What happened for the first time in 1859, attracts about one-third the total population of Minnesota, and is held once a year, starting in late August?
If you answered the Minnesota State Fair, go directly to the front of the line for a pork chop-on-a-stick. Just save one for me!
Running from Thursday, Aug. 23 to Monday, Sept. 3 (Labor Day), the 2012 Minnesota State Fair will likely attract more than 1.7 million attendees. It is the largest state fair in the United States in terms of average daily attendance.
Did you know that more than half-a-million people take the bus to the Fair? Why? It makes dollars and sense! With gas prices creeping toward $4 a gallon and parking in State Fair lots at $12, you can easily spend a wallet of cash before you even get into the fairgrounds. And that’s not even counting the cost of your time waiting in a long line of cars simply to get in and out of parking.
Metro Transit makes it easy to ride a bus to the Fair, with special shuttles from 19 locations around the metro (the fare is $5 for a round trip) as well as regular routes (fares are $1.75-$3.00 each way). Route 3 goes from downtown Minneapolis along Como Avenue to the Fairgrounds; Route 83 goes from the 46th Street station in south Minneapolis then takes Snelling Avenue to the Fair; and Route 960 goes from Nicollet Mall to the Fair in about 15 minutes. There also are several free shuttles from around the metro — see Metro Transit’s website for details.
An increasing number of fairgoers are also getting to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” on bike or on foot. Consider this: if you’re 3 miles from the fairgrounds — from the East Bank of the University of Minnesota campus, or from Grand Avenue in St. Paul — you can easily get there in about 20 minutes by bike. Walking would take a little less than an hour (if that makes you balk, think about your total driving time).
If you ride a bicycle to the State Fair, parking is free! Take it to one of three free bike corrals, right on the fairgrounds:
Como-Snelling Gate (#6) — for those arriving from the south or east
Hoyt-Snelling Gate (#2) — from the north or east
Commonwealth-West Dan Patch (#15) — from the west
You can also bicycle to several of the free bus shuttles around the metro — lock your bike and get on the bus. These free bike and shuttle lots include Roseville Area High School, the Minnesota Department of Education building and the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. On weekends and on Labor Day, there is also bike parking at Bandana Square in Saint Paul.
Note that neither the Fair’s on-site bike corrals nor the designated Park & Ride lots provide secure storage for bike helmets. Plan to bring a backpack or bag and carry your helmet with you.
And what’s the other big payoff of riding your bicycle or walking? Not only money saved, but also calories burned! The calories you spend getting to the Fair can be spent instead on the crazy number of Fair food options. Yes, you’ll shed some calories by walking around the Fair itself, but likely nowhere near the amount needed to offset a hefty diet of State Fair staples. Check out these calorie counts of some favorite Fair foods:
Pronto Pup — 350 calories
Cheese Curds — 759 calories
Giant Turkey Leg — 1,136 calories
According to mayoclinic.com, a 160-pound person who spends one hour walking to the Fair would burn 204–314 calories (walking 2 mph burns fewer calories than 3.5 mph). If you bicycle to get there, you’ll burn 292 calories per hour (at a 10 mph pace). Or to put this into State Fair terminology, a 160-pounder would need to moderately walk nearly four straight hours just to burn off a single serving of deep-fried cheese curds!
By bicycling or walking to the Fair, you get a head-start on your daily calorie-burning needs — and have a good reason to reward yourself with a State Fair treat! I hear they now also have lamb chops on a stick!
If you’d like to bike or walk to the State Fair, use Google Maps to find an ideal route. Simply enter in your origin and destination, click on the bike or walk icon, and Google Maps will find a route for you. Another option for bicycle directions is Cyclopath.org, a geowiki site.
Hilary Reeves is communications director for Bike Walk Twin Cities.