All the best things to do, see, and eat at the State Fair of Texas!
One of my favorite discoveries since moving to Dallas is the State Fair of Texas.
Before we even moved in, I kept hearing how amazing it was … but I was skeptical! I’ve never been a big fair person.
It’s practically impossible to escape the excitement surrounding the Texas State Fair living in Dallas though, so last year, I convinced my husband that we needed to go. And you know what? We had a great time!
We had so much fun, that this year we bought season passes. Yes, we went all in!
State Fair of Texas
The Texas State Fair is one of those bucket list items, especially if live in Texas. It’s kind of a big deal here!
It’s been around since 1886 and is held at the historic Fair Park in Dallas (more on that later). Most years, the fair starts on the last Friday in September, and it ends 24 days later.
If you’ve heard of this fair, you’re probably aware that it’s known for it’s fried foods … deep fried butter, anyone? But there is so much more to do, see, and yes, eat! Here’s a roundup of my favorite things to do at the State Fair of Texas.
Annual Opening Day Parade
The Texas State Fair kicks off every year with its annual parade through downtown Dallas. If you’re going to the fair, you need to check out the parade!
Last year, we lived on Main Street and had a bird’s eye view of the parade. This year, I watched it on street level.
The parade has a little bit of everything. You’ll find lots of marching bands.
Being a Midwest girl originally, I’m fascinated by all things Texas.
And these girls above, with their short boots, cowboy hats, and twirly skirts are 100% Texas!
There’s a wide mix of bands and dancers, and that’s what makes watching it so fun!
It was raining the day of this year’s parade, so the streets were a little emptier than last year.
All the better to get some great photos though!
And of course, you’ll run into a mascot or two.
You’ve also got your cowboys!
And it wouldn’t be a parade without a bunch of colorful floats.
One thing Texas definitely isn’t short on is beauty queens! You’ll find them on floats and in cars … they’re everywhere!
There is a beauty queen for pretty much every event in Texas, it seems.
The annual parade also features lots of classic cars.
This lady and her dog cracked me up!
And winding down the parade this year, was the Hella Shriners Band.
Did you miss the Texas State Fair parade in downtown Dallas? No worries … you can catch it nightly at the fair!
Texas State Fair Basics: Getting There, Tickets, etc.
Once you’ve seen the parade, it’s time to head to the fair!
The fair is open daily, starting on the last Friday in September. It ends 24 days later and is open on Sundays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fridays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The best way to get to the Texas State Fair, in my opinion, is to take public transportation. That way, you don’t have to deal with parking fees and hassles.
If you’re coming from downtown Dallas, take the Green line train. It will drop you off right in front of the fairgrounds. Here is more info on getting to the fair, whether you’re planning to drive or take a train.
You can purchase your entrance tickets online or when you arrive at the fair. They’re sold individually and in packages, and there are all sorts of State Fair of Texas discounts that will help you save on tickets, too!
Once you enter the fair, you’ll need to get coupons.
The coupons are used for purchasing food, drinks, and ride admissions … you basically can’t do anything without them!
One dollar will get you two tickets.
If you want to play games, you’ll need to purchase a Big Tex Game Card. Look for booths and kiosks in the near the games to make a purchase.
One of the things I love most about the Texas State Fair is its gorgeous setting!
It’s held at Fair Park, which is located southeast of downtown Dallas. The park is a Dallas Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.
The Texas Centennial Exposition was held here in 1936, and that’s when many of the buildings were constructed.
Leading up to the centennial event, the park was transformed from 20th century fairgrounds into an Art Deco showcase.
A number of these buildings still stand, and you’ll see them throughout the park.
The view by the reflecting pool near the park’s entrance is especially beautiful. Art Deco buildings surround the pool on either side.
It’s such a unique setting for a fair!
I love to walk around the esplanade and check out the buildings and statues.
There’s a huge auto show at the fair every year, and it’s held in these buildings.
Many of the buildings feature murals.
At night, the buildings and statues are illuminated. (And there’s a nightly light show over the reflecting pool, too.)
This area of the park is so pretty, especially in the evening!
The statue below stands in front of the Women’s Museum.
State Fair of Texas Food and Drink
No visit to the fair is complete without sampling plenty of delicious food.
Texas State Fair food is most well known for being fried and a little over-the-top. You’ll find everything from Fried Bananas Foster to Fried Cuban Sandwiches … if you can fry it, you can bet someone’s tried making it for the fair!
Our first stop at the fair is usually a classic corny dog from Fletcher’s. You can buy these yummy corn dogs throughout the park, but we always head to the stand near Big Tex.
There’s a vegetarian corny dog, too, so don’t feel left out if you don’t eat meat!
You’ll find food stands throughout the fair, but for lots of options in one place, head to the indoor food court.
Every year, food consessionaires compete in the Big Tex Choice Awards and invent some truly creative (crazy?) foods.
