The State Fair of Texas opens on Friday, and while we’ve already mentioned how to save some cash, highlighted the food you can indulge in, and even how to plan a more enjoyable outing if you need to factor in sensory sensitivities, we haven’t yet told you what you need to know if you’re planning a family-friendly outing.
Admission for children ages 3-12 can be anywhere from $10 to $18, depending on the day. Children two and younger get in free. It’s also a great idea to pick up a SafeKids wristband from any information booth upon your arrival, fill it out with your contact information, and then put it on every small human in your group. The odds are extremely good that your child will do something like not notice the group has moved on because he’s spent 20 minutes watching someone sculpt butter. (Not that I know anything about that.)
That being said, even without setting foot on a ride, there are quite a few things that could keep kids and parents amused (and fed) during the Fair’s run. For instance, Friday at noon you can catch the opening day parade, or if you’re planning on going after work and school, the opening day ceremonies kick off at 7 p.m.
Whether you’re heading to the State Fair on opening day or another day, here is a quick list of things you should check out.
There are plenty of kid-friendly shows
Oak Farms Theater offers the World of Magic show and the Tanna Banana Storytime. There is the ever-popular show World of Birds presents: SOAR!, which features bird releases from the Texas Star Ferris Wheel and extremely close encounters with flying birds unleashed over the heads of the audience. Kids also love The All-Star Stunt Dog Show and the pig races at Marine Corps Square, and the TX Stunt Jam at the Xtreme Sports Zone in Chevrolet Park Plaza, which features some of the top BMX, skateboard, and scooter talent in the country. The Dr Pepper Midway Stage will offer the Country Round-up, the puppet show created exclusively for the State Fair of Texas. Staying later? Catch the Starlight Parade at 7:15 p.m. every night, which features an array of floats, music, fireworks, and fun characters.
The cow in the meadow goes moo …
Say hello to all manner of animals all over the fairgrounds, including the Oncor Petting Zoo, Big Tex’s Farmyard, the Children’s Aquarium, and Texas Discovery Gardens, which is butterfly central. You can also check out all the livestock and poultry at the Pan Am Arena, or the pigs at the swine barn. The Budweiser Clydesdales hang out by the Xtreme Sports Zone, just in case you were looking for selfie options beyond the required Big Tex.
Run off some energy, ride some rides
If you have a very small human (say ages three to six), let them gear up in their western wear and participate in the Pee Wee Stampede and Rodeo, where they can ride stick horses and engage in other pretend rodeo events. On the Midway, the Kidway area offers smaller rides and games, too. Wanna boogie? Find the Oontz Kids DJ Dance Party near the Children’s Aquarium and bust a move.
It’s Dallas, and fall hits differently, which means you’re still looking at the mid-80s to upper-90s most days. Aside from the aforementioned Children’s Aquarium, you can also hit all manner of exhibit halls when you need to cool down, or even take in some Dallas history at the Mavs Vault at the Hall of State, the African American Museum, Mundo Latino at the Women’s Museum, and more. The plethora of cars in the Automobile Building is also pretty popular with kids (and there’s a restroom), and the Go Texan pavilion offers Texas-centric shopping and grazing (if you get there at the right time). The Creative Arts Pavilion not only displays some impressive work from local talent, but this is also where you find the Butter Sculpture.
In addition to all the new options, and the required items like Fletcher’s corny dogs, there are plenty of kid-friendly food choices for when you get a little peckish. There are all kinds of pop-up food giveaways, too, from Dr Pepper floats with Blue Bell ice cream to brownie sundaes and veggie dip. But we’re about to drop some knowledge only seasoned fairgoers know: If you hit the Go Texan pavilion at the right time each day, you can get a free ice cream cone courtesy the Texas Department of Agriculture. (It’s not clear when that is just yet, but it happens each year. Make sure you pop by—if ice cream isn’t in the cards, there are usually plenty Texas-based bites to try for free.)