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State Fair of Texas

State Fair of Texas
3921 Martin Luther King Blvd., Fair Park, Dallas
214/565-9931; bigtex.com
Hours: September 28–October 21; open daily at 10am. Exhibit buildings close at 9pm Sun–Thu and 10pm Fri–Sat.

Admission: $16 adults; $12 children under 48” tall; free for children ages 2 and younger. Separate admission for Chinese Lantern Festival starts at $5.
Parking: $15; $30 for valet.

The Texas Star, the largest Ferris wheel in Texas, is turning again for the whirlwind State Fair of Texas, but Fair Park fun is only partly about the rides as there are more things to see, do and eat than time to do them, especially if you’re the let’s-just-walk-this-way-and-see-what-we-find type. So we’ve narrowed it down for your family’s excursion to the park.

At Little Hands on the Farm open daily from 10am–7pm, grab a child-sized apron for the kids to wear while gathering eggs and harvesting toy vegetables and then take them to the market for a prize. Stop by the Greenhouse on the Midway to watch the pumpkin carving man and then paint your own pumpkin (new this year!), and you can’t go wrong at the Children’s Barnyard, where the kiddos can feed and pet bunnies, goats, llamas and camels to your own little rascals’ desire. Grab a stick horse for daily races at the Pee Wee Stampede in the Ranch Arena, and watch the Backyard Circus at the Oak Farms Children’s Activity Center for a chance to join the performers as tightrope walkers.

At the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas centennial celebration at the Hall of State, take a walk through a larger-than-life-sized cookie box, and sing along with the troop around a virtual campfire. You don’t have to be a Girl Scout to appreciate the organization’s program – and its cookies. Snag a free sleeve of cookies daily at 11am and 3pm, or indulge the kids with a fried Samoa, which joins the ranks of the fair’s famous and adventurous fried foods. The scouts will be featured each night in the Starlight Parade, with illuminated floats, giant puppets and stilt walkers along the aptly named Big and Bright Boulevard. In fact, the fair will be running up an unusually high electricity bill with its first ever Chinese Lantern Festival over the lagoon. The swan paddle boats will be swapped (don’t worry; they’ll be back after the fair) for bright displays of giant pandas, lotus flowers and butterflies over the lagoon and a 300-foot by 50-foot dragon made from 15,000 porcelain dishes.

For much more fair fun, be sure to pick up a visitor’s guide on your way in. The handy booklet contains a map and full schedule of that day’s events so you can create a one-of-a-kind experience for the kids.