Everything You Need To Know About Enjoying The State Fair On A Budget.
It's that time again! The State Fair of Texas officially opens at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning!
And, listen, this is a big year for the State Fair, too: After meeting his fiery end during the closing days of last year's fair, the new bigger, better Big Tex will finally be unveiled at a special ceremony at 2 p.m. tomorrow. That's also when we'll learn who'll replace Bill Bragg as the new voice for the new Tex.
In other words: There's a whole heck of a lot going on at this thing. And therein lies the rub, of course: The one and only complaint we ever hear about our beloved State Fair of Texas is that it's just too expensive. But it doesn't have to be. Take heed of the following steps toward having a blast at the State Fair on a budget and you'll be all set.
These suggestions will change your life, we promise. Or at least the next 24 days of it.
Know your discount days.
General admission to the Fair is generally $17, which makes the following list of days in which admission can be had at a discounted rate very, very important to remember:
• Friday, September 27 (Opening Day): Bring a full 20 oz. bottle of Dasani water (or any Coca-Cola product) and get in for a $6 (per person) donation to the North Texas Food Bank.
• Any Tuesday: Bring an empty Dr Pepper can and get in for $5. (Also of note: Most rides cost 5 coupons on Tuesdays.)
• Any Wednesday: Bring three cans of food for area food banks and get in for $2.
• Thursday, October 3: Anyone wearing a Dickies logo clothing item will receive free admission to the Fair.
• Any Thursday: Bring an empty 20 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola product and get in for $6.
• Any Thursday: Bring a Cinemark Movie Theater ticket stub and receive free admission on that day.
• Any Friday: Download and print this coupon from the KISS-FM website and get in for $12.
• Any day: Buy advance tickets either from the State Fair's website or in person at Kroger for a $2 discount.
• Any day: McDonald's offers $3 off general admission with coupons available on their food packaging.
• Any day after 5 p.m.: Bring an empty Dr Pepper can and get in for $8.
Get a Season Pass.
If you know you're going to attend the Fair more than once this season — and if you can't deal with the hassle of bookmarking this page and/or remembering the aforementioned discount days — just buy a season pass. Available for $34.95 at Kroger (or $39.95 at the gates), a season pass gets you access into the Fair any day and at any time (when the Fair's open, at least) throughout the entire 2013 season. Visit the fair twice and it pretty much pays for itself. Plus, they give you a free Cinemark movie ticket. Not bad, right?
Well, your own non-alcoholic bottle, at least. Tasting the new foods is a big reason people visit the Fair, but drinks taste the same pretty much wherever you go. So why not save yourself some coupons and bring your own? You're even allowed to bring a cooler if you want, so long as you don't try to sneak in any glass or alcohol, though.
Save On Parking.
While parking for the Fair generally costs $15 (or $30 if you want to shell for valet), this is another cost you can easily eliminate.
• Ride the DART Rail (or bus). A one-day DART pass is $4 and, by using it, you're not only reducing your carbon footprint, but you're saving the money you'd be spending on parking at the many pay lots around Fair Park.
• Park at a meter or at a free spot on the street. You know all those spots right on Exposition Avenue, right near the Amsterdam Bar? Yeah, you can park there and anywhere else on the street that's not marked as a “No Parking Zone” for free. One problem: These spots fill up quick, so you better show up and cross your fingers to make this method works for you.
Go to the free events.
You don't have to spend money on games or rides to be entertained at the Fair. Check out the daily calendar of events here. There are tons of shows, concerts and demonstrations — even hands-on events — that are offered completely free of charge, once you've entered the grounds. At least one of those free events is a must-see (maybe): On Saturday, September 28, Blondie will play a free concert on the Silverado Main Stage. Yes, for real.
More Money-Saving Tips.
• Bring someone to go splitsies with. I don't care who you are; You can't eat all that fried food alone. Bring a friend that's willing to split the cost and the food with you. Plus, you'll get to try more stuff.
• Hover. Yes, this is a real suggestion. Near closing time, hang out near the ticket booths close to the exit gates. Out-of-towners — and, really, just anyone not planning to return to the Fair — are usually pretty willing to hand their extra food and ride coupons to a kind face. So long as you're on your best behavior, you can probably score some freebies.
Cover photo by Andreas Praefcke, via WikiCommons.