An Insider’s Guide to Visiting the State Fair of Texas with Kids

giant cowboy sign in front of Ferris wheel at State Fair of Texas @statefairoftx
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Want to make the most of your family’s experience at the State Fair of Texas? These are the insider tips you need to know before you go

We’ve all heard that iconic saying, “everything is bigger in Texas.” Well, nothing matches that description quite like the State Fair of Texas. It’s big, it’s loud, and it’s full of Texas state pride. Although these fairs can be found in every state across the country, Texans would argue there is no fair like the State Fair of Texas. And we have to agree! After all, where else will you find Big Tex, a 55-foot-tall cowboy that welcomed nearly 2.2 million fairgoers in 2021?!

Are you ready for that sweet aroma of funnel cakes and the crunch of a crispy corn dog? How does seeing the Dallas city skyline from the state’s largest ferris wheel sound? Perhaps you are interested in visiting the world’s largest collection of Art Deco structures featuring educational exhibits, agricultural activities, and cultural centers?

Because any experience is different with kids, we did our research and compiled all the family-friendly insider tips that will elevate your State Fair of Texas experience. Whether you want the scoop on discounted tickets or can’t-miss rides, we’ve got it covered.

When is the State Fair of Texas?

If you want a near month-long extravaganza of fair-going fun, the Lone Star State has you covered. Earning the title of the longest-running fair in the nation, you can enjoy the State Fair of Texas for 24 consecutive days from Sep. 30 through Oct. 23.

How much are tickets to the State Fair of Texas?

There are many different ticketing options, but a typical premium one-day admission ticket costs $24. However, there is no need to ever pay full price for a one-day admission ticket with the numerous discounted offers available, each with various savings amounts and stipulations. Discounts are compiled into two categories: day-specific or any-day discounts. You can also purchase tickets at a discounted group rate for parties of more than 25 people.

The best savings take planning. Read the fine print and pay close attention to all the details of each discount offer. For example, Dr. Pepper Value Days requires an exclusive promotional code only given to Big Tex Insiders, and the Opening Day Discount and Feed the Need Wednesdays are dependent on a food donation.

Insider Tip: For the best value, fair enthusiasts should purchase a season pass, which costs $50 online. Compared to general admission prices, it—hands down—will pay for itself in no time.

When should my family visit the State Fair of Texas?

This question can best be answered by outlining which days you should not go to the Fair.

The fairgrounds are referred to as Fair Park, and Fair Park is home to the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium where two huge rivalry football games bring an enormous amount of people to the Fair. Unless you are expressly there for football and don’t mind shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, we suggest avoiding game days.

The State Fair Classic takes place on Sat., Oct. 1, while the AT&T Red River Showdown is set for Sat., Oct. 8.

Insider Tip: If your schedule only allows you to visit the Fair on a Saturday, shoot for Oct. 15. If you have more flexibility, weekdays are always less attended, and the very first week of the Fair has the fewest crowds. The more time that passes, the busier the Fair gets.

How should my family get to the State Fair of Texas?

If you’re driving, always park your vehicle in an official Fair lot. Although off-property parking opportunities might catch your attention as you drive toward Fair Park, do not take the bait. Past fairgoers can tell you horror stories of their cars being towed, broken into, or even stolen when parked outside the fairgrounds. In fact, locals will warn you that Fair Park, unfortunately, is not situated in the safest area of Dallas. With that in mind, be aware of your surroundings while driving to and from Fair Park, make sure to lock your vehicle, avoid leaving any valuables in your car, and remain cautious while walking to and from the gate entrances.

Insider Tip: Skip the traffic, save some money on parking, and take the DART Rail Green Line to the State Fair of Texas. In fact, DART has an entire web page dedicated to explaining the different route options to get to Fair Park.

What food should my family try at the State Fair of Texas?

It’s not often the best advice when kids are involved, but be sure to arrive hungry and ready to eat. Your Fair experience will not be complete without indulging in some mouth-watering culinary creations.

When it comes to food at the Fair, you can count on several loyal food vendors that will serve up their delicious goodness year after year. Fletcher’s Corny Dogs are at the top of that list. They claim the title of the “Original State Fair Corny Dogs,” and sell more than 500,000 corn dogs at the Fair every year.

Other crowd pleasers? Look for a deep-fried honey bun injected with caramel and topped with a mountain of peanut butter treats. Then, keep your eyes out for a charcuterie-board-inspired bite of heaven made of salami, crisp green apple, and fresh mozzarella wrapped in a wonton wrapper fried to perfection. (Have you noticed a recurring theme? The Fair is all about fried.)

Insider Tip: Check out the winners and finalists of the Big Tex Choice Awards before you arrive. The 2022 results, categorized by both savory and sweet flavor profiles, will lead you to the best selections.

