It’s not fall in my house without a trip to the State Fair of Texas, and it feels like it has been far too long with last year’s pandemic closing the fair. This is a family tradition I have enjoyed since I was a little girl. When I became a mom, I couldn’t wait to create new memories year after year with my little family.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with kids at any theme park. I try to remember, this is about making memories, even for a short while. Don’t stress about forcing this into a full-day event. I have found that visiting for a few short hours is plenty of time to experience several rides, a show, and some food. We try to return with a group of friends or family members a couple weeks later to fully enjoy the fair, and sometimes we just look forward to coming back the next year, which is much more enjoyable than cramming EVERYTHING into one long, sweaty day!
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas 2021
Here’s my take: it’s as fresh as the hot sizzling, deep fried Fair delectables! In writing this (just days leading up to the fair), I am including our traditional stops at the State Fair of Texas, and adding a few new spots we plan to check out!
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Essentials
Visit the BigTex.com and download the visitor guide PDF
The State Fair of Texas is the longest running fair in the nation: 24 consecutive days, and as they say, everything is BIGGER in Texas.
September 24-October 17; Sundays-Thursdays 10am-9pm; Fridays-Saturdays 10am-10pm
STATE FAIR OF TEXAS DIRECTIONS: 3921 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Dallas, TX 75210; located on the grounds of Fair Park, east of Downtown Dallas.
STATE FAIR OF TEXAS ADMISSIONS: Varies by day, theres are different ticket combos to purchase and season ticket options and discounts galore. Visit www.bigtex.com
STATE FAIR OF TEXAS DISCOUNTS: After 5pm, all adults pay kids’ prices on tickets (Fair is open until Sun-Thurs 9pm; Fri-Sat 10pm). Thrifty Thursdays is for foodies! Enjoy special food pricing with participating vendors.
Dress for the Occasion/What to Pack for the State Fair: Think zoo and amusement park attire! I highly encourage comfortable walking shoes, as the majority of your time will be spent outside, so check the weather ahead of time and always bring sunscreen just in case! If you need extra diapers or little essentials, check out the Baby Centers. There are personal storage cubicles for $5 rent through HomeTown Mobility, where you can also rent wheelchairs, electric scooters, and strollers. They are available at four different gates: Front Gate (Parry Ave), Grand Ave. (Gate 5), Pennsylvania Pedestrian Entrance (Gate 11), and Pan Am (north side of the fairgrounds).
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Arrival
Let’s start with my advice on when to go to the State Fair of Texas. I have visited all hours, morning/noon/night, weekdays and weekends. My favorite time with my son is the morning right when the fair opens at 10am(Gates open at 9am).
In the morning we are fresh, excited, and the weather is typically cooler in the mornings. If you are looking to avoid the peak hours where there are most likely crowds and lines, mornings are a great time to visit and if you can swing it, take a day off work and go during the week.
You can purchase entry tickets ahead of time or at the State Fair of Texas Gate.
Parking at the State Fair of Texas: There are tons of parking lots if you travel by car, but keep in mind if you come during weekend peak hours, you may find yourself walking for quite some time. The State Fair has little shuttle transports that will take your family right to the gates if this is the case when you visit.
DART Rail: We very much enjoyed our DART experience years ago traveling from Collin County. This was an adventure within itself! I also loved the simplicity to avoid that extra step of finding and remembering parking- we enjoyed the Dart trip.
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Interactive & Educational Activities
NEW Aquarium Re-opening: Every day from 10am-7pm. This is at the top of our list to visit. My son Caleb is 11 years old; he loves learning about aquatic creatures and we can’t wait for the interactive touch tank with a Doctor Fish (Red Garra) and Archer Fish, and seeing the Swell Sharks, Sea Dragons, and more!
Petting Zoo: Indoor activity. The animals are fairly different each year, but a memorable animal we hope is back is the baby giraffe.
Big Tex’s Farmyard: Outdoor activity. We love learning about the baby animals and seeing them up close! This location shares the farming and ranching process of raising and caring for animals including calves, piglets, and hatching chicks.
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Midway
All ages: Ride the Texas Skyway to travel from one side of the park to the other, avoiding walking through crowds of people or full out avoiding the extra walking! Save your energy! This is beautiful sight seeing and scoping out the next spot to visit down below. We ride the skyway back and fourth all day long.
