These insider tips save money and guide you to many of the State Fair’s biggest (and a few secret) wonders for date night.
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Big Tex’s familiar greeting, distant Midway bells and whistles, and funnel-cake fumes — it’s all part of the annual State Fair of Texas spectacle. Whether you’re holding your honey tight on a heart-pounding ride or winning a stuffed animal for your date at one of the Midway games, the Fair can be a classic, romantic night out.
Sure, you’ll still be taking the kids to the Fair once or twice, but why not plan a date night strolling through Fair Park, visiting the Fair’s shopping spots, trying a glass of craft wine or beer, and letting your inner child out?
The Fair’s senior vice president of marketing, Jennifer Schuder, has spent endless days and nights on the Fairgrounds, and she has all of the insider tips.
Know when to go
Cash-conscious Fairgoers can enter at half price after 5 p.m. daily by bringing an empty Dr Pepper can to the gate: You’re already off to a thrifty start. Food vendors also offer specials every Thrifty Thursday. And you can save money and time by buying your food, drink and ride coupons online.
Yes, there are the staples: gargantuan turkey legs, a variety of funnel cakes and plenty of cotton candy. But how can you not try the Deep Fried Texas Hill Country? Or the Orange You Glad You Fried It? Grab a newly minted concoction, the kind you only find at the Fair, and enjoy it while people- and food-watching. “You’ll see and smell all kinds of interesting foods,” Schuder says.
Work it off on Midway games
The Fair’s heartbeat, the Midway, is a different animal altogether without kids in tow. Moon overhead, shimmering lights and beckoning operators means game on — and there are more than 70 games and 70 rides to choose from.
If you only have one choice…
If you only have time to enjoy one ride, you can’t go wrong with the Texas Star Ferris Wheel. A friendly suggestion — make sure your partner isn’t afraid of heights first because the Star is 212 feet to the top!
Indulge in a drink
The Magnolia Beer Garden, near Gate 5, pours an array of local craft brews. Plus, there’s a clandestine second-floor space that offers an elevated view of the nightly Starlight Parade and fireworks shows. If you prefer wine, the Wine Garden off Nimitz next to the Go Texan Pavilion, pours 40-plus Texas wines by the taste, glass or bottle. It’s also a great spot to take in the parade.
Devote your attention to the Starlight Parade
You can appreciate all the dazzling details of the nightly procession of fantastic floats, magical music, stilt walkers and colorful characters when you don’t have to keep at least one eye on each kiddo. (7:15 p.m. nightly)
Ride to the Top o’ Texas
This is a little unconventional, but it’s an “experience”, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for these days? Instead of camping out with some beer or wine, catch a glimpse of the parade from the Top o’ Texas Tower’s 500-foot peak. From there, you can see a brief portion of the parade procession and just about the whole city. Plus it’s air-conditioned, and that can be a nice relief on one of those hot autumn evenings.
All of the lights
Not long after the parade ends, the Mattress Firm Illumination Sensation light show begins at 8 p.m. The show — featuring dancers on the lagoon, pyrotechnics synchronized to effervescent music and fireworks — is best-viewed up-close-and-personal at the show’s center stage Esplanade.
We hope you’ll dance
Kraig Parker as a mesmerizing Elvis Presley is back this year to kick off the Chevrolet Main Stage entertainment, which is free every night throughout the Fair. Ludacris, Austin Mahone, Aaron Watson, Morris Day and the Time, and plenty of other great entertainment is featured every day throughout the park.
For more information about the State Fair of Texas, which runs Sept. 28-Oct. 21 at Fair Park in Dallas, check out the Fair’s website, which has everything you need to know to plan your trip.