The final weekend of the Minnesota State Fair is usually the busiest stretch of the get-together.
While we love our fellow Minnesotans and all the talents on display ... sometimes we just need a few minutes to get away and recharge our social battery.
But where the hell can you find a quiet spot at the State Fair, with 200,000-plus hungry people shoved onto 320 acres?
That was my mission Friday: find some peace and quiet at the fair.
Anytime I saw a potential spot, I stopped and sat for a bit. I graded each based on three qualities:
- Convenience (Is it near things, or way out of the way?)
- Seating (Benches? Chairs? Or just ground?)
- Commotion (Are there lots of people around? Is it noisy?)
To grade the commotion piece, I tried reading for a few minutes – since reading is the quintessential "no distractions" activity, I figured it'd help me gauge how much was going on around me.
Here's what I found.
The top spot
There were a handful of decent places. But one area jumped out for being relatively quiet and offering lots of green space to sit, without being far away from everything.
Along the northern edge of the West End Market, there's a grassy hill with some trees that starts on the back side of the History and Heritage Center.
And nobody was sitting up there.
Some small groups stood at the base of the hill near some brick landscaping. But otherwise I had my pick of where on the (admittedly bumpy) ground I wanted to sit, and I wasn't in the way of anyone's walking path.
Standard Fair sounds drifted into earshot, but never to the point that it was distracting. With a blanket to sit on, I could've planted myself there with a book for awhile.
The biggest downsides? It's not centrally located. The West End Market is popular enough however you'll probably be in that area at some point. And there's plenty to eat/do there once you've recharged.
Also, as mentioned above, it's not the most comfortable. The ground is grassy but uneven, and to be totally honest it doesn't look like it was made to be a seating area. It works well though once you settle in.
The next best option: a parklet
This one is almost the opposite of the West End Market hill.
It's a beautifully constructed parklet on the south side of the Eco Experience building. It's all wood, with a bench to sit; planters in there give it a nice warm feeling. And it's right next to a natural play area and other park-like/nature-y showcases.
And as a bonus, there are water fountains and bathrooms just inside the building. (Plus frees samples of Peace Coffee and a water bar.)
It's a little busy though. The parklet isn't huge, so could fill up fast. And a lot of families were stopped and sitting at other benches and ledges right there. A nearby booth was playing music too, though it wasn't distractingly loud.
The atmosphere and proximity to restrooms, free water and other food vendors though more than makes up for it. You'll feel removed from the Fair actions, even though you're really not.
Follow my journey
I Instagrammed my way through the day – you can check out the video right here.
And keep reading to get the rundown on even more spots.
Decent, but events screw it up
Three great spots ... as long as you don't go during an event.
The Grandstand staircases on the east side: These give you a shady place to sit. Sure people walk by you occasionally, but it isn't frequent.
Large lawn area just outside the J.V. Bailey House: It looks very inviting, with large trees that provide plenty of shade (or sitting support), plus lots of grass. But it's along the parade route, so while there was still plenty of space Friday afternoon, it certainly wasn't zen. The nearby Leinie Lodge Bandshell can be distracting too, if an act is performing.
The benches where you can watch shows next to Giggles': It's quiet with tons of seating options in the morning before anything starts. But that ends pretty quickly.
Where to avoid
This might seem obvious, but there is zero reprieve from people and noise when you're at the Midway. Just get out of there.
And the mini parks behind Turkey to Go and near the DNR area. They look inviting – benches, green space, shade.
But the benches and open grass spots are usually taken, and the fish pond right there ... it's always packed. There are too many people in that area to make it a reliable quiet spot. Though you may get lucky occasionally.
Other spots I tried
Inside an arcade photo booth: You can shut the curtain for some real separation! But that's about the only good thing.
Alley between Giant Slide, Dino's, Vikings shop, bathrooms: It's smack dab in the middle of a busy area (Q25 on the State Fair map), and most people don't use it.
But there's no shade, it smells like garbage and cigarette butts, and has little seating.
East path along International Bazaar: It's quiet, and there are a few ledges to sit on. But it's a Fair entrance/exit, and you don't need a break right when you're coming in or leaving.
Tom Bever Memorial Garden: It's a beautiful garden, and behind it is a company's landscaping deck example. But seating is sparse, and it feels like people walking by would wonder why you're not moving from there.
Lone bench along west wall of the Pet Center: It's quiet and shady. But at the very tip of the Fairgrounds and there is only one bench away from the main street.
Plus, the animal surgery viewing area is like, right around the corner inside the building, which isn't very conducive to relaxing.
Judson Avenue in front of AgStar Arena: Just off the main thoroughfare, but nowhere to sit. And lots of foot/hoof traffic.
Bench and plant area outside Sweet Martha's by the Grandstand: Benches and planters are nice but it's way too crowded.