Few events are more traditional and decidedly Texan than the State Fair of Texas. The annual event brings together Dallasites, Texans from across the state, and friends and family from afar eager to join the fun. School children even get a Fair Day off school! Since becoming a Texas resident, the State Fair has become one of my annual traditions as well. I couldn’t wait to take my son to his first State Fair even before he could stand.
Mastering your baby’s first State Fair of Texas visit takes a little bit of planning and flexibility for memories to last a lifetime.
Tips for Taking a Baby to the State Fair of Texas
1. The first (and hardest) step is deciding when to go.
Weekdays are typically the least crowded time, but watch out for different promotions; they can save money but may also make your day of choice a little busier. Every Thursday is senior discount day, which might be a great time to go if you’re planning to bring along baby’s grandparents. Dr Pepper Value Days are every Tuesday and Thursday during the Fair—you can purchase your admission ticket online for a reduced price of only $10. Become a Big Tex Insider for even more discounts! Avoid the football weekends of the State Fair Classic (October 1) and Red River Showdown (October 8) unless it’s a family tradition, since those are the two busiest times.
2. Buy your tickets in advance to save time when you arrive.
You can purchase tickets beginning September 12 online or at local Kroger locations. Children two and under are free. You can also purchase food and ride coupons, the essential currency of the State Fair. Food and ride coupons never expire, so remember any extra you have saved from previous years and don’t throw away your leftovers!
3. Dress the part.
This is the perfect opportunity for baby-sized cowboy boots and a miniature cowboy hat to shade your baby’s face. Otherwise, wear comfortable clothing for lots of walking and the hot Texas sun. A warning for those new to Dallas: October usually still feels very much like summertime.
4. Screenshot or print the fairgrounds map before you leave home (and plan your route).
Distances always seem to be farther than they appear. The daily schedule and where to find your favorite fair food is available online as well. I like to plan a circular route based on which gate we plan to enter and note the locations of the fried foods I want to sample.
5. Take the DARTto the fair.
Walk or park for free at your closest DART station and purchase tickets to ride to Fair Park Station. The train stops directly in front of the fair gates. Ride between 9:30am to 2:30pm for off-peak reduced fares. Children under 5 are free when accompanied by an adult.
6. Skip the stroller and opt for babywearing.
Besides the usual babywearing benefits like nursing-on-the-go or traveling hands-free, this will help keep baby close while maneuvering around crowded areas, allow you to walk right up the stairs into buildings for air-conditioning breaks, and enable you to take baby with you on gentle rides like the gondolas or the famous Texas Star Ferris Wheel. You can always rent a stroller or wagon for the day if you change your mind.
7. Arrive before the rides open.
Fair gates open at 10am, but most rides don’t typically start until 11am or noon. Events and activities like pig races, the Oncor Petting Zoo, Texas Auto Show, Go Texan Pavilion and, of course, fried foods are available as soon as the gates open. (The Texas Auto Show is not just for car lovers, it’s also a huge, air-conditioned area for when you need a break from the Texas sun!) You’ll find plenty to enjoy, be one of the first in line for your rides of choice, and finish your time at the fair before the afternoon and evening rush…plus, you might even make it back home before your baby’s next nap time!
8. Build in breaks to cool off, feed your baby, and relax.
Some people don’t realize you can find plenty of dining options even if fried food isn’t your thing! My favorite spot is the Go Texan Pavilion, an indoor air-conditioned exhibit exclusively featuring products made in Texas. There’s a general store inside where you can pay with cash or credit to stock up on your favorite Texan items and find some of the cheapest bottled water for sale at the fair. There are also usually vendors with free samples. Walk through to the other side for my other favorite spot, the Texas Wine Garden underneath a canopy of colorful umbrellas.
9. Take advantage of the fair’s family-friendly atmosphere.
While Texas law allows mothers to nurse anywhere they are legally allowed to be, there are also three Baby Care Centers throughout the fair for added convenience, and they come equipped with electrical outlets in case you need to pump, warm up formula, or recharge in a private spot with baby. Changing stations are located in every women’s restroom and some men’s restrooms.
10. Start your baby’s Texas tradition of an annual photo with Big Tex.
No visit to the State Fair of Texas is complete without saying, “Howdy” to Big Tex and checking out his latest custom Dickie’s shirt and boots. Another reason to visit in the morning: The sunlight will hit Big Tex’s face just right for the cutest photo opportunities.
11. Finally, know when it’s time to go home.
Like most activities involving babies, set your expectations that you’ll cover less ground than you would journeying to the fair before baby. If you can swing it, consider breaking your baby’s fair visit into multiple different trips. We went first with a friend visiting from out of town, then revisited our priority list for a second trip when my parents came a couple weeks later.
Visiting the State Fair of Texas is unlike any other event in the world. Whether it’s your first trip or a family tradition, you’ll be glad you took time to think about how to make it the best visit with your baby.
Here are more great tips on taking kids to the State Fair of Texas!