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Quiet amid chaos: Places to recharge at the State Fair

After hours of wandering the fairgrounds rubbing elbows with tens of thousands of well-meaning strangers you just need a break, some place to catch your breath.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — The State Fair is a sensory stew of sights, sounds and smells that can overwhelm even the strongest Minnesotan. After hours of wandering the fairgrounds rubbing elbows with tens of thousands of well-meaning strangers you just need a break, some place to catch your breath, decompress and hit the reset button.

Fortunately, there are plenty of those places here in Falcon Heights, some well-known… others off the beaten track. 

Here are a few of them. 

Steichen’s Food Market and Patio (Alley off Clough Street)

The State Fair’s only grocery store, Steichen’s offers a place to buy a jug of milk, some basic food supplies, or have them whip you up a fresh breakfast sandwich. The patio out front has tables, umbrellas, and a low-traffic place to chill. 

Credit: KARE
Steichen's is the only grocery store on the State Fairgrounds. You'll find it on a quiet alley off Clough Street.

Credit: KARE
Grab some groceries or a fresh breakfast sandwich at Steichen's, then spent a few moments chilling on the low-traffic patio.

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Warner Coliseum-Animal Judging (Judson Avenue and Liggett Street)

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The lights and conversation are low inside Warner Coliseum, making it a great place to close your eyes for a couple of minutes and recharge.

While some shows pack 'em in, most sessions at the fair's main coliseum, like those involving animal judging, are super mellow. The lights are low, conversations kept to a murmur... a great setting to recharge your human batteries. 

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The kids getting animals judged feel the pressure... those in the seats have none.

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DNR Fire Tower (Near Nelson St. and Judson Ave.)

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The DNR Fire Tower takes you 84 steps into the sky, a quiet place if you're lucky.

Although it sounds counterintuitive, scaling the 84 steps it takes to get to the top is actually relaxing... it may be the routine of putting one foot in front of the other. Once you get to the observation deck, take a moment to catch your breath (you may actually have to) and look around with a view of the grandstand and fairground only birds usually get. Unless there are screaming kids or an overly-chatty fairgoer up with you, the tower can be a relaxing retreat. 

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Once on the observation deck, climbers get a view only birds usually do.

Bonus... on the way down you can stop at the DNR fish pond and watch native lunkers slowly swoosh their tails in their late-summer home.  

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On the way down from the Fire Tower, stop by the DNR Fish Pond to check out some fish. Now that's relaxing.

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Fine Arts Building (Cosgrove St. and Randall Ave.)

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Walk into the Fine Arts Building and the world immediately slows down.

Walk through the doors of this old brick building and conversations drop to a library level, if they're happening at all. The pace of fairgoers drops appreciably from the hustle and bustle of the streets, and light colors and natural light add a mannered air, and that's before you notice the spectacular artwork on the walls. 

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Part of the fun of wandering the Fine Arts Building is watching people connect with art that moves them.

A great place for people watching as well, seeing people visually connect with paintings and other art that moves them. 

Credit: KARE
The pace seems to drop from manic to mellow the moment you walk into the Fine Arts Building.

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Gardens of the State Fair (located throughout the fairgrounds)

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Gardens like the ones that circle the Horticulture Building almost beg you to stop and catch your breath.

As one would expect from a place built on agriculture and growing things, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds are littered with spectacular green spaces. From the sloping landscapes outside the Horticulture Building to the park-like plots that sit outside Administration headquarters, these gardens deliver whispering water features, lush plants, and benches where weary visitors can take a load off. 

Credit: KARE
Both administration buildings, located on the east side of the fairgrounds, have park-like spaces that are out of the fair's main traffic patterns.

There's even a special healing garden outside the 4H building at Cosgrove and Wright Avenue. Find a grassy space to sit and watch the world go by.