Whether you're ready or not, nearly two million people are expected to descend on the Minnesota State Fair’s 320-acre grounds starting Thursday and the following 11 days for concerts, contests, cows and corn dogs.
Here’s Patch's rundown on what you need to know to get to the fair and find your way around:
Admission gates open daily at 6 a.m. Ticket sales end at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. on Labor Day). Grounds close at midnight (10 p.m. on Labor Day), but most buildings are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and many vendor stalls start packing it in prior to that on weekdays.
Adults (13-64) pay $12, seniors and children 5 and older pay $10, and children younger than 5 are admitted for free. Promotional days are offered throughout the fair. Pre-fair discount admission is available for purchase through Aug. 22 at area stores.
The Minnesota State Fairgrounds are located at 1265 North Snelling Ave. N. in St. Paul. Maps and directions are available on the fair’s website. Note that light-rail construction on University Avenue will slow traffic flow; the fair’s website promises tips on how to avoid the congestion.
Getting There: Directions from Lakeville — Make your way over to 35W north an merge onto I-94 east. Exit on Snelling Avenue, then turn left and head north.
If you drive directly to the fair, state fair parking lots cost $12 and can be accessed off Larpenteur, Snelling, or Cleveland avenues. (Motorcycle parking is offered for $6 on Como Avenue.) If you're lucky, you may be able to score a spot on the street for free, but pay attention to signs and other cars vying for your lucky space.
Free parking is available at 34 locations around the fairgrounds. Complimentary buses leave every 20 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight to pick up fair-goers. In 2011, the park and ride program gave more than 900,000 rides. This is where the people-watching begins, so wear dark shades and enjoy.
Express Bus: State Fair Express buses operate from 17 Twin Cities locations on 15- and 30-minute loops. The easiest way to do this is by driving to the Burnsville or Eagan transit stations, which are offering hourly service on weekdays; service every 30 minutes on weekends and Labor Day.
Check the fair’s express bus website for more information. Depending on how you do it, Buy in advance and your round trip ticket will cost $4, or $15 for four rides.
For the Two-Wheel Types: Kudos to you. Free bike racks are offered at the Como-Snelling and Hoyt-Snelling gates and at Commonwealth-West Dan Patch from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. If you plan on winning a giant stuffed gorilla at Midway, be sure to bring a bungie cord and a basket.
For the After-Work Crowd: Three buses service the fair and accept cash or transit passes. Route 960 goes from Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis to the fairgrounds in about 15 minutes. Route 84 travels along Snelling Avenue. Route 3 connects downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul along Como Avenue. Fares range from 75 cents to $3, and come with a transfer you can use within 2.5 hours.
Navigating the Fair
The state fair’s website has downloadable maps of the grounds and daily activity schedules. To find where the mashed potatoes-on-a-stick booth will be located this year, you'll need to check out the "fair finder" tab. The mobile website and stand-alone apps for iPhones and Android phones also include a map and the ability to search listings of events, merchandise and food.
How are you planning on enjoying the Great Minnesota Get-Together?