Valleyfair tips for the family at Grand Carnivale

21 BEST Family-Friendly Tips for Valleyfair in Shakopee MN

As soon as summer break hits, kids start asking the question “Can we go to Valleyfair?” As a parent, I’m not going to lie, I love going to the amusement park too. It’s the only place where everyone can feel like a kid, without the stress of a trip to Florida. The rides are great, with something for everyone.

When I was a kid, the neighborhood kids and I had Kool-Aid stands to raise the funds for summer tickets. When I got a little older, I saved all winter to afford a season pass. It was the best way to spend the summer.

With my summers a little busier than they were as a kid, I made a special plan on the calendar to attend this summer during Grand Carnivale. Today I’m sharing my Valleyfair Tips for the family I’ve learned.

This post is sponsored by Valleyfair. I received complimentary admission to the park for my family in exchange for an honest review. As always, my opinions are all my own. There may be affiliate links within the post. Clicking on them doesn’t cost you anything more. But I do earn a small commission. I never promote things I don’t stand behind.

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Valleyfair Tips For the Family

Best Ticket Deals for Valleyfair?

Get your amusement park tickets online. I always seem to hear deals online about scoring good deals on tickets, but they never compare with what you can find on Valleyfair’s website. Tickets are easy $20-30 cheaper by buying online. It’s an insane difference. Even if you have to buy tickets on your cellphone in the parking lot do it!

Consider early or Late Season

Plan to go early or late season for the shortest lines in the park. If you can’t plan on that, consider going during the middle of the week. You may even score a discount on tickets!

Have a PreK child with you? Get a Free Season Pass?

Valleyfair has a very generous Kids policy, with under three being free. But in recent years they’ve extended it to a free season pass for 3, 4, and 5 years olds. This is an amazing way to save some money, even if you only go once. You can check out all the details here.

What to wear to Valleyfair?

When trying to decide on a wardrobe choice for Valleyfair, think of light clothing that dries quickly. Bring a swimsuit if you plan on spending most of the time in the water.

Just make sure you have a shirt and shoes when it comes time for the rides. Even if you aren’t, bring things that dry quickly in case you end up on water rides.

I like to wear moisture-wicking sportswear that dries quickly. I was wearing a pair of quick-dry hiking shorts, a moisture-wicking shirt, and Teva’s. Don’t wear flip-flops or shoes that could fall off during a ride. They’ll make you take them off. After getting drenched on Thunder Canyon, I was completely dry within 15 minutes.

The celebration runs from July 24th – to August 8th. Get your tickets online for this great celebration. Save some money and buy a tasting ticket online too for some great food.

The tastings allow you to select 6 or 9 dishes from all the different counties. They are traditional portion sizes, not samples. If you don’t want to commit to that many dishes, it’s still a good deal for each dish at around $6 each.

Are Special Events Worth It?

Valleyfair has always excelled at its special events. This is probably my favorite Valleyfair tip. Throughout the years I’ve gone during their food truck festival, and the corn roast.

And every Fall, the park transforms into a Spooky adventure.

This year the big celebration is Grand Carnivale. This grand celebration has a Spectacle of Color Parade, specialty floats, food from around the world, live entertainment, unique crafts, and games. This party is something you don’t want to miss.

Valleyfair Special Events for 2022

  • Grand Carnivale: June 25- July 10
  • Univision MN Latin Days: July 23- July 24
  • Monster Jame Thunder Ally: August 12 – September 5
  • Tricks and Treats: September 30 – October 30

Get to the Park for Rope Drop!

I cannot stress this enough. Get into the park before it opens for the rope drop. It’s not just a Disney thing. If you show up about 30 minutes early, chances are you’ll see a bunch of people waiting in the shady spots around the parking lot.

These people waiting to enter at the “official time” are going to be stuck in a long security line. Don’t be one of them.

Before the official gates open, you can get past security, take a picture in front of the fountain, and even get any last-minute shopping done at the store, all before they actually open.

You could even get a Caribou coffee and Cinnabon if you wanted. They have a set of ropes just before you get to The Wave and a set on the other side before you get to the games.

Once the rope drops, everyone goes running for the first rides they see. For some, it’s the Corkscrew, others it’s Wild Thing. A great pro-Valleyfair tip is to head all the way back and work your way forward. You’ll miss out on the start of park lines.

Rope Drop at Valleyfair

Family Care Center – Get Measured and Relax

With toddlers, make sure to stop into the Family Center right in Planet Snoopy. First is a great place for nursing, with air conditioning, tv for the other kids, and all around great break during the day.

The second reason to stop in is to get your kids measured. Instead of having them get measured at each ride with individual sticks, get it done once!

After they determine the official size, they will get a wristband allowing them to be easily identified height. No more worrying about being a hill or any other fluctuations that might happen by attendants.

You can also get a special wristband for your kids in case you get separated. It’s all part of the KidTrack program. They’ll take care of it all at the Family Center for you.

Ride Swapping isn’t only a Disney Thing

Got a wide range of kids. Sign up for the Ride Swap program while you are at the family center. This allows you to only wait in line once.

