Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Fare Deal at the Fair

It’s that time of year again. Navigating the rows and rows of rides and games in the midway, wading through droppings in the animal barns, gawking at the faces of state fair royalty carved out of a block of butter, and then there’s the food….oh the food.

Visiting the Minnesota State Fair has been a Diva family tradition since Junior D was 2 months old. Each year, as the kids grow (and hopefully their patience – as well as ours, God willing), our challenge is to stay longer than the previous year and see every possible attraction. This year, we’ve managed to defeat last year’s visit by hoofing it through the fair for a record-breaking nine hours.

Here are some tips for having a fun, family day at the fair without breaking the bank:

Plan Ahead: Most fairs offer discount admission and parking if you purchase the tickets in advance, rather than at the gate. Check the newspaper or the fair’s website for details on advanced ticket purchases.

Discount Fare: In the past, we’ve purchased a Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, which is a thick book filled with over $500 worth of discount coupons for food vendors and attractions at the Minnesota State Fair. If you look at a map beforehand, and plan your route through the fairgrounds carefully, you can save a considerable amount of money on fair food.

Discount Days: Some fairs have specific bargain days, such as Thrifty Thursday, where the admission, ride tickets, and food are reduced.

Pack a Cooler: By far the thriftiest tip for a full day at the fair is to pack a cooler with snacks and drinks. The bottom storage basket under a stroller is the perfect spot to store a small cooler. No stroller? Coolers not allowed in? Leave it in your car, and head back out to the parking lot for a picnic lunch.

Above all, enjoy the great family tradition of the fair, and don’t be afraid to splurge on a treat or two throughout the day. We packed a cooler of sodas and a thermos of lemonade for the family, and then splurged on our favorite fair fare: cheese curds, French fries, and cotton candy. The money we saved just on not buying drinks for a family of four at $4 each for the entire day more than made up for our fare indulgences at the fair.

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