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Have kids? Like money? Then don't take them to the Kidway at the Minnesota State Fair.

First things first. No, I'm not a State Fair hater – I actually think it's great. And yes, I go into every State Fair knowing I'm going to drop a fair chunk of dough, but I at least want to feel like I've extracted some value from it.

But the Kidway is where value goes to die. Our two kids made a beeline for it on Saturday and pretty soon I was lining up to buy a sheet of 28 tickets for $25.

"That'll probably be enough," I think to myself, stupidly.

Then it was gone. $25 managed to get them on two rides that lasted a combined six minutes.

A 6-ticket entry fee to go on a puppy rollercoaster.

"Oh, your child is between 36 and 42 inches? A parent will have to accompany them. That’ll be another 6 tickets."

So that’s about $17-18 for two children and an adult for two 20-second circuits of the track.

So there we were, ten minutes later, this time tearfully handing over $50 for a larger sheet of 60 tickets.

This time we made it last a little longer, picking 5 coupon rides to stretch our precious tickets, before finally being able to flee thanks to some well-timed rain.

I understand that the ticket system is easier for the Kidway staff (who are all friendly and helpful, by the way) than dealing with cash/credit card payments – but you can't help but think they wouldn't get nearly as many customers if the signs said "$6" rather than "6 coupons." 

Yes, the Midway is similarly expensive. But that's mainly for adults and older children who you'd hope would be more in control of their emotions.

With young kids, you're faced with the Sophie's Choice of dropping another $25-50 on a sheet of tickets, or tell your walking tantrum there's no more helicopter rides, prompting histrionics that last the length of Underwood.

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There was far more value to be found further north, where the Kemps Little Farm Hands attraction is free and comes with a small ice cream at the end – we also had fun in the free Survival exhibition at the North End.

Then there's the livestock barns, the horse shows, machinery hill, the oodles of free entertainment including dog shows etc. etc.

Did the kids have fun at the Kidway? Yes. Would they have had fun anyway if we hadn't gone there? Also yes. 

If you HAVE to go, take advantage of the remaining deal days, where you get cheaper tickets before 1 p.m. on Thursday, as well as all day on Labor Day. You can also pick up Kidway tickets more cheaply BEFORE the State Fair starts at $15 for 20 tickets.

On Wednesday, it's Kids Day. Discounted admission prices for kids ages 5-12 are available at the entrance gates for $12. In addition, all-day specials are offered in Kidway and Midway.

Then there's the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, which costs $5 but contains good discounts on rides, food and drinks throughout the fairgrounds.

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