This year’s winners were a Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger (my heart!) and a Gulf Coast Fish Bowl drink.
At the main entrance to the food court, you can check out the winners from previous years.
I couldn’t resist getting the Texas-shaped nachos. This is the small size!
I also tried fried avocados bought somewhere on the midway … they were okay.
We got an order of cowboy crunch at Magnolia Beer Garden, too. It’s basically fried creamy corn. I’m pretty sure there’s some bacon in there, which I didn’t realize until they were almost gone (#BadVegetarian).
Wine lovers … make sure to stop by the Wine Garden to sample Texas wines.
I love the whimsical atmosphere!
We usually stick to beer, and our favorite spot to sit and enjoy a few is the Magnolia Beer Garden.
You’ll find a range of craft beers and ciders here, and there’s food available for purchase, too.
Doesn’t this look like a great spot to sit and relax for a while?
The colorful fall decorations are from Ruibal’s, a local gardening store.
It’s even a little romantic once the sparkling lights start to glow.
The Magnolia Beer Garden is perfect for those times when you want to sit down for a while, but I’ll let you in on a little secret …
For the cheapest beers (that I’ve found), head to The Beer Barn (it’s located near the Cotton Bowl, to the left of the Midway entrance). Beers there are only 6 tickets (basically, $3) vs. the 12 to 14 tickets you’ll pay at Magnolia.
The selection is a little more basic at The Beer Barn, but they had Shiner, so I was happy!
You can also find 6 ticket beers at the IceHouse on the Midway. It’s located near the Fast Trax slide.
Want something nonalcoholic? You’ll find drinks at most food stands … I can never resist a lemonade!
Looking for a bargain drink? Keep an eye out for stands selling water for two tickets. There’s one near the mainstage and one near the neon Big Tex, and you’ll find others sprinkled throughout the fair, too.
Things to Do at the Texas State Fair
So what exactly is there to do at the fair? A lot!
We’ve already talked about checking out the historic Fair Park grounds, and of course, Texas State Fair food.
Make sure your visit includes a stop by Big Tex!
He first debuted at the fair in 1952 and has been a fixture ever since. The original Big Tex was destroyed in a fire on the last Friday of the 2012 State Fair. He returned the next year with a makeover … taller and bigger with a 95-gallon hat and size-96 Lucchese boots.
To be honest, he’s kind of creepy. And just when you start to get used to him, he starts talking!
There’s also a neon Big Tex.
He stands 38 feet tall, and he used to live at a local liquor store until he was purchased a couple years ago.
You can see both of them waving in the pic below!
After you’ve check out Big Tex, stop by the lake where you can sit in the shade on the water’s edge for a while or take a ride in a swan boat.
Doesn’t that look fun?
You can see the Cotton Bowl across the lake.
The Red River Rivalry, an annual college showdown between Oklahoma and Texas, takes place here every year during the fair.
You can also view the iconic ferris wheel from across the lake.
The side of the lake opposite the Midway is a little quieter … the perfect spot to escape to for a break. It’s also home to lots of children’s activities, like a farm and a Pee Wee Rodeo.
There are all sorts of shows at the fair, too. We saw a number of children’s shows with my niece, as well as the Lone Star Stampede, which is held multiple times each day.
If you’re at the fair late, make sure to catch Illumination Sensation, held nightly at 8 pm along the reflecting pool.
Speaking of animals, you can’t leave the fair without checking out the livestock in the barns or at one of the educational shows.
These pigs have had a long day!
Look at the size of the horns on this guy!
State Fair of Texas Midway
It wouldn’t be a fair without a midway, and the one at the Texas State Fair is huge!
For a great view of the midway, take a ride on the Texas Skyway.
You can enter it from either end of the midway, and it goes right over the top of it all.
The view of the ferris wheel is great from the Skyway, too.
I like the visit the midway at night when it’s a little quieter.
Plus, it’s fun to see all the rides lit up!
I’m kind of regretting the I did not check out the World’s Smallest Horse … it was only 4 coupons!
Guess I will have to go back.
The ferris wheel looks so pretty lit up at night!
State Fair of Texas Music
One of my favorite things to do at the Texas State Fair is listening live music.
You’ll find a variety of acts on both the mainstage, as well as throughout the park.
Last year, I saw Kacey Musgraves, and she was awesome!
This year, we’ve seen Flo Rida and La Mafia so far.
I have to admit that, although I’ve heard of Flo Rida, I couldn’t think of any of his song. Once I looked him up though, I knew them all … ha ha! It was a really fun show, and La Mafia was great, too.
Wilson Phillips is playing this week, so you know I’ll be back!
I hope you enjoyed this guide to the Texas State fair!
Make sure to visit the official fair website for more information, as well as daily schedules and events.
Have you ever been to the State Fair of Texas? What was your favorite part?