By GALA Expert
May 29, 2023
Getting to Minneapolis – Flying
The Minneapolis Airport (MSP) consists of two terminals: Terminal #1 – the main Lindbergh Terminal and Terminal #2 – the Humphrey Terminal. MSP is presently served by a wide range of carriers both national and international. Terminal 1 receives flights from Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air Choice One, Air France, Alaska Airlines, American, Boutique Air, Delta, Frontier, KLM, Spirit and United. Terminal 2 carriers include Condor, Icelandair, JetBlue, Southwest, and Sun Country. With a bit of luck and persistence, you should be able to find a flight to fit your style and budget.
Thrifty Tip #1: Don’t base your airline decision on the first prices that pop up. Some bargain carriers look amazingly low priced at the front end, but will charge you for the seat you select, any and all luggage, plus toss in a 7 hour layover somewhere between here and there. So get the full picture of what you’ll be paying for before you commit anything to your debit or credit card.
Thrifty Tip #2: Travel light—this is always a challenge for Festival—performance shoes, comfy shoes, performance clothes, see and be seen clothes, casual clothes; these fill up a bag or two pretty quick! Since airlines often charge for checking a bag, checking additional bags, and sometimes for even having a bag, fewer is better.
Thrifty Tip #3: An option you might wish to investigate is shipping some of it ahead. Priority Mail flat rate from the Postal Service usually takes 2-3 days to most destinations, and ships for a fixed price no matter where they’re headed or how much they weight (up to a maximum of 70 lbs). So, if you can separate out the things you won’t need for a few days at home, consider shipping them ahead to be waiting for you here. With additional bag fees running around $50 and up, shipping ahead can be a saver. Notify your hotel that a package is on the way; they’re generally happy to secure it until you arrive. At the end of the trip you can ship everything home – your tired body will thank you for not making it carry that heavy suitcase to the end of the concourse!
Getting to Minneapolis – Train
The Amtrak “Empire Builder” serves the Twin Cities, on a route extending from Seattle or Portland to Chicago. Chicago to St Paul takes about 8 hours, while Seattle to St Paul takes about 2 nights. If you have some flexibility, the additional time may be worthwhile (though you’ll have additional food needs as well), and you can likely bring all the luggage you’ll need at no additional charge.
Do note that Amtrak’s on-time performance has not been stellar, particularly crossing the Dakotas, and a “late” train may be very late indeed. Still, can be a fun trip, particularly with a friend or two, and if you’re one of the lucky who sleeps easily on trains.
The train arrives and departs from St Paul Union Station, so you’ll need to also get from there to downtown Minneapolis for the Festival. See Getting Around Minneapolis for local transportation options, particularly the Green Line LRT which connects St. Paul Union Station with downtown Minneapolis.
Getting to Minneapolis – Bus
Jefferson Lines and Greyhound serve Minneapolis/St Paul. The Minneapolis station is at 516 2nd Ave N, several blocks, but walkable from the performance venues, or a short ride-share if your luggage is too much to face alone.
Getting Around Minneapolis
Buses and Light Rail (best value option)
Minneapolis is well served by affordable public transportation. The local transportation network is MetroTransit (metrotransit.org). In addition to Visitor (day) Passes, a 50 cent downtown zone, and some limited free Nicollet Mall buses serving the Convention Center.
With the Metro Transit Mobil app, you can purchase, store, and present tickets, view schedules, plan trips, and check on bus locations. Download the free app on Google Play or the App Store. You can even purchase rides before you arrive – which may simplify transit from the airport, the train station, or just around town. Note that fares paid in cash on buses must be exact; drivers do not handle cash or make change. The app and pass options make transit much easier.
The standard fare on buses and light rail is $2.00, which allows rides and transfers for up to 2.5 hours. The fare increases to $2.50 at rush hour (Mon-Fri 6-9 am and 3-6:30 pm), and may increase further on express buses (mainly serving suburban destinations). Reduced fares for older adults or patrons with disabilities are available. All MetroTransit services are wheelchair accessible.
Getting to and from the Airport
Both terminals are served by the Blue Line light rail (as well as a bus or two). The Blue Line ride from MSP to downtown Minneapolis takes about 25 minutes, and trains run every 10 minutes during the day – evening trips are less frequent at 15-30 minutes.
How to ride the Blue Line LRT from MSP
- Follow signs in both terminals – you need to walk a bit. Remember that trains are frequent so you don’t have to rush. Terminal 1 may also take a short tram ride to get you to the station.
- Purchase a ticket at a ticket kiosk before boarding (or use the MetroTransit mobile app). Fares may be purchased at kiosks with credit/debit cards or cash (in small bills). The fare is $2.50 during rush hours – Mon-Fri 6-9 am and 3-6:30pm. At all other times and weekends it is $2.00.
- Keep your ticket – it is good for 2.5 hours, and you may transfer to other buses or light rail.
- Tickets may be checked on LRT, and there is a substantial fine for riding without paying the fare.
- The Blue Line runs from the airport terminals both north (toward downtown) and south (toward the Mall of America). Look for signs saying either Downtown, Northbound, or both to make sure you are on the correct side of the platform.
- When the train arrives, the doors usually open automatically; however, if the weather is unusually fierce, you may need to push the button to open the door (this helps conserve the air conditioning). Get on board, find a seat, and enjoy the ride.
- There are several downtown stops. Figure out which one best matches where you are staying or going (the MetroTransit Mobile App’s trip-planner is very helpful for this). For most Convention Center adjacent hotels, the Nicollet Mall stop is probably best. Downtown stops in order:
- US Bank Stadium
- Government Center
- Nicollet Mall
- Hennepin Avenue
- Target Field
- All Downtown stops serve both the Blue Line light rail which serves south Minneapolis, the Airport and the Mall of America, and the Green Line light rail which serves the University of Minnesota and St Paul. Take care that you observe which train you are boarding, using the Green or Blue indicator, and the prominent destination signs.
Other Options from the Airport
The Twin Cities are served by the two largest app-based ride services, Uber and Lyft. Signs within the MSP terminals will direct you to the pickup locations for these “app-based ride services”, which are typically less expense than taxicabs. A typical fare from MSP to downtown will be $20-$30, depending on time of day, driver availability, and traffic volume. Surge pricing can increase this dramatically.
Taxis are available as well; follow signs in the terminals for Ground Transportation. Expect a rate of $39-$49, plus gratuity.
Super Shuttle is around $16 one way for shared ride service to downtown hotels; roundtrips may be cheaper, and this may be an excellent choice for several travelers arriving at the same time.
Other Options around Downtown Minneapolis
Getting-Around Minneapolis – Learn about bike & scooter rentals, public transit and driving in Minneapolis. Scroll down to ‘Explore this section’ to see all of the options available.
Uber/Lyft: The same app-based ride share services serving the airport do considerable business in the downtown core.