Should my family go into all those buildings at the State Fair of Texas?

Of course, that’s where the A/C is!

All joking aside, the Fair wouldn’t be the State Fair of Texas without these beautiful structures and the exhibits inside. They are the heart and soul of the Fair. Take the Hall of State, for example. Made of Texas limestone, when it debuted in 1936, it was classified as the most expensive building per square foot built anywhere in the state of Texas.

If you want to sit down and enjoy some high-energy, buckin’ bull-riding fun at the rodeo, head to the Fair Park Coliseum. If you want to shop til you drop, check out the vendors in Grand Place and the Embarcadero building. If you want to view top-of-the-line automobiles, visit the car shows in the Centennial building and Automobile building.

Insider Tip: Do not skip over the Creative Arts Building. With 14 different departments, there is no shortage of hand-crafted items to view. From afghans, quilts, needlework, and needlepoint to photography, scale models, fine art, and hand-painted china, you will be in awe of the incredible talent displayed as part of the Creative Arts Competitions. (And, believe it or not, this is where you’ll find a sculpture made entirely of butter. Each year, a local sculptor uses it as their medium to create a refrigerated display depicting the Fair’s current theme.)

What are the must-visit rides for families at the State Fair of Texas?

Although there’s so much more to the Fair than carnival rides, it’s certainly a crowd-pleaser for kids. The State Fair Midway, while ideal for any thrill-seeker in your party, tends to get more congested and much rowdier as the sun goes down, so we suggest that families interested in rides make the Midway their first stop of the day. If you are willing to brave the crowds, it’s worth having a game plan. The Midway is packed with more than 70 rides, but the most iconic include the:

  • 212-foot Texas Star® Ferris Wheel
  • 1914 Dentzel Carousel
  • 500-foot Top o’ Texas Tower
  • nearly half-mile long Texas Skyway for a bird’s eye view of the fairgrounds

If you have tiny ride-lovers, the Kidway is a scaled-down version of the State Fair Midway with rides specifically designed for toddlers.

It’s worth noting that the Fair does not operate like an amusement park where your admission ticket allows you onto rides. This often catches first-time fairgoers off guard. Just like you have to pay for food a la carte, be prepared to pay a hefty sum for rides.

Insider Tip: The Fair uses a “coupon” system here, in which you first much purchase coupons to then use to pay for the Midway rides. If you buy more coupons than you end up using, you will not get a refund. Leftover coupons can be saved, though. So store those away for your 2023 visit!

What are the must-visit shows and attractions for families at the State Fair of Texas?

Whoa, what a loaded question! It is important to remember that what one fairgoer might rant and rave about will not be the top choice of another, but it is safe to conclude that the Fair has something for everyone, no matter their age.

Unlike at the Midway, for thrills that don’t send you personally soaring into the sky, you can watch some daredevil entertainment in the Xtreme Sports Zone. The TX Stunt Jam features scooter, skateboard, and BMX talent from around the country in a high-energy show.

Don’t mess with Texas, though! The entertainment doesn’t stop there. You can captivate your crew with other family-favorite shows all throughout the fairgrounds, including:

  • World of Magic: showcasing award-winning illusionists and a floating robot
  • Allez-OOPS! With Rob and Miss Jane: featuring circus acts, comedy, and balancing tricks
  • Tanna Banana Storytime: presenting songs and children’s stories
  • Mighty Mike: highlighting strongman strength techniques with sledgehammers, bowling balls, and horseshoes

For a firsthand look at some Texas-sized animals, consider a stop at the:

  • All-Star Stunt Dog Show
  • World of Birds Show
  • Pig Races
  • Livestock Birthing Barn
  • Oncor Petting Zoo
  • Big Tex’s Farmyard
  • Children’s Aquarium
  • Cowboy of Colors Rodeo
  • Mexican Fiesta Rodeo

If high-end automobiles get you revved up, visit the Texas Auto Show in the Centennial Building, Automobile Building, and Truck Zone.

If live music and concerts are your jam, check out the performing artists lineup on the Chevrolet Main Stage, Bud Light Stage, or Yuengling Stage.

Last but certainly not least? Take time to watch the Kroger Starlight Parade, which takes place every night at 7:15 p.m. followed by the Mattress Firm Illumination Sensation—a water show production involving synchronized pyrotechnics, dancers, acrobats, special effects, and fireworks set to music.

Insider Tip: Unlike at the Midway, most everything else is free. Concerts are free, shows are free, rodeos are free, exhibits are free (with a few exceptions, such as the Children’s Aquarium). Wahoo!

Bonus Insider Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, as you have a lot of ground to cover.

If the State Fair of Texas has been on your family’s bucket list, make this the year you go. The event is an extravaganza unlike anything else in the Lone Star State. You can hang your hat on that!

 

 

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