If everything comes bigger in the Lone Star State, then here’s little doubt they don’t come any bigger than the annual State Fair of Texas. A rite of passage for every Texan and new transplant, travel to the State Fair can nevertheless also be a huge pain in the saddle. The drive down to Dallas on I-35 is an infamously awful Mad Max heck-scape, parking can be tricky to find and costly once you do, and who wants to be stuck in the long exit lines once your tank hits empty and you’re ready to head home? Luckily, our friends at the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) are offering some discounted combo tickets to the big event by rail, and you can enter to win a FREE A-train Daytrip to the Texas State Fair with our pal Dentonaut to gander at all the 2017 sights!
The best part about leaving the driving to the train conductors is that you can enjoy the relaxing ride without dodging crazy traffic, all while saving more money for the midway food. It’s an easy connection from the A-train to the DART Green Line to get to Fair Park. The DCTA blog has some solid travel tips for the train ride there and back, but be mindful of the return schedule for the A-train since it’s last Green Line connection is at 8pm weeknights and 11pm weekends, so you need to head up about an hour prior to make the connection. With that in mind, you’re ready to plan your trip, so here’s our WDDI Quick Guide & top picks for the 2017 State Fair of Texas.
When you arrive at Fair Park, pick-up a hardcopy of the Visitor’s Guide to the State Fair of Texas, which has a handy map, daily schedule of events, coupons, and teases for favorite foods and sights. But first thing you gotta do is make the obligatory pilgrimage to snap your selfie with Big Tex… he burned up a few years back but is feeling much better now. Once you’ve got your selfie posted, then make your way to Fernies, a long-running legend of the State Fair winners circle and a perfect spot to plot your tour over their funnel cake, fried peaches-n-cream, or this year’s award-winning Fernie’s Deep Fried Texas Sheetcake. You’ll definitely want to plan to taste some of the Best Foods of the State Fair, but pace yourself and keep your eyes peeled for the $1 bottled water stations peppered around.
With every nook and cranny jam-packed with stuff to see and do, maybe even sample, its easy to get overwhelmed when half the fun is just meandering from one “WTF?!?” moment into another “Holy Sam Houston, THAT is so Texas” encounter. Still, here are a few of our favorite must-sees and definitely-dos for this year.
LIVE SHOWS & EVENTS
Of course walking the midway will take up the bulk of your time, but peruse the Schedule of Events to catch some of the shows that happen throughout the day. They have livestock tours about every half-hour, but don’t miss the pig races, Lone Star Pee Wee Stampede, Backyard Circus, the Magic Chuckwagon, Wild West Pet-a-Palooza, the chainsaw carver demonstrations, and the ZuZu African Acrobats! You can also get a peek and test-drive the 2018 Chevy models, but expect to wait. The Starlight Parade at 7:00pm is a brightly-lit blast, but if’n you’re riding the A-train back to Denton then make sure you budget the hour back on DART to catch it.
MUSEUMS & EXHIBITS
With all the fair rides and flashy shows, it’s easy to forget that there are some amazing museums on-site perfect to cool off while touring. The Hall of State has an exhibit on “Texas in the First World War,” but also peruse the Women’s Museum and the African-American Museum. You will also most definitely want to tour the Creative Arts exhibit, displaying prize-winning entries in crafts, paintings, photography, and all manner of artistic whimsy, which includes this year’s half-ton butter sculpture winner!
At some point you may need to sit for a spell to gather yourself, and our favorite spots to take a break include the Texas Discovery Gardens, The Beer Haven or Wine Garden, and of course the reliable Old Mill Inn. The Children’s Aquarium is usually full of kiddos, but watching fish meander about can be pretty relaxing.
The absolute best part, though, is stumbling upon your own nooks of interesting Texana wonders! Be sure to tag your pretty Instagram photos with #WDDI #RideDCTA so we can follow your epic trip to the State Fair of Texas, and don’t forget Wednesday is your last day to enter our FREE A-train Day-trip to the Texas State Fair combo ticket giveaway!
Shaun Treat is a former professor at the University of North Texas and founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past. Be sure to check out our local museums curated by the fine folks at the Denton County Office of History & Culture, and follow @Dentonaut on Twitter for local happenings.
Copyright © 2016 Shaun Treat. All Rights Reserved.