonade. I've been known to walk clear across the fairgrounds for a glass of their lemonade...

Need a break from the buildings? The fair has rides too! Lots of them. There are two locations for carnival rides at the fair. The Kidway has rides for little kids, while the Mighty Midway has the more exciting stuff for older kids and adults.

Abe's been to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America, so he's no stranger to carnival rides, but I think this was the first time he went on a ride without Noah or I sitting next to him. He didn't cry or try to climb out like I thought he might, but he sat there the whole time with his finger in his mouth and didn't crack a smile once! I did catch him turning the steering wheel at one point though. Maybe we'll try again when we go with his cousins.

Another one of our favorite places to stop is the Fine Arts building. The artwork displayed in the building are the winning entries chosen from the thousands submitted by amateur and professional artists from all across the state. I've entered a few times, but the only piece that ever made it in was the photograph above (taken with my Holga). A lot of the artwork that gets in is really amazing so it's always worth a look. (Unfortunately, some kids aren't as interested in art as their parents would like them to be.) I could spend all day staring at the pictures...

We always swing by the MPR booth (located next to the giant Fresh French Fries stand on Judson Ave.) at least once during our trips to the fair. They have live broadcasts from the fair, and if you're lucky (or plan ahead) you might catch a live performance by some great local bands. They also have a Minnesota Public Radio shop, and are always giving away free buttons, window decals, and other goodies at the booth. We picked up an "I'm a Current" fan, which Abe played with for the rest of the evening.

So that's a few of the many activities and exhibits we try to pack into our trips to the Minnesota State Fair. Of course no trip to the fair is complete without getting some roasted corn on the cob! Check out this post to see some of our other favorite foods at the fair.

Anyone else going to the fair this weekend? What foods/exhibits/activities are you looking forward to the most? 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Minnesota Children's Museum

Abe has a small obsession with Curious George. We own almost all the books, have seen both movies, and most of the cartoons on PBS. He sleeps with a Curious George sock monkey, and learned to say "George" before he could say the names of some of his cousins. Oh, and "curious" was his first three-syllable word. Needless to say, when they opened the Curious George: Let's Get Curious exhibit at the Minnesota Children's Museum, I knew we'd have to check it out.

The first time we went, we arrived just as they were finishing a story and bringing George out to meet his fans. Abe wanted to get close to George but wouldn't let me put him down, so the best George got this time around was a timid handshake.

Then we went upstairs to check out Curious George's neighborhood. Abe loved everything about it! There were windows to peek in to see all of George's friends... office (with a rotary phone) that included a display of some of Margaret and H.A. Rey's other work...

...George and the man with the yellow hat's apartment building - complete with elevator doors to open...

...a construction site to work at, a spaceship with a slide, a little farm with pens for bunnies, pigs, and chickens (which he played with for a really long time), a golf course, shadow puppets...

...and a just-right sized George that got the hugs and kisses he was too scared to give to the bigger George. (I love that he's holding George's hand in this picture!)

Abe could have spent all day in the George exhibit, but I like a change of scenery, so we explored the Habitot play area for awhile. It's a great place to run and climb for little ones, and there's even a special area where babies can crawl around and have fun! 

The museum also offers a number of drop-in activities throughout the day. The activities include reading stories, singing and dancing, art projects, and face painting. They actually have a paint-your-own-face cart, so you'll run into a lot of colorful kids when the cart is open.

The World Works exhibit focuses on activities for slightly older kids...

...although Abe (and every other toddler in the museum) loved the bubble and water tables. Next best thing to actually swimming I suppose.

We also spent some time in the Our World exhibit, which had a grocery store, restaurant, post office, doctor's office, and costumes for dressing up like community helpers. 

The second time we went to the museum, we were in the Our World exhibit when Abe spied George across the room. He ran over, cornered George on the bus, and asked him to "snuggle." In case anyone's keeping track: people Abe has asked to snuggle = mama, daddy, and the stranger dressed up as Curious George at the Children's Museum. Guess he's no longer afraid of larger than life sized monkeys...

The Minnesota Children's Museum offers the following attractions and amenities (click on the links for more information):


The Curious George exhibit runs through October 7, 2012. For more information about other activities and exhibits at the Minnesota Children's Museum, go to