There’s a reason the State Fair is called the “Great Minnesota Get Together.” Starting Thursday, more than 1.5 million of our friends and neighbors will flock to the annual summer-ending event.
It’s all fun — once you get there.
Let’s face it, driving to the fair can be a pain, and fair officials acknowledge that. Traffic on Snelling, Larpenteur and Como avenues (and other nearby streets, too) is often a nightmare. Then you have to park, which is no easy task. Spaces on the fairgrounds are limited and come at a price: $13 cash per vehicle. A pre-fair discount admission ticket cannot be used for vehicle parking.
It’s no wonder that nearly half of attendees catch a ride, bike or walk.
The fair spent $2.2 million in 2015 to operate its network of 33 off-site park-and-ride lots. They feature free parking and a shuttle that drops fairgoers off in the transit hub right outside the gate. Most of the lots are open every day of the fair, but some operate only on weekends and Labor Day, the last day of the fair. Take note that the largest, the University of Minnesota lot with about 4,000 spots, will be closed on Sept. 1 due to a Gophers football game. You can find the lots and hours at tinyurl.com/zowh79w.
Round-trip express bus service is just $5, and Metro Transit will cut that to $4.50 on tickets bought before midnight Wednesday at metrotransit.org. The agency operates air-conditioned buses every 15 to 30 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight from 13 lots in the suburbs, including two new sites, the Newport Transit Station and the Bottineau Boulevard/63rd Avenue lot in Brooklyn Park. Some, such as the County Road 73 lot off I-394 in Minnetonka, are used by commuters on weekdays, so Metro Transit is advising non-fairgoers to take earlier buses. See tinyurl.com/zbqrgzn for more.
Metro Transit’s new bus rapid transit A-Line stops right outside the main gate on Snelling Avenue. Northbound runs will serve a temporary stop on Snelling Avenue at Midway Parkway, one block north of the Como Avenue station. Regular routes 960 and 3 also stop at the fair.
The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (mvta.com) will run buses hourly on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. from the Burnsville station and starting at 10 a.m. from the Eagan station. Weekend service will run every 30 minutes from Burnsville and Eagan between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Hourly service from the Marschall Road station in Shakopee will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and Labor Day. All return trips will run from noon to midnight daily.
SouthWest Transit has five park-and-ride locations: Every 30 minutes on weekdays starting at 8 a.m. from Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie and every 30 minutes starting at 7 a.m. on weekends and Labor Day from Southwest Station in Eden Prairie, Southwest Village in Chanhassen, East Creek Station in Chaska and the Carver Station. The last return trip departs at 11:30 p.m. daily. See swtransit.org.
The ride-sharing service Uber is offering $20 off a ride to or from the fair to anybody who has never taken a ride with Uber and signs up using the code MNSTATEFAIR16. This year all Uber rides will start or end at two designated spots to avoid safety hazards.
A secured lot is available for motorcycles on Como Avenue near the International Institute. Parking in this lot is $7. About 10,000 people bike to the fair each year. They can park in one of three bike corrals at no charge.