With as many as 2 million people expected to pack the 2023 Minnesota State Fair, which opens Thursday, navigating the bustling crowds can be an overwhelming and exhausting task.

But if you want to beat the throngs of fair enthusiasts and enjoy shorter wait times at your favorite concession stands or rides, the State Fair's recent attendance data highlight patterns of consistently popular days among fairgoers. Here are three takeaways to help you plan for a less crowded Great Minnesota Get-Together this year.

The best day to go? Opening Day

Opening day is historically one of the lowest-attended days by far, with an average daily tally of 133,326. And the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday see the fewest people, compared with other days.

To attract more of those weekday visitors, the State Fair offers different programming during each of its 12 days, with discounted admissions at the gate, on rides and attractions and at some vendors.

"We recommend people to come early and consider coming on one of those weekdays … for less crowds, and shorter lines, hopefully," spokesperson Maria Hayden said. "Almost every day of the fair, we have something brand new in our Dan Patch Park and we've got different acts at the grandstand every night."

The fair opens at 7 a.m. each day with select exhibits and vendors starting an hour later.

If possible, avoid the weekends

If you want to beat the crowds, skip Saturdays or Sundays and even Labor Day, the fair's final day. Those are the days when the biggest crowds are expected.

If you do end up going on those peak days but want to have a little bit more room to spread out, the fair's north end will have a few new attractions this year, including a new sugar-filled adventure and mini-golf from Can Can Wonderland, Hayden said.

According to attendance data, the first Saturday and Sunday — this year, that would be Aug. 26-27 — draw a lot of people. Record attendance for the first Sunday was set in 1994 and has remained unbroken for nearly three decades.

The second Saturday has recorded the highest attendance over the years, followed by the second Sunday. The second Saturday in 2018 set a daily record attendance mark, with 270,426 visitors. The 2019 State Fair — the last before COVID-19 — set an overall attendance record of 2.1 million.

The State Fair was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, and when it returned in 2021 attendance took a major hit. But last year's attendance marked the fifth-largest ever.

Weather can be a factor

Poor weather can have an impact on attendance. But fairgoers have braved all sorts of temperatures over the years, including the heat wave expected to blanket much of Minnesota this week.

Thursday's opening day is projected to be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching into the 90s and little chance for rain, according to the National Weather Service. But on Friday, normal summer temperatures in the 80s are expected. In the event of severe weather, there are designated storm shelter buildings for fairgoers.

"We shouldn't have to worry about any storms this week," said meteorologist Paige Marten at the Weather Service's Chanhassen office. "But it will be warm."