Heading to the 2021 Texas State Fair? This fun, comprehensive visitors guide has all the best things to do, see, and eat at the State Fair of Texas ... plus, tons of tips for planning your visit!
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The State Fair of Texas is one of my favorite discoveries since moving to Dallas.
Before we even moved, I kept hearing how amazing the fair was. I was skeptical though … I’ve never been a big fair person.
But you know what? The Texas State Fair 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 with this comprehensive guide!
2021 Visitors Guide ... Everything You Need to Plan Your Visit
The State Fair of Texas is a bucket list destination for any Texan. 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. 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 or beer, anyone? There is so much to do and see at the fair beyond its food, although I’d definitely recommend trying some of those tempting fried treats!
This guide covers all the best things to do at the State Fair of Texas, plus all the logistical info you need to plan a visit.
Keep scrolling to read the whole guide. Looking for something in particular? Then, use the links below to navigate:
So what exactly is there to do at the fair? A lot!
The State Fair is packed with awesome things to do, adorable barnyard animals, fun events, music concerts, and so much more. Here’s everything you’ll want to see and do at the fair:
Watch the 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. It’s guaranteed to get you in that festive fair spirit!
You’ll see marching bands, girls in twirly skirts and cowboy boots (does it get anymore Texas?), cowboys, beauty queens, colorful floats, vintage cars, and more.
And don’t worry if you miss the parade in downtown Dallas, you can catch it at the fair! The Starlight Parade, a lighted procession featuring spectacular floats, lively music, dazzling costumes, and a fun assortment of characters runs every night at 7:15 PM at Fair Park.
Say Hi to Big Tex
Want to know the first thing I do at the fair every year? I head straight to Big Tex for a photo ... and a Fletcher’s corny dog, of course. Ha!
Big Tex debuted at the fair in 1952, and he’s 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. There’s also a neon Big Tex on the Fair Grounds. He stands 38 feet tall, and he used to live at a local liquor store until he was purchased a couple years ago.
To be honest, as much as I love Big Tex, he’s kind of creepy! And just when you start to get used to his angular face, he starts talking!
Visit the Midway
It wouldn’t be a fair without a midway, and the one at the Texas State Fair is huge! The midway is especially popular with kids, but adults will love it, too. My favorite time to visit is at night when everything is lit up.
For a panoramic view of the midway, take a ride on the Texas Skyway. You can enter it from either end of the midway.
Ride the Ferris Wheel
You can’t visit the fair without taking a ride on the giant ferris wheel, also known as the Texas Star. The iconic ferris wheel is the most popular ride at the fair. It looms over the midway, and you can see it from various spots throughout the park, too.
The Texas Star debuted at the park in 1985, is 216 feet tall, and can carry up to 264 passengers in its 44 gondola baskets. Take a ride for amazing views of Fair Park and the Dallas skyline!
Get Inspired by the Creative Arts
Each year, hundreds of Texans pour their heart into creating unique arts, crafts, culinary creations, and performing arts. Visit the Creative Arts Building to see their award-winning entries, plus check out cooking demonstrations, butter carving, and more.
Listen to Live Music
Listening to live music is one of the best things to do at the Texas State Fair. You’ll find the biggest acts on the Main Stage, but there are stages scattered throughout the park.
Check out the lineup before your visit, then plan your trip around your favorite bands.
Over the years, we’ve seen Kacey Musgraves, Flo Rida, La Mafia, Wilson Phillips, and more on the Main Stage. Everyone we’ve seen has been awesome, and it’s the perfect way to end a day at the fair!
Catch a Live Show
Beyond live music, the fair has many other shows, too. Head to the children’s area for family-friendly entertainment or catch the Lone Star Stampede (a horse show). You’ll find these events scattered throughout the park ... make sure to check the schedule before you go.
Explore Historic Fair Park
One of the things I love most about the Texas State Fair is its gorgeous setting! The Texas State Fair is held at Fair Park, a Dallas / National Historic Landmark.
