Make the most of the Minnesota State Fair
It's almost time for the end-of-summer celebration that brings food on a stick, farm animals, rides and shows together in one place: the Minnesota State Fair.
The Great Minnesota Get-Together kicks off tomorrow and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 2.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for treks to the fair. There is so much to see, do and eat that you might even need to make a second — or third — trip.
To the fair
Parking is available at the fair for $12. But if you want to avoid traffic jams or crowded lots, there are other options for transportation.
The closest express bus is available at the Cottage Grove Park and Ride along Highway 61 between West Point Douglas Road and 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue.
Express buses cost $5 and drivers will take cash — exact change — or bus bargain tickets. The Cottage Grove bus runs about every half hour.
Children age 4 or younger ride free.
You can drive closer to the action and take a free shuttle to the fairgrounds from a number of locations.
The closest are just southwest of St. Paul.
For a map of express bus and park and ride locations, visit www.mnstatefair.org, click "general information" then "get to the fair."
There are also free bicycle racks located at the Como-Snelling Gate, Hoyt-Snelling Gate and Commonwealth-West Dan Patch.
At the fair
Four free trolleys run throughout the fairgrounds from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except during the parade from 2 to 3 p.m. Trolley stop signs are located around the fair and the route is marked on the map.
Trips on the Sky Glider and Sky Ride can take you across the grounds while also offering a great view.
Wheelchairs, electric scooters, wagons and strollers are available to rent.
Today is the last chance to buy $9 discounted tickets ahead of the fair. Discounted admission, parking, ride and game tickets and Blue Ribbon Bargain Books are available at the State Fair box office and Cub stores while supplies last through Aug. 21.
For next year, keep in mind that the State Fair offers tickets at the lower price online through mid-August as well.
Advance ticket sales at the discounted prices typically start in early July.
Admission at the gate is $12 for adults ages 13 to 64, $10 for seniors age 65 and older and kids ages 5 to 12 and free for children under age 5.
But on many days of the fair discount tickets are available.
• Thursday Aug. 22, Thrifty Thursday: adults $10, kids $7
• Monday Aug. 26, Seniors and Kids Day: adults $12, seniors $7, kids $7
• Tuesday Aug. 27, Military Appreciation Day: Active military and spouses/kids $7, retired military and spouses $7, military veterans and spouses $7
• Wednesday Aug. 28, Read and Ride Day: discount given for each public library card holder. Adults $10, seniors $7, kids $7
• Thursday Aug. 29, Seniors Day: seniors $7
• Monday Sept. 2, Kids Day: kids $7
There are lots of big names visiting the fair's Grandstand this year, but dozens of acts will provide free entertainment as well. Stages include:
• Leinie Lodge Bandshell, across from Space Tower
• International Bazaar, near the Haunted House
• Ramberg Senior Center, near Ye Old Mill and across from the Agriculture and Horticulture building
• Heritage Square, on Griggs Avenue
• Comedy Wild West Show, Heritage Square
• Family Fair at Baldwin Park, across from the Fine Arts building
• The X-Zone, Murphy Avenue and Dan Elmer Way
New in 2013
The state fair has added new foods and attractions to its already packed lineup.
New treats include cocoa cheese bites, mini donut batter crunch ice cream, lobster macaroni and cheese and deep fried bread pudding.
Among the new attractions are "ice" skating on synthetic ice, Department of Natural Resources fish aquariums in the DNR building, a handful of new rides at the Mighty Midway and Kidway and a rabbit exhibit in the Poultry Barn.
Heritage Square is often less crowded than the rest of the fair and offers a chance to step back in time and witness a blacksmith demonstration, try old-fashioned sodas, see a wild West show and visit the Minnesota Newspaper Museum and the State Fair History Museum.
But there is talk of shuttering the area and swapping it for a transportation hub after this year, so this could be your last opportunity to see the old-town attractions.
Keep updated on everything from food locations to music schedules with the Minnesota State Fair App for smartphones. It's available for iPhone and Android and is free to download.
There are information booths scattered throughout the fair that offer maps, schedules, brochures and more. Most are open at least from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Visit www.mnstatefair.org for more information on the fair.