[this and a few other upcoming posts fall under the category of “better late than never” for me]
Though the State Fair has closed it gates once more until mid-September 2013, I feel compelled to a) journal our amazing experiences from the 2012 Fair season, and b) share the secrets to our success with any and all who may fear the Fair. Here are common reasons I’ve heard as to why families stay away from the Fair:
1) Cost – “too expensive!!!”
2) Crowds – “too busy!!!”
3) Food – “I don’t like fried food”
4) Kids – “It’s just too hard with stroller-ish kids”
5) Time – “too difficult to reconcile with necessary nap times”
6) Things to Do – “I’m just not a Fair person”
Allow me to address all of these points and hopefully prepare you for a successful visit in 2013 (plan on this being re-posted next year!).
1) COST. My favorite hurdle of all! Here are my ideas for alleviating cost. Save $15 on parking by taking the Dart. If you don’t want to sit on a train for an hour to and from, just drive all the way into town and park at an easy spot like Deep Ellum Station – just two quick stops before Fair Park. Another plus?? Kids LOVE riding the train! Another plus??? It takes you directly to the front of the Fair. PERFECT. We did this and it took 25 minutes to get to the station + 10 minutes of train. Excellent!
Obtain FREE or discounted tickets! Tuesdays are cheaper, if you can go on a weekday (see fear #2 – crowds). Look at the website to see which soda cans allow for $2 off. Ask teacher friends or parents of kids who will not use their Fair passes that year. Most districts provide a one-time use ticket to each staff person and student each year (doens’t have to be used on “Fair Day”). Donate to the Fair in any number of areas (Creative Arts, Youth Livestock Auction, Food & Fiber, etc.) and you’ll get parking passes, season passes, and a handful of one-time use tickets. That what my family does every year and its awesome, if you can swing it.
Save your unused coupons from the previous year’s visit! They don’t decrease in value and can be used anywhere coupons are accepted (aka everywhere!). Color of coupons doesn’t matter. Money is money at the Fair! Like my Mom says, “just keep a State Fair folder in the office and you’ll know right where to look next year!”. And who ends us spending EXACTLY the number of coupons you get?
The Fair allows you to bring coolers with any food you want! The only rules are no alcohol and no glass. See fear #3 – food, and #4 – kids. Since we have long standing Fair food traditions in our family, I don’t need a cooler. But I bring a full lunch carrier for Bridget so she can always have healthy snacks and a REAL lunch as well as normal drinks. She doesn’t care about Fair food, and that’s just fine with me!
Check out the FREE stuff! Creative Arts, Dog Shows, Car Show, petting animals in the livestock barn, Little Hands on the Farm!!!, the petting zoo, the Food & Fiber building (this year’s free food was NACHOS)…its all fun and all FREE.
2) CROWDS. Go on a weekday, if at all possible! My favorite time? M-Th mornings from 10-12. There are great demos, the animals are frisky and not too full from petting zoo food, you can park RIGHT AT THE GATE, and there’s not a line in sight. As B gets older and I end up working more, you’d better believe I’ll take a cue from my mom and take B out of school for a morning to do this together. ITS WORTH IT.
If weekdays aren’t in the cards, get there right at 10am on Saturday…or even better, on Sunday. Just be sure to check the schedule for Texas/OU weekend and also Grambling/Southern weekend. While those weekends have their own magic that’s worth experiencing, too, we avoid them if we can.
If you’re going in the evening, all the buildings on the North side close at 6pm (all the FREE stuff that I love!). The crowd is 100% at the Midway, but there’s something special about being at the Fair at night. And the parade of lights!!! Saturday nights are a NO, if you ask me…
3) FOOD. See above for info about bringing coolers. It’s a perk they might get rid of any given year, so double check the policies on the website. But its not a secret or anything. They are happy to allow outside food! I’m not one for fried food (except a Fletcher’s Corny Dog!), so I prefer to eat in the Food Court (behind Big Tex’s butt). Plenty of non-fried food there.
Did you read the part about free food in the Food & Fiber building??? Recent ones I can remember – buttered biscuits, quesadillas (amazing!!), bluebell ice cream, nachos. On the weekends, the line for this stuff is long but always moves super fast. A fun treat!
4) KIDS. I will be bringing a stroller for B until she’s just too big to fit. Even with a light crowd and a 1.5 hour visit, she still gets too tired to walk and its too easy to lose her between stops. And with some light snacks and a bottle of water, putting her in the stroller helps all of us. She didn’t once refuse it this year (and I even found her climbing in on occasion!). Apparently, you can rent strollers/wagons on site but I’ve never tried. One less thing to pay for…but would come in handy if you were on a full Dart train on a Saturday afternoon.
With a stroller-ish-aged kiddo, I don’t recommend a trip over 3 hours. More reasons to pay discount/free tickets, train/free parking/carpool-share parking…the less you pay to get in, the easier it is to leave quickly. Don’t you hate that feeling that you need to get your “money’s worth” out of the trip?! Now that Bridget is 3, she can handle a 3 hour trip. Last year, it was closer to 2 hours. If you have a kid that will sleep in the stroller or in the car, you may have more flexibility. Stroller sleeping is a no-go for us, and I always prefer that she sleep at home anyway. We get there at 10am, leave at 1pm, are home before 2pm with plenty of time for shut eye. Works everytime…well, you know what I mean…
5) See #4.
6) THINGS TO DO. I’m not into the Midway (all the carnival-type rides and carnie games). As B gets older, she’s more interested, so we’ll go with that. But I don’t want to be the person plunking down $100+ on impossible games and tons of rides at the Fair. We did one ride per trip this time (unless Mimi or Pop added a few!) and one game. She was fully satisfied by this.
In addition to the other activities mentioned above, there are also steam engines from big trains, live music and dancers at the Hall of State, cow milking demos, horse shows, pig races, bird of prey show (really cool!), the butterfly garden, and more. So much more than just regular Fair activities.
So, all in all is a fabulous place to make memories with your family. If you put a little thought into the visit, you can also make it happen for a pretty low cost if that matters to you (it always matters to me!).
Can’t wait for next year!!!