Deedee Divine’s Budget Guide to the State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas, hosted annually in Dallas, is famed for its deep fried debuts. Previous notables have included corny dogs and fried Coke. Among this year’s heart-stopping (perhaps literally) fair contest winners is fried butter. But the costs of sampling such indulgences can far exceed indigestion. Even if you’re not dumb enough to eat battered butter, the fair can break your budget.
A day at the State Fair of Texas could consume more cash than an all-night poker party. So for those who would rather not spend a fortune, I’ve devised my unofficial guide to the State Fair of Texas—a no-nonsense, frugal way to get the most for your money, and possibly someone else’s, when attending this extravaganza.
If you follow my advice, not only will you spend less, see more, and avoid long waiting lines, but you also just might leave the fairgrounds with something in your pockets besides dryer lint.
I’ve patterned my fair guide after those “Disney in a day” tour books, except this one is really doable.
The fair opens at 10:00 a.m. Because you’ll want to arrive early, you may need to search the sofa cushions and empty your coin jar the night before.
The cheapest way to get to the fairgrounds is to make friends with a delivery truck driver on his way to Fair Park. Otherwise, take the DART Green Line train. Visit any local area Kroger store to purchase a $16 combo ticket that includes train transportation, fair entrance fees, and perhaps renewed appreciation for solo travel.
If you drive your car to the fair, plan to spend $10 to park and at least half your shoe tread to hike from the nearest self-parking lot to the fair entrance. Or you can wait for the free tram, provided you hope to see one before your bones are discovered.
Fill your tote bag or purse with snack items prior to arrival. Otherwise you’ll be tempted to purchase meals with coupons that cause you to lose track of both costs and common sense.
Upon ticket office approach, ask any accompanying children to slump their shoulders forward and bend their knees slightly. Children under 48” tall receive a reduced general admission rate of $11.
Cash is NOT accepted for food, beverages or rides, so proceed immediately to the nearest coupon vendor to purchase $40 worth of coupons. If funds are low, use your debit card and hope for the best. (Note: It can take extra days for the transaction to clear, which provides additional time to sell some scrap metal or pawn your Nintendo.)
In order, follow the list below:
- Go to the Food Court Building and eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. to avoid the crowds.
- If you are traveling with family members, you should now be out of coupons. Send any children in your party scurrying around the Food Court to search for tickets dropped by others. (Yes, this happens frequently.) Should you come up empty-handed, you’ll need to purchase more coupons.
- Hang out on the Midway and consider the irony as you watch gals who shouldn’t tell their weight pay someone to guess it out loud.
- If a trip through the Midway with your brood seems too threatening, spend tickets to board the Texas Skyway, a gondola ride that spans the entire Midway. Tell the children they’ve now seen an aerial view of the whole shebang and there’s no need to return to this section.
- Head over to the Automobile Building and make a game out of seeing how many cars inside will truly run on 87 octane gas. (There’s a reason they call them “premium cars.”)
- Double back to the icon Big Tex and keep your eyes on the ground. Picture takers often lose their coupons in front of this landmark.
- Tour the Creative Arts Building to cool off. On the way out, conduct a family pit stop. Men, check the chain attached to your wallet. Ladies, make sure your fanny pack isn’t sitting on its namesake.
- Catch the pig races in the Pan American Arena (free) and get alternative income ideas.
- Grab a glimpse of the star boar in the Swine Building, which may lack visitors because of flu assumptions. See, first-hand, the difference bad carbs can make.
- Quell the urge to buy another scratch-off lottery ticket tonight and watch the free games at the Texas Lottery Show.
- Because you probably can’t afford to plant your own fall garden this year, take those autumn photos at one of the many floral themed exhibits scattered throughout the park.
- Introduce the kiddos to international cuisine by letting them sample chocolate jalapeno peppers in Cotton Bowl Plaza. This should eliminate all further requests for candy. Afterward, have the little ones wash away the burn at nearby water fountains.
- Adults visit the Pepcid Mobile Tour for free samples.
- Wander through the Food & Fiber Building and grab any freebies. Don’t forget to gaze low for lost goodies.
- Share a turkey leg on a stick and split a basket of curly taters.
- Sprint to the nearest restroom. Do not look for more coupons. Just run.
- No refunds are provided for unused fair coupons. So head over to the Main Entrance and offer your NASCAR keychain, Dallas Cowboys cap, or designer knock-off shades in exchange for coupons any exiting patrons possess.
- Visit the Children’s Barnyard, as frequently as needed, for free anti-microbial cleanser.
- Stay for Illumination Sensation, an outdoor light, music, and fireworks display, and prolong your energy savings at home. (As long as you’re watching THEIR lights, you won’t be burning YOURS.)
- Before you leave the fairgrounds, wander over to the ONCOR exhibit for more energy saving ideas. You just might find a few to help you better afford next year’s State Fair of Texas!
If you found this guide useful, please share it with friends!
Read more about the State Fair of Texas in Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life, by Diana Estill.