State Fair with the Kids

If you have young kids, you know that going to the State Fair with them is a different experience than going with adults. I took my two sons, aged 6 and 3, to the Fair today. Following in the footsteps of the Skeptical Diner’s reviews of Fair foods, I present my reviews of State Fair Activities with Little Kids. One note: the State Fair can be an expensive proposition. My grades will largely ignore the cost of the activities, but the summary will try to mention what things cost so you can make your own judgement on cost / benefit.

ACTIVITY: Little Farm Hands

SUMMARY: A chance for kids to get an idea of where their food comes from in a non-threatening manner. Kids gather corn, eggs, vegetables, and milk, then deliver it to the market, where they get play money that is exchanged for a real food item. Not terribly educational, but my kids love it. It’s also free.

GRADE: A-

ACTIVITY: Viewing the butter sculptures

SUMMARY: The butter sculptures are in the Empire Commons building. It’s free to see the sculptures, but the place can get crowded. There is a platform at the sculpting place to make it easier for little kids to see what’s going on. If you’re lucky, you can actually see sculpting taking place. This held my children’s interest for about 5 or 10 minutes, then they were done. Much like a grocery store, the Empire Commons has put the dairy in the back, forcing you to go past a series of stalls hawking power tools and masking tape. When it’s crowded, this is a killer annoying. On the plus side, the Empire Commons building does have toilets in it.

GRADE: C

ACTIVITY: The animal barns

SUMMARY: I always feel that I have to go see the animals at the State Fair. We visited the poultry, horse and swine barns. These are all free to see and the swine barn gave out pig ear hats, which were popular with my kids. The animal barns are one of the core areas of the Fair, and they work to their own rhythm with schedules for shows and auctions that mean your results will vary if you just show up. The good news is that the kids got to see that there are many different kinds of chickens, geese and ducks — not just those they see in books or movies. Unfortunately, the horse and pig barns were pretty empty when we were there, so they didn’t see as much variety in those barns.

GRADE: B-

ACTIVITY: River Raft Ride

SUMMARY: A large raft that floats along a short course. There are various splashy parts, virtually guaranteeing that you will get wet. On a nice day, like today, this is great. The ride costs $3.50 per person and is pretty brief — less than 5 minutes, I think. The ride provides a place to park wagons and strollers. The raft ride is a chance to sit down and rest while being amused. My kids were starting to drag when we got on the ride, but this perked them up nicely. There was a line that took maybe 10 minutes to get through before we got on the raft.

GRADE: B

ACTIVITY: The Kidway

SUMMARY: $20 gets you 30 coupons. That gets you roughly 6 rides, depending on your tastes. The variety of rides is great enough that there is something for every kid. The rides themselves are pretty brief, less than 5 minutes each. Some of the rides are more like activities (ladders, mazes, bridges, and slides) and can done in less than 2 minutes. I was pleased to note that the staff running the rides were attentive and stopped the rides if a child showed signs of distress. They would help the scared child back to its parents and then resume the ride for the rest of the kids.

GRADE: B

ACTIVITY: The Giant Slide

SUMMARY You climb a large staircase to the top of the slide, sit on a burlap rug, and ride it down. Seems so simple, but the kids love it. My 3 year old was pretty nervous when he got to the top and was reluctant to actually go. Once he actually went, though — pure joy. Costs $2 per rider.

GRADE: A

ACTIVITY: Skyride

SUMMARY: Enclosed cars hung from a cable that goes across a section of the fairgrounds. A round trip ride is $5 per person, and kids under the age of 3 ride for free. We did it after dark, so we got to see the lights. Of particular note were the Midway lights, St. Paul Saints stadium lights, and the Giant Slide. If you take a round trip, they offer stroller/wagon parking for you. It’s enclosed, so you don’t need to worry about dropping things (or your kids) like you would with the SkyGlider.

GRADE: B+

ACTIVITY: Going home for a nap and then coming back

SUMMARY: If you take advantage of stamping your hands on exit and the free park and ride buses, you can leave and return at no cost. There’s no way my kids or I could have done all of that without a nap in the middle. So, we did a chunk, went home and napped, and then returned with energy and good spirits.

GRADE: A

3 Comments so far

  1. Jason (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 8:10 am

    Great advice — I never thought about the joy of the skyride for my 2-year-old… he’d love it, I bet.

    We also enjoyed the area right across from the Kid-midway… there are live shows in there (magic, juggling) and benches to sit and rest. Very pleasant.


  2. Marde (unregistered) on September 3rd, 2007 @ 8:54 pm

    Who won the talent show on Sunday night at the Grandstand? We saw 2 nights of Open and Pre-teen divisions earlier in the week, thought the talent was great this year, curious who won in each division and couldn’t see anything in the paper!


  3. sharon (unregistered) on September 19th, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

    no i mean how much mony per person ? oh and what does URL mean ?



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