Once the first group is done riding, they’ll grab the Parent Swap slip from their partner who just road and can skip to the front of the line. You’ll need to stop into the Family Center to get signed up.

Bring a Stroller

If you have young kids, make you bring a stroller. There are always places to stash it next to ride entrances. The best part about having the stroller on hand is it will carry all your extra stuff! Seriously, I’d consider bringing one even with my kids not needing one just for storage.

The Best Thrill Ride with no wait?

Excalibur hands down is the most underrated thrill ride in the park. This ride is in the back and for some reason, everyone gets distracted by shiny objects before making it there.

The line is always short if not nonexistent. And as far as roller coasters go, this is an amazing wooden roller coaster. After getting off Thunder Canyon, walk right onto Excalibur.

Excalibur Ride at Valley Fair

Best family ride everyone can enjoy?

The Minnesota River Valley Railroad. I’m not sure why everyone forgets this fun mode of transportation through the park.

It takes you from one side to the next, passing through a tunnel, under coasters, and behind the scenes look at some of Wild Thing.

My favorite is always when they close out traffic to let the train pass and you feel like you are on parade. The train arrives every 15 minutes and almost everyone that waits gets a seat.

This is a great Valleyfair tip for those looking to get everyone in the family in on the fun.

Best Place to Cool down at Valleyfair in Shakopee?

Soak City waterpark is the best place to cool down. The waterpark is free with admission this year (2021). They have splash pads, slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and more.

If you are like me and haven’t been since they remodeled the Soak City, it has doubled in size easily with so many more options to relax.

Soak City at Valleyfair

If you are like me and the thought of exposing more skin to sunlight, have you reaching for the aloe already, don’t worry.

A favorite location in the park to take advantage of some AC is the PEANUTS Playhouse inside Planet Snoopy. It is the ultimate ball playground for kids, with targets, cannons, and ball drops that the kids enjoy.

Another good option is the Atomic Drinks store. Get there before the lunch rush, or well after to cool off in their air-conditioned dining.

Peanuts Playhous at Valleyfair in Shakopee MN

Other Ways to Cool Down: Bring an Umbrella

Carry your own shade. I learned this tip on a trip to Washington DC. When there isn’t a lot of shade, bring your own. I don’t care how silly you think you look carrying an umbrella around; the look you are getting is envy. Get a small, compact travel umbrella to throw in the bag.

Keep a small shade umbrella in your back. I carry these with me to all events in the summer.
Yoobure Small Mini Umbrella They reduce the temp so much!

Shade Umbrella

Bring an Empty Spray Bottle on Hot Days

Once you get in the park, get your spray bottle filled up. While you are standing in line and need something to cool you off, grab your water bottle and give yourself a few misty.

They sell similar things like this in the park, with a fan attached. Those are used in emergencies. Stop by the drug store or even the dollar store and grab one for a fraction of the cost.

Get Free Water in the Park

If the temperatures are looking steamy, bring an empty water bottle. I do this regardless of the temperature because you can never have enough water.

Valleyfair doesn’t allow outside food and drinks, but they will happily refill your bottle for you. Throw a couple of Hydroflask in your backpack.

Stop into any of the self-service refresh soda stations and ask to fill your bottle. It will make sure you stay cool all day. Plus the Hydroflask is insulated so the ice won’t melt.

Need a Waterbottle that will keep your drinks cold all day long? You need an insulated bottle. I use both a Hydro Flask and Super Sparrow Water bottles. Both do an amazing job!
Hydro Flask
Super Sparrow (Budget Friendly Alternative)

Get free water at Valleyfair

Save your money for the good stuff!

Another great Valleyfair tip for the family is to prioritize where you want to spend your money on. I am all about saving money where I can and spending it on the right stuff.

At Valleyfair, it’s all about the food and games. Throw the right stuff in your bag and you won’t spend all your money on impulse souvenirs and things you forgot.

I usually include a set of ponchos, a spray bottle, hydro flasks, and a waterproof phone case. If you want to prioritize getting on more rides, consider having a picnic in your car, and get a set of Fast Passes for everyone.

Carnival Food at Valleyfair

Download the Valleyfair App

Valleyfair has a mobile app that is amazing. It stores all the park information, map, schedule, and tickets. But what I love is that it also has line wait times. No need to fill your pockets with unnecessary papers that are only going to get wet on rides.

Go Paper Free inside the park.

Speaking of unnecessary things, keep the cash at home. Valleyfair has gone 100% cash-free this year. Everything can be paid for on a card, including the games.

Tickets have all been moved to the mobile app. If you come to the park with only cash, they can convert you over to plastic payment options.

Would I go back to Valleyfair in Shakopee MN?

Actually, my favorite time to visit Valleyfair in Shakopee is during the Fall when it becomes haunted. You can go on almost all the attractions, there is no worry about the heat, and night in the park is always my favorite.

But if you want to go while the summer rides are in full swing, there is no better time than during a festival like the Grand Carnivale.

It’s also the only time to do the bumper cars, the Wave, Thunder Canyon, and of course Soak City. Plus the celebration is a lot of fun and spread out throughout the park.

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