Many of the buildings were constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, an event that transformed the site from 20th century fairgrounds into an Art Deco showcase. As you wander the fairgrounds, you’ll see these distinctive buildings scattered throughout the park.
The view by the reflecting pool near the park’s entrance is especially beautiful with Art Deco buildings surrounding the pool on either side. This is a great place to get a souvenir picture!
Fill Up on All Things Fried
Of course, no visit the fair is complete without indulging in some delicious treats. The variety of fried food is kind of staggering, but you’ll find healthier indulgences, too. Let’s just say you won’t go hungry!
Check out the food and drink section below for more info on all your options, plus tips on where to find the best deals.
Check Out the Animals
You can’t leave the fair without checking out the livestock in the barns or attending one of the educational shows. You’ll find all sorts of animals in the barns, from chickens to cows to pigs. There’s even a livestock birthing bar where you can learn about the circle of life!
Visit the Family Area
If you’re visiting the fair with kids, walk around the lake or follow the bridge by the swan boats over the lake. Once there, you’ll find a special Children’s Area which is packed with kid-friendly activities like shows, crafts, a petting zoo, pee wee rodeo, and so much more here!
It’s also a little quieter in this area. Whether you have kids or not, grab a spot by the lake if you need to escape the crowds for a bit.
Ride a Swan Boat
After you’ve checked out Big Tex, eaten your weight in fried foods, and ridden a ride (or ten), stop by the lake. This is where you’ll find the classic swan boats ... don’t they look fun?
Line up to take a ride or simply enjoy the view from a shady bench on the water’s edge.
Watch a Game in the Historic Cotton Bowl
Historic Cotton Bowl stadium hosts a number of college football games during the fair. If you’re a sports fan, then you need to attend at least one!
- State Fair Classic - Prairie View A&M University and Grambling State University have been competing in this game since the 1980s.
- Red River Showdown – The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma have been going head to head in the Cotton Bowl since 1929!
- State Fair Showdown - Southern University and Texas Southern University are facing off for the second year in game that also features a Battle of the Bands, The Stompdown Experience step show, and a College Fair.
Get ticket through each university’s athletic department, and keep in mind these games are very popular (especially the Red River Showdown) ... don’t wait to get tickets!
Visit the Fair’s Museums
Did you know that Fair Park is open year-round, and that it’s home to a number of museums? You can visit these museums during the fair when they often have special exhibitions.
Past year's exhibitions have included Casa de Chocolate, A Sweet Indulgent Affair, presented by Mundo Latino at the Women’s Museum and the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection at the African American Museum.
Check Out the Texas Auto Show
Love cars? Then head to the huge Texas Auto Show!
You’ll find over 400 of the latest models at this annual car show, making it a must for car fanatics. And even if you’re not an auto buff, the expansive show is a great place to escape the Texas heat.
Do a Little Shopping
Want to take home a souvenir? With 18 shopping areas located around the park, you’ll find plenty of opportunities! Look for everything from Big Tex water bottles to jewelry, food, and so much more.
Watch the Nightly Light Show
Don’t leave the fair without catching the nightly light show! Illumination Sensation lights up the reflecting pool each evening at 8:00 PM. It’s a fun, festive sight, and the beautiful buildings and statues surrounding the reflecting pool glow with colorful lights, too. It’s the perfect way to end a day at the fair!
Now that you know all the best things to do at the Texas Fair, let’s talk about the good stuff! No visit to the fair is complete without sampling plenty of delicious food.
Texas State Fair food is 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!
Big Tex Choice Awards
Each year, food vendors compete in the Big Tex Choice Awards and invent some truly creative (crazy?) foods, like Fried Beer. And the best part is that you can taste these foods during your visit.
The 2021 Big Tex Choice Award Winners were:
- Savory – Deep Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls
- Sweet – The Armadillo
- Most Creative – Deep Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls ... a double winner is rare!
Are you hungry yet? You can check out all of this year's finalists and past winners here!
