It seems like just yesterday the fair had its opening day, but now there’s only two weeks left to make it out to the State Fair of Texas. If you’ve been thinking about going but are living the modest life where you’re relieved every time your debit card gets approved, we got you covered. Times are tough all over, we understand, but that’s no reason for you to miss out on all the fun and oddities crammed into Fair Park once a year.
Work smarter, not harder, and follow a few of these tips to save some cash on your trip to see Big Tex.
The most expensive way to buy a ticket is to wait until you’re at the gate, where it’s going to cost you $18 for an adult or $14 for children under 48 inches tall and seniors. So don’t do that. By purchasing tickets online you can save $1.50 per ticket, but $1.50 isn’t sending anyone to early retirement, so look at some better options.
For anyone who puts their lives on the line to help others, there will be a First Responders Day on Friday, Oct. 12. Whether you’re still active or retired, show your badge or ID card and you and up to three members of your family will be able to join you for free. This offer applies to any emergency services, such as police, firefighters and paramedics.
If you bring an empty Dr Pepper can to Fair Park any day after 5 p.m., you can get half off a general admission ticket. For those looking to beat the heat and wait until the sun sets, this might work out for everyone involved. Getting to the fair at 5 p.m. will allow you four hours to explore Sunday through Thursday, and five hours on Saturday and Sunday.
For those needing more time on the fairgrounds, every Tuesday you can present an empty Dr Pepper can for $9 admission. What do they do with all these empty cans? Why can’t you just say, “Hi, I like Dr Pepper, it’s fine,” and they just let you pay $9? Have we not developed a better system than trading trash like we’re living in some post-apocalyptic wasteland? Anyway, a majority of the rides are discounted that day as well.
On Wednesdays, bring four cans of food to be donated to the North Texas Food Bank and score a $4 ticket. This will most likely be the cheapest way to enter the fair without trying to dig a tunnel in. Plus you’re helping people. You can go to the bar afterward and brag about how much of a humanitarian you are to impress strangers.
On Thursdays, you have two major discounts available. The first is, if you bring a 20-ounce Coca-Cola bottle, your ticket is $9 because the people at the fair apparently love trash. Thursdays are also Senior Days, so anyone 60 or older gets into the fair for free. The two groups create a healthy mix of people hopped up on caffeine dodging motorized carts operated by seniors who lack spatial awareness.
How to Get There
Parking your car at the fair, from any distance that is considered a reasonable walk to the gate, is going to cost at the very least $20. So play the game of, is it more or less than $20. If an Uber or Lyft costs less than $20 round trip, do it. It’s even cheaper to go with a group, promise to split the Uber, then keep conveniently forgetting every time they bring up paying them back. If you want to keep friends, DART is the cheapest choice. With the new fares in place since this summer, a ticket on DART after noon is valid for the rest of the day’s scheduled services and only costs $3.
Here’s the not-so-secret fact about the State Fair: You can bring a cooler of food and drinks in with you. The only catch is nothing can be alcoholic, but if you were planning on bringing a roller cooler filled with beer to the fair, find a support group. You could probably bring a cooler filled with food to a lot of places, like a shopping mall, a library or a high school reunion, but never do. Take advantage of it by at least packing some waters. The State Fair might be the only place you can get deep-fried biscuits and gravy, but that doesn’t mean you need to pay $6 for a root beer.
If you choose to not pack anything, keep an eye out for stations selling bottles of water for two tickets, or $1, all over the grounds. This will be by far the best deal you can get, and with the eat and grease working against you, you’ll probably crave and need water more than a soda. This way if you’re spending less tickets on the drinks, you can free up more money for all the weird deep-fried carbs at each stand. Keep in mind, a cheap deep fryer costs around $30, so get the things at the fair you really will never see again. Anyone can throw a Snickers bar into a deep fryer and wait for it to smell like sadness.
Pro Tip: If you’ve been waiting for a Fletcher’s Corny Dog for 11 months, but then get turned off when you see the long line, don’t get discouraged. There’s at least three different places around the grounds to buy them; it’s just the location near the entrance is a magnet for people with no patience.
Rides and Games
Because we’ve lightly touched on ticket costs, let’s go over the breakdown on that. Tickets are sold at the booths in increments of 20 for $10. Of course they’ll offer to sell you 60 at a time for $30, but it’s best to buy the smallest amount and go from there. Here’s why:
There’s different types of currency you’ll operate in while you’re at the fair. Tickets, they apply to rides and food; credits, they apply to Midway games; and regular old-fashioned cash is for any weird-smelling blanket or haunted wooden toy you decide to buy in one of the craft tents. So if you load up on tickets at the beginning thinking this is your standard currency, you might end up getting stuck with a lot of tickets you have no use for. There is a strict no-refund policy, and no matter how many times we try, TXU won’t take them as payment for the electric bill. Buy a few, run out, get some more. There are stands to purchase tickets or credits every five feet, so it’s never like you’re going to be inconvenienced.
Midway games all cost about 10 credits each, i.e. $5, and rides were all ranging from 10 to 12 tickets each. May luck be with you to win the game and survive the ride.
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There are plenty of museums and attractions to look at that cost nothing at all, and better yet, get you out of the heat for a few moments. Dads love the car shows and everyone else loves the sections of massage chairs in the same exhibit hall. Sign up for a massage chair, plop in and try to relax while someone tries to sell you a mattress the entire time. It’s seems ridiculous, like who would buy a mattress based off a crappy massage from one of those chairs, but one day recently we watched a debit card get swiped for an amount north of $800. Most expensive massage given in a chair ever.
For parents with little kids, check out the Kids’ Boardwalk, an area filled with live shows, magic acts and games to play, all completely free of charge. The Kids’ Boardwalk is also a great place to recharge your batteries in some shade before you put more sugar into the little monsters you love. Another great spot to take your mini me's is the Home on the Range exhibit located in the Coliseum. There the kids can pet some animals, do some hands-on farm activities and you can wince each time an animal almost bites your child.
That’s what we recommend to save a few dollars. What did we miss? What’re your top money-saving techniques when you take on the State Fair of Texas?