For 24 days, the Texas flag flies with the Big Tex flags all over the fairgrounds.

Things To Do: State Fair Fun for Less Than $100 / The perfect itinerary that won't cost loads of coupons

WORDS
Wendy Manwarren Generes
PHOTOGRAPHY
Courtesy of Kevin Brown / State Fair of Texas
PUBLISHED
October 2017 in
DallasChild, FortWorthChild, NorthTexasChild, CollinChild
UPDATED
September 25, 2017
Click photo for more photos
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It’s here. Twenty-four days (Sept. 29–Oct. 22) of cotton candy smells, Big Tex saying, “Howdy, folks,” and the taste of corny dogs at the State Fair of Texas. We can’t wait—and neither can the kids. But a day at the fair (or multiple if you’re like my family) isn’t an inexpensive endeavor. So we picked the best of the best in family-friendly fun, food and entertainment for a day at the fair that’ll cost you about $100 or maybe a little less. (Note: Prices were estimated for a family of four with one child age 4 or younger.)
 
Getting There
Parking around the fair costs $15 and, in some cases, still includes quite a walk. Taking the DART means no traffic, a drop-off at the front gate, plus a fun experience for kids of all ages. Get on or transfer to the Green Line, disembark at the MLK, Jr. station, and enter the fairgrounds at gate 6, near the Kids’ Boardwalk area.
Cost: Day passes: adults, $5 each; kids 5-14, $2.50 each; kids 4 and younger, free

TRE passengers can transfer to the DART’s Green Line at Victory Station. 
COST: One-day regional passes cover transportation along the TRE and the DART: adults, $10; kids, $2.50 each TRE, 817/215-8669; trinityrailwayexpress.org
 
Traveling from Denton County? Take the A-train (it does not operate on Sundays), and transfer to the DART’s Green Line at Trinity Mills.
COST: One-day regional passes cover transportation along the TRE and the DART: adults, $10; kids, $2.50 each
DCTA, 940/243-0077; dcta.net

Paying the Price
Another benefit to riding the DART? Along with your train fare, you can buy discounted admission tickets from the DART GoPass app on your smartphone for $16 for those 48 inches and taller ($18 at the gate) and $12 for kiddos under 48 inches ($14 at the gate). (Littles age 2 and younger are always free.) If you opt to drive instead, buy tickets online before you go to save $1.50 per ticket. It’s worth noting that there are also lots of other discounts available, especially if you spend a weekday at the fair.
 
Entertaining Your Crew
While there are rides appropriate for toddlers on the Kidway and bigger kids on the Midway, there are also lots of free activities for kids of all ages every day at the fair, nearly 100, in fact.
 
Meander down the Kids’ Boardwalk for face painting, Big Tex temporary tattoos, games, bubbles, arts and crafts, and story times with Mother Goose. Check out the Bufford Buzzard puppet show and see Ronald McDonald on stage when the iconic clown does magic, juggles and tells jokes.
 
On your way to the Backyard Circus show, where kids dress up as lion tamers, ballerinas and more and participate in the production, grab a legendary corny dog from Fletcher’s stand and snap the family selfie in front of Big Tex. Then make your way to the Wild West Pet Palooza, where rescued dogs, cats, birds, porcupines, pigs and others star in comical acts. Visit Shorty McCoy, The Tiniest Texas Cowboy, a 17-inch marionette that entertains with songs, dances and jokes.
 
Don’t miss the World of Magic Show to ogle a levitating robot. And at some point during the day, take kids ages 2–8 to the Little Hands on the Farm interactive exhibit. Activities include planting seeds, gathering eggs, driving a tiny tractor, harvesting crops and taking them to market. With the earnings kids get from their labor, they can purchase snacks in the General Store. And don’t leave without a stop in the Children’s Health Barnyard to let your kiddos pet—even feed (for a fee)—giraffes, zebras, pigs, goats, emus, llamas, yaks, camels, kangaroos and pigs.
 
Feeding the Fam
It might be in bad taste to visit the fair and not try something fried, but guess what? It’s totally OK to BYO food and drinks. Coolers are allowed; alcohol, glass containers and metal knives and forks are not.
 
We still suggest trying a few fried foods even if you packed a picnic. A few notable new ones this year include deep-fried chicken noodle soup on a stick; the Fat Smooth, three mini cream puffs dipped in Café du Monde beignet batter and fried, of course, before being dusted in powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces; and the 2017 Big Tex Choice Awards winning Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger, which is exactly that—a beef patty with queso and bacon sandwiched between two funnel cake buns.
 
And if all of this is too rich for your little ones’ simpler palates, head to the Midway to find the new Stiffler’s Mom’s Cookie Factory, a custom-built mobile bakery from veteran concessionaires churning out 800 cookies in just over 10 minutes and letting passersby watch the sweet process from the two 12-foot windows on either side. Buy the cookies in bulk, by the half dozen or more.
 
Staying After Dark
If you and the kids have it in you, stay past sunset. Park the family along Lone Star Boulevard on the Esplanade side of the street at about 7pm. Starting at 7:15pm every night, illuminated floats, life-size puppets, performers on stilts and other characters glide through the park during the Starlight Parade. After that, watch as fireworks explode to pop music and dancers and acrobats perform near the reflecting pool for the Mattress Firm Illumination Sensation at 8pm. And as you walk back to gate 6 to exit, take First Avenue past the lagoon to see tens of thousands of multicolored lights twinkling in the trees.

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