Ages 2 and Up: We are huge fans of the The Kidway rides. Pick from popular themed rides such as the lady bug, castle with dragon, puppy dog, and more! When I was a little girl visiting The State Fair, I remember that I LOVED the swings. It was the TOP ride for me and I enjoy watching kids of all ages still experiencing this.
Older Kids: Visit the Super Midway: hours of fun with a variety of thrilling rides and games for older kids. My son’s interests change year after year and he NEVER gets bored. I love to play with him, we are highly competitive with any carnival game, and this is such a lively part of the State Fair of Texas.
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Shows
NEW Rodeo: We are SO ready for the State Fair to bring back the rodeo events; this is free with your ticket to the fair. There will be SIX rodeo events debuting at Fair Park Coliseum, from bull riding to bucking horses and cow milking. Caleb and I are especially ready to cheer on the State Fair of Texas Youth Rodeo! Check the event calendar for more information, 6PM-7:30PM
NEW Country Round Up: Family-focused puppet show where “America’s Got Talent” meets “Hee-Haw,” so be ready for singing, dancing, and hilarious antics!
- Location: Midway near Texas Star Ferris wheel
- Time: Every day at 12, 1:30, 3, 4:30, & 6pm
Pig Races: This is a main hit for us year after year, a thrilling pig race never gets old. This is indoors and a nice break from the heat! Check the schedule for pig show times! Other attractions are all stunt dog shows, backyard circus, pee wee stampede and rodeo, milking demos, world of birds and more!
Livestock Exhibits: Ongoing barn animals competitions are thrilling from cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, steer, and even llamas! With our Texas history in our hearts, my son and I always make an effort to check the schedule for competition times. We enjoy watching and learning from the livestock exhibitors across the state! Here is a link to last year’s competition to get a feel for if this is something your kids would be interested in experiencing.
There is also a Livestock Birthing Barn (located at Nimitz & MLK; Open 10am-7pm) As I am seven months pregnant this year visiting the fair, I am definitely wanting to see other mamas hard at work and the birthing barn will be an interesting little gem to see! Also on a personal note, this is helpful to talk to my son about the miracle of life happening for us coming up in November.
Arts & Crafts: Caleb and I are super crafty and we are excited to peek at ribbon-award- winning crafts at the Creative Arts building. There is an impressive youth contest section with butter sculptures, LEGO designs, paintings, craftsmen, ceramics, photography, and more. Caleb and I look forward to seeing what these talented kids came up with displayed in the showroom. Someday maybe we will compete! If you are inspired get your kids involved!
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Food, Fried & Not Fried
We pace ourselves and get little snacks to taste as a family here and there since there is SO MUCH TO EAT. I make it a point to jump in line while the rest of the family is scoping out the next spot to play, and grabbing a fried Oreo (favorite), Fletchers Corny Dog (famous), and Original Fernie’s Funnel Cake (legend).
There is a food map if you are a true foodie and want a head start on where to make a beeline to when you arrive. The fried food is arguably the main attraction at the State Fair of Texas, especially with the hype of the Big Tex Choice Awards, which is the annual fried food competition. View the finalists here.
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Sensory-Friendly Mornings
Every Wednesday of the Fair (9/29, 10/6, 10/13), from 10am-1pm, activities and exhibits across the fairgrounds will be made easier on the eyes and ears to better accommodate those with sensory-related concerns. From 12-1pm, The Midway has no lights, music, microphones, or barking during this hour. Designated “Quiet-Zones” will also be available throughout the fairgrounds should one need to depressurize.
What to Expect at the State Fair of Texas: Safety
The Safe Kids location (where lost kids/people will be taken to) is located on the Midway, next to the Neon Big Tex and Texas Tower. Immediately report the missing child to the nearest police officer or information booth. Call (214) 421-8830 (Police) or (214) 241-8855 (Safe Kids). There are tons of games and toys for them to play with and things for them to do at the Safe Kids Station location.
Safe Kids Bands: Pick up your “Safe Kids” bands at any hospitality booth; this is a neon safety band that your kids wear with your contact information on the back of it in case they get lost