Heading to the 2018 Texas State Fair? This fun visitors guide has all the best things to do, see, and eat at the State Fair of Texas!
This post contains affiliate links.
The State Fair of Texas is one of my favorite discoveries since moving to Dallas.
Before we even moved, I kept hearing how amazing it was. I was skeptical though … I’ve never been a big fair person. But you know what? It lives up to the hype!
If you’re a Texan, it’s practically impossible to escape the excitement surrounding the Texas State Fair. And with so much to do and see, what are you waiting for? Start planning your visit today!
Texas State Fair 2018 … Everything You Need to Plan Your Visit
The State Fair of Texas is definitely bucket list worthy, especially if live in Texas. It’s kind of a big deal here!
Texas’ fair has been around since 1886, and it’s 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 its fried foods … deep fried butter, anyone? But there is so much more to do, see, and yes, eat! Here’s a roundup of the best things to do at the State Fair of Texas.
Annual Opening Day Parade
The fair kicks off every year with its annual parade through downtown Dallas. If you’re going to the fair opening day, don’t miss the parade.
This colorful parade has a little bit of everything, and it’s guaranteed to get you in that fair spirit!
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!
Of course, you’ll run into a mascot or two. Rawr!
And probably a cowboy, too!
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.
Can you spot the dog going along for the ride?
And don’t worry … if you miss the parade in downtown Dallas, 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 Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
In 2018, the Texas State Fair will run from Friday, September 28 to Sunday, October 21.
Getting to the Fair
In my opinion, taking public transportation is the best way to get to the fair. That way, you don’t have to deal with parking fees, hassles, and traffic jams.
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.
State Fair Tickets
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 want 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. This is a great place to get a family picture!
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 that you won’t want to miss.
This area of the park is so pretty, especially in the evening!
Fair Park is open year round and is home to a number of museums. If you can’t make it to the fair, make sure to walk around and check out the buildings another time.
Fair 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 … it makes a great pic!
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, a number of food vendors compete in the Big Tex Choice Awards and invent some truly creative (crazy?) foods.
The 2018 Big Tex Choice Award Winners are:
- Savory – Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce
- Sweet – Arroz con Leche (Sweet Crispy Rice)
- Most Creative – Cotton Candy Taco
Are you hungry yet?
Stop by the main entrance to the food court, where you can check out the winners from previous years. And be sure to check out all the food winners and finalists before your trip, so you can plan out what you want to eat.
On our last visit, we couldn’t resist getting the Texas-shaped nachos. This is the small size … yum!
We also tried fried avocados bought somewhere on the midway … I’d classify those as okay.
And we also tried the Cowboy Crunch (fried creamy corn). I’m pretty sure there’s some bacon in there, which I didn’t realize until it were almost gone. #BadVegetarian
Vino lovers: make sure to stop by the Wine Garden for a glass or two.
You’ll love the whimsical atmosphere … and the Texas wines, of course!
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. Cheers!
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 have 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 … the fresh squeezed lemonade is delish!
Looking for ice cold water? Keep an eye out for stands selling water for two tickets. There’s one near the Main Stage and one near the neon Big Tex. 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?
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 enjoy the shade on the water’s edge for a while or take a ride in a swan boat.
Doesn’t that look fun?
If you’re visiting the fair with kids, follow the bridge by the swan boats over the lake (or walk around the lake). You’ll find a special Children’s Area on the other side.
This kid-friendly section has shows, crafts, a petting zoo, pee wee rodeo, and so much more here! It’s also a little quieter in this area … perfect if you need to escape the crowds for a bit.
Cotton Bowl + Red River Rivalry
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, and it’s a popular event.
This year, the Red River Rivalry takes place on Saturday, October 6, 2018. If you’re not going to the game, I’d avoid the fair on that day. It gets super crowded!
You can also view the iconic ferris wheel from across the lake!
Attractions and Events
There are all sorts of shows at the fair. We saw a number of children’s shows with my niece, as well as the Lone Star Stampede (a horse show), which is held multiple times each day.
If you’re at the fair late, make sure to catch Illumination Sensation. It’s held at 8 p.m. night by the reflecting pool.
You can’t leave the fair without checking out the livestock in the barns or at one of the educational shows. You’ll find all sorts of animals from chickens to cows to pigs.
These pigs have obviously had a long day!
And look at the size of the horns on this guy!
It wouldn’t be a fair without a midway, and the one at the Texas State Fair is huge!
For a panoramic 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.
It’s so fun to see all the rides lit up!
I’m kind of regretting the we didn’t check out the World’s Smallest Horse, Tiny Tim … it was only 4 coupons.
Make sure to go, then let me know what you think!
As with everything else on the Midway, the ferris wheel looks so pretty lit up at night … take a ride if you dare!
One of my favorite things to do at the Texas State Fair is listening live music.
You’ll find the biggest acts on the Main Stage. But there are stages scattered throughout the park, too.
Check out the lineup before your visit, then plan your trip around some of your fave bands.
Over the years, we’ve seen Kacey Musgraves, Flo Rida, La Mafia, Wilson Phillips, and more on the Main Stage. Everyone was awesome, and it’s the perfect way to end a day at the fair!
Planning Your Visit to the Texas State Fair
I hope you enjoyed this guide to the Texas State fair! It really is one of those Texas things you need to do (at least) once … although we like to get a season pass and go a few times!
To learn more about the fair, make sure to visit the official website. You’ll find daily schedules, tickets, maps, and more.
Where to Stay
Downtown Dallas is the most convenient place to stay during your state fair visit. It’s nearby, and you can take the train to the fair. Check out TripAdvisor for the best downtown Dallas hotels (the reviews are so helpful). There’s an option for every budget from thrifty to upscale.
Let me know if you visit the fair. I’d love to know what you think!
Have you ever been to the State Fair of Texas? What was your favorite part?