State Fair

As Minnesota State Fair attendance increases, so do transit and parking challenges

A massive crowd moves through the State Fair.
Crowds descended on the Mighty Midway at the Minnesota State Fair on August 25, 2023.
Caroline Yang for MPR News

Before you can eat a pronto pup at the Minnesota State Fair, you have to get there first. But some fairgoers are having issues with public transportation, traffic and parking.

Mike Nevala of White Bear Lake tried three State Fair park-and-rides on Monday and got shut out at each one.

Nevala began his State Fair journey at a church lot not far from his house.

“We got there and there was a big sign that said the parking lot was full,” he said.

A second lot was jammed. So Nevala drove to a third lot.

“The next closest site for us in the northern suburbs was the huge lot at North Heights Lutheran Church. We literally got the last parking spot,” he said.

Nevala was relieved until he learned the wait time to board was an hour and a half. So he went to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum instead.

The State Fair says it’s seen a lot of demand for its free buses during recent fairs.

“The [park-and-ride] service operated by the Minnesota State Fair is a park-free, ride-free service, and demand for this free service has been high for several years,” a Minnesota State Fair spokesperson said in an email to MPR News.

“This year is no exception. While we don’t have data at the present time, anecdotally, it feels like we’ve bounced back to pre-pandemic demand,” the statement said.

State Fair officials are encouraging people to have a backup plan in case lines are long.

The State Fair park-and-ride serves 31 locations and runs from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. most days of the fair. Check the State Fair’s website to find out if there are available parking spots at on-site and park-and-ride lots.

Metro Transit is also an option, as well as Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and SouthWest Transit. They offer express bus service — for a fee — from a combined 10 sites around the Twin Cities metro area

But those transit options also have been seeing larger crowds this year.

Metro Transit said the first few days of the fair saw its Express Bus ridership rise more than a third over last year. The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority said its State Fair bus ridership was up about a quarter over last year.

The State Fair also offers two drop-off and pick-up sites for taxis and rideshare services.

And for fairgoers who don’t want to wait in traffic, or wait for a bus — the State Fair also offers free parking for bikes in three bike corrals on the fairgrounds.

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