Fair Park esplanade. (Photo: Michael Cagle/Preservation Dallas)

Arts & Entertainment

What To Do In Fair Park When You Need A Break From the State Fair

Escape the sensory overload with these activities on the fairgrounds.

Let’s face it, not everyone wants to loop-di-loop on the Midway rides and stuff their face full of fried food when they frequent our yearly excuse for all things … well, loopy and fried.

Sometimes we want to take a moment to collect ourselves, to participate in a bit of culture on this historic site that houses far more things than Fletcher’s Corny Dogs. For those seeking a quieter route—or some respite—during the fair, here are some spots.

Texas Cinema in the Hall of State

This is an exhibit featuring Texas film talent. When Midway-overload threatens, I can’t think of anything more appealing than spending time in a darkened room watching films all day, showing visions of (or by) those in the Lone Star State. The Hall of State’s auditorium will feature screenings from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day of the fair. We have the Dallas International Film Festival and Dallas Historical Society (for artifacts), among others, to thank for this.

Photography exhibit Fair Focus: The Photography of Kevin Brown

Rather than immersing yourself in the sensory overload of the fair, you can take it in at a distance through the photography of long-time freelance photographer Kevin Brown. His oeuvre will be on display at the Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center. The show displays some revealing (and behind-the-scene) takes that he captured over the years. His work reflects an event that is social, cultural, historical, and full of life.


Just like the fountains at Disneyland, those at Fair Park can be the site of high-energy acrobatics that have nothing to do with you hurling yourself—or being hurled—into the air at high velocity on a Midway ride. Watch as professional dancers and acrobats coordinate their movements to music by the Esplanade fountains.

¡Fiestas de Marionetas!

Wander over to the McDonald’s Amphitheater on First Avenue when your worldview needs to be scaled down to the size of a marionette. A collection of 85 hand-crafted marionettes are part of the world that comes to life during daily performances, with backstage tours and crafts for those who want a closer, micro look.

The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

This exhibit opened in conjunction with the State Fair, but is continuing through March 2020. It’s housed in the African American Museum and is touted as the most far-reaching collections of African American art and history aside from the Smithsonian. More than 150 works—art, photography, primary source documents, and others—shed light on multiple facets of a more than 500-year history.

Casa de Chocolate, or “A Sweet Indulgent Affair”

This is a chance to delve into the history, lore, and fabrication of chocolate through an interactive exhibit put on by Mundo Latino. The event takes place inside the Women’s Museum. Expect demonstrations, classes, and samples. It’s a way to sweeten the deal if you’ve waited in too many lines and had far too many people spill kettle corn on you.

Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

When you or your little ones need to zone out of one world and immerse yourself in another for a while, the Children’s Aquarium whisks you away—to simulated tide pools and interactive educational exhibits. You can almost imagine the otters.

Texas Discovery Gardens

This is the spot for those who need a moment of discovery, awe, and wonder. Stroll through the Shakespeare garden, brush up against native plants, and watch for butterflies and caterpillars in the two-story, glass-walled butterfly habitat. Don’t miss the “emergence chamber,” where you might catch a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon.

Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Collect yourself and take a moment before the panels of dusky-rose colored granite that are engraved with names of Texans lost during the Vietnam War. The granite is from Texas. Its color is warm and the silence it incites is palpable.

Continental House

Step outside the current State Fair hubbub and stride back in time in this colonial house that was one of the first on the Fair Park Historical Grounds. With its spinning wheels and upholstered couches, it’s full of exhibits and artifacts. It remains a seat for the Jane Douglas Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the Continental House was “originally” a seat for the Jane Douglas Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It remains a seat. 


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