By Alexiz Magro-Malo Some girls remember their first kiss, but I remember the first time I went to the Texas State Fair.
As a Dallas native, I’ve clutched my grandpa’s hand at Fair Park for 15 years now. Every year, the State Fair is filled with ear-to-ear grins, fresh corn dogs and of course a loud “Howdy” from our friend, Big Tex, a 55-foot statue on the Fair Park grounds.
But while everything may be bigger in Texas, that doesn’t mean your wallet is. Here are some friendly tips to save some cash while still getting the full state fair experience.
Transportation Save your gas money and take the DART rail system. The DART is a train that has stations all over Dallas metroplex, but also stops directly at Fair Park, where the state fair is held. A dart day pass is $5 and allows you to take unlimited rides until 3 a.m. the following day. You can find more information about schedules and locations on the DART website.
General Admission A ticket to the State Fair is $17, which is a tad pricey considering the other fair necessities you have to purchase — ahem, funnel cakes. Most ticket deals are limited to weekdays, but there are a few on the official state fair website that are always available. The “McDonald’s Any Day” discount takes $3 off a general admission ticket and is available on-tray liners or bag stuffers at McDonald’s restaurants. If you’re able to go on Friday, the local DFW radio station, KISS FM, has coupons for $12 admission.
Coupons Coupons are what you use for currency at the state fair. $10 will get you 20 coupons. Generally, 40 coupons is enough to get food, a drink and an amusement ride. There are coupon booths across the grounds, so if you feel inclined to buy more coupons you don’t have to search long.
Rides I’m not a big roller coaster person — and why should I be when I could spend my tickets on food — but getting on the Texas Ferris Wheel is a must. As a word of caution, I’ve seen even the most thrill-seeking, roller-coaster-riding people hold their breath throughout the entire ride. There is also the Texas Skyway tour which allows you to get a bird’s-eye view of the fair grounds.
Food This is where you will spend most of your coupons, and rightly so. The state fair has a variety of food choices, but these staples are a must for your state fair diet:
Fletcher’s Corn Dogs These heavenly sticks of bread and pork are best without extra garnish, but don’t be afraid to heap on a religious amount of mustard. If you have to pick one thing to eat, go for the corn dog.
Funnel cake I’ve had my fair share of funnel cakes, but they always taste better at the fair. This is a pretty generic selection, but with all the toppings you can add, it’s a sweet tooth’s fantasy.
Fried anything When it comes to the fried foods, picking a good snack can be a trial and error. The Texas State Fair is known for having the most outrageous fried foods, such as fried butter or fried Nutella. Get a friend to join you, and select two different items to vary your palette. This year’s newest fried items include fried Sriracha balls, deep-fried breakfast for dinner and a chicken-fried loaded baked potato.
Events Events at the state fair are free. Events include different cultural exhibits such as the African-American Museum, auto shows and a concert series that includes artists Becky G. and the Casey Donahue Band.
Livestock petting zoo The livestock petting zoo is free, but you have to pay $1 to buy food to feed the animals. The animals range from baby goats to large longhorns. Visiting the petting zoo is a relaxing way to get out of the heat and work out some of the food you’ve engorged.
Texas Lotto tent Funds allowing, definitely test your luck and buy some scratch-offs from the Texas Lotto tent. There’s nothing more exhilarating than using your lucky penny to win some extra cash.
To all of the Texas State Fair rookies, may your bellies, pockets and hearts be full during this memorable experience.
The Texas State Fair runs from runs from September 26 to October 17. You can buy tickets at the gate or order them online, but plan ahead because delivery takes about 10 days. You can also use the DART Go-Pass app to buy both your DART pass and fair ticket to be scanned at the gate.