Best Places to Eat and Drink at the Fair
With all this amazing food available, are you wondering where to start? Here are my top picks for the best food:
- Corny Dogs - 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 even a vegetarian corny dog and a cheese dog, so don’t feel left out if you don’t eat meat.
- Food Court - You’ll find food stands throughout the fair, but for many options in one place, head to the indoor food court in the Tower Building. You’ll find a little bit of everything here, and it’s a great place to sit down and cool off for a while. On your way into the food court, check out the Big Tex Choice Award winners, and be sure to review 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!
- Food Stands and Restaurants – Beyond the food court, there are tons of stands and restaurants scattered throughout the parks, serving everything from classic treats like cotton candy to BBQ, Mexican food, pizza, and so much more. Lines can be huge on weekends, so plan your attack carefully!
- Thrifty Thursdays – Of course, money spent all these treats can add up fast. To save a few bucks, hit the fair on Thrifty Thursdays for special prices on corny dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and more, plus mini versions of many vendor’s signature menu items.
- Cheap Water - 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. Want to splurge? The fresh-squeezed lemonade (found throughout the park) is delish!
- State Fair Wine Garden – Vino lovers, make sure to visit the Wine Garden for a glass or two. You’ll love the whimsical atmosphere with colorful umbrellas hanging overhead, and the Texas wines aren’t too shabby either! You can also buy beer, and there’s usually live music, so stop by even if you’re not a wine fan.
- Best Beer – The Magnolia Beer Garden is my favorite spot to sit and enjoy a few beers during the fair. You’ll find a range of craft beers and ciders here, and there’s food available, too. The colorful fall decorations create a charming atmosphere, and it’s even a little romantic once the sparkling lights start to glow.
- Cheapest Beer - For the cheapest beers, head to The Beer Barn (located by the Cotton Bowl, near the Midway entrance) or the Ice House (on the Midway near the Fast Trax Slide). Beers here are only 6 tickets ($3) vs. the 12 to 14 tickets ($6 to $7) you’ll pay at Magnolia Beer Garden. The selection is a little more basic, but they have Shiner, which makes this Texan happy. And hey, you can always bring your cheap beer back to the Magnolia Beer Garden to soak up the pleasant atmosphere!
- Bring Your Own Food – Tasting all these unique treats is what makes State Fair visit fun, but it can definitely get spendy. Save a little money by bringing a cooler with your own food and drinks. No alcoholic beverages, glass containers, or metal forks / knives are allowed.
The fair is open daily, starting on the last Friday in September. It ends 24 days later and is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and Friday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
In 2021, the Texas State Fair will run from Friday, September 24 to Sunday, October 17.
Purchase entrance tickets online, or when you arrive at the fair. They’re sold individually and in packages. General admission is $16.50, or $12.50 for children (ages 3 to 12) and seniors (age 60+).
Texas State Fair Discounts
Tickets purchased online are $1.50 less than those purchased at the gate, plus you can skip the ticket line. Want to spend even less? Throughout the fair, you can save money on certain days like Military Appreciation Day or Half-Price Tuesdays and during other promo events. Find all the money-saving details here.
State Fair Coupons
Once you enter the fair, you’ll need to purchase coupons. One dollar will get you two tickets. The coupons can be used for food, drinks, and ride admissions … you basically can’t do anything without them! If you have leftover coupons, save them, because you can use them next year.
If you want to play games, you’ll also need to purchase a Big Tex Game Card. Look for booths and kiosks near the games to make a purchase.
The Texas State Fair is held in Dallas’ historic Fair Park. It has multiple entrances, but the main entrance is located at Exposition Avenue and Parry Avenue. You can get there by public transportation, Uber, or driving.
Driving to the Fair
Find directions for driving to the fair here, including a map with parking locations.
Public Transportation to the Fair
I know it goes against most Texan’s nature, but taking public transportation is the best, most hassle-free way to get to the fair. There’s no dealing parking fees and traffic jams, for one thing. Take any DART Rail Line to downtown Dallas, then transfer to a DART Green Line Train (heading toward Buckner Station). The train will drop you off right in front of the main entrance.
Coming from further away? Take the Trinity Railway Express to downtown Dallas where you can connect to a DART Green Line Train. You can also take the Denton A-train from one of five stations, then transfer to the DART Green Line at Trinity Mills.
Taking Uber to the Fair
Save yourself a little stress with a point-to-point ride to the fair. The Uber pick-up / drop-off area is located at the intersection of Pacific and Gurley, outside Gate 1.
If you’re visiting the fair from out of town, downtown Dallas is the most convenient place to stay during your trip. It’s near the fair (and tons of other fun things to do in Dallas), and you can take the DART Green Line Train directly to the fair.
There are quite a few hotels downtown, but the Sheraton, Hilton Garden Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Homewood Suites are all located steps from the DART Green Line. If you want to treat yourself, The Joule and The Adolphus are wonderful options that are also close to public transportation. And of course, all these hotels have parking if you’d prefer to drive.
Check TripAdvisor for prices and helpful reviews of all these downtown Dallas hotels (and others). There’s an option for every budget from thrifty to upscale!
Okay, we've covered a lot, and I think you deserve some fried butter if you've made it this far! Here are some frequently asked questions about the fair, but let me know if you have any others.
Where is the Texas State Fair? What city is the Texas state fair in?
The State Fair of Texas is located two miles east of downtown Dallas in the city’s historic Fair Park.
When is the Texas State Fair?
In 2021, the Texas State Fair run from Friday, September 24 to Sunday, October 17. It’s open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and Friday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
How long is the Texas State Fair?
The fair starts on the last Friday in September, and it ends 24 days later (September 24 to October 17, 2021).
How much does it cost to get into the State Fair of Texas?
General admission to the Texas State Fair is $16.50. It costs $12.50 for children (ages 3 to 12) and seniors (age 60+). However, you can save money by buying tickets online, purchasing season passes, admission / coupon combo packs, or attending on special days (such as Military Appreciation Day or Half-Price Tuesdays). Learn more here.
When did the State Fair of Texas start?
The Texas State Fair started in 1886. It’s been held every year since, except for a few years during WWI and WWII.
How tall is the Texas State Fair ferris wheel?
The Texas Star Ferris Wheel is a whopping 216 feet tall, and it can carry up to 264 passengers in its 44 gondolas.
How tall is Big Tex?
Big Tex, who has been a fixture at the fair since 1952, is 52-feet tall. The original Big Tex was destroyed in a fire on the last Friday of the 2012 State Fair, but he returned the next year bigger and better!
What size boot does Big Tex wear?
Big Tex has huge feet! He wears size-96 Lucchese boots and a 95-gallon hat! Each year, there’s a contest to design Big Tex’s distinctive boots.
How do I get to the State Fair of Texas by train?
To get to the State Fair by train, take any DART train to downtown Dallas, then transfer to a DART Green Line Train (heading toward Buckner Station) which will take you to Fair Park. Connections to the DART Green Line Train are also available via the Trinity Railway Express and the Denton County A-Line.
Can I ride my bike to the State Fair?
Yes, you can ride your bike to the Texas State Fair, however bikes are not allowed past the pedestrian gates or on the fairgrounds. Bike racks are located inside Gates 5, 6, and 11, and they’re available on a first come, first serve basis.
What is the oldest State Fair?
The New York State Fair, which started in 1841, is the oldest state fair in the United States.
What state has the largest state fair in the US?
The Texas State Fair is the largest state fair in the United States.
For More Information
To learn more about the fair, make sure to visit the official fair website. You’ll find daily schedules, event info, tickets, maps, and more.
More Things to Do in Texas
Now that you've got the fair on your bucket list, check out these other fun things to do in Texas!
- Downtown Dallas Walking Tour
- Secret Teddy Bear Park in Dallas
- Texas National Parks Guide
- 20 Fun Things to Do in Amarillo
- El Paso to Phoenix Road Trip
- Happy, Texas Guide