Happy Texas State Fair Week from your Ambassador of Fun and State Fair of Texas veteran, Kristina. I’ve been to the fair more than 20 times in my life! I’ve earned my Corny Dog Accomplishment Patches, let me tell you! Each time I walked into Fair Park, I took in every inch of the place, fascinated (as I am still) with everything it has to offer!
Whether this year will be your first or your 100th visit to the fair, you’ll probably find something fun you didn’t know you could have in my handy A to Z Guide to the State Fair of Texas.
Kristina poses with Big Tex on Opening Day at the State Fair of Texas 2016.
One section of this guide will publish each day of this week, so look for A to E today, F to I Tuesday, J to M Wednesday, N-R Thursday and the first day of the fair, Friday, September 28th, look for S to Z, right here on the front page of FunCityStuff.com.
Automobiles and Architecture
I picked automobiles to launch this list, not because I’m a car lover, but because the Automobile building is one of the most important buildings at the state fair. It and the Centennial building face each other from opposite sides of the esplanade.
They’re the first buildings on that beautiful, larger-than-life walkway as you enter from the main gate. Both are a great source of another important thing that starts with A – air conditioning!
Insider tip: For some reason, this building and its contents generate a lot of static electricity. When I was a kid, I loved it, and as an adult, it’s not too off-putting. But if you’re a first-timer, don’t let it shock you (or take you by surprise).
While appreciating the a/c, you can also enjoy the Texas Auto Show which is the largest new car show in Texas and in the entire Southwestern United States. Partnered with the State Fair of Texas since 1913, the auto show considers itself a complete annual show in and of itself – and one that’s always free with State Fair admission. That’s fair enough, given that you can see somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 new vehicle models in those two buildings and in the outdoor Texas Truck Zone.
In the Texas Truck Zone, you can do much more than look at trucks. You’ll find some fun entertainment and activities along with some of the best selfie/photo opportunities you’ll have at the fair.
The Texas Auto Show also includes the Classic Corral where vintage vehicles get their due. You’ll find it on MLK Jr. Blvd, south of the Midway, toward Gate 6.
The Art Deco style buildings at Fair Park are worth a visit any time of year, but especially during the Texas state fair. Imagine how glorious they must have been to the fairgoers of 1936!
African American Museum
The African American Museum came along much later than the original expo buildings, but the architecture and the art inside are both eye-catching and meaningful. While you’re at the fair, make time to see hundreds of artifacts and art pieces at the special exhibit Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello.
Big Tex, Beer, and Butter
There’s no getting’ around it—Big Tex is the State Fair of Texas, and the state fair is Big Tex. You can look to him (literally) to help you find your way around Fair Park. (And if you’ve never been to the fair, you’ll want to. Trust me, Fair Park is big.)
A selfie or family photo with the big guy is an absolute must. You’ll also find Neon Big Tex in the park and you might even run into Little Big Tex roaming around the fairgrounds.
If your day at the fair must include beer to be perfect, you’ll be happy to see some brews at vendor booths throughout the park. You’ll also find beer at:
- Beer Haven
- Trio on the Green
- Texas Ice House
Magnolia Beer Garden
Prices will vary by vendor, and the beers offered will range from standard domestics to Texas craft beers to unique fair-themed ales. While Corn Dog Ale didn’t make it out of the semi-finals in the Big Tex Choice Awards, you may still find it on offer at the fair. In previous years, beer has made a showing in the awards, and some of those may be available too. The award for most creative went to Funnel Cake Ale in 2014 and to Fried Beer in 2010.
Another must-see that starts with B is the Butter Sculpture you’ll find in the Creative Arts Building. As of this writing, the sculptor and subject have not been announced publicly but past butter sculptures have always been astonishing.
Corny dogs, Chevrolet Stage, Cotton Bowl & More
Corny dog or didn’t happen! With few exceptions, if you haven’t had a corny dog from Fletcher’s, you haven’t been to the fair. And if you’re calling it a “corndog,” you’re out of the club.
There are other corny dog vendors at the state fair, but for local fairgoers, it’s gotta be a Fletchers corny dog. Brothers Carl and Neil Fletcher appear to have invented the corn dog (as we know it today) and popularized it as a state fair food. (They were way ahead of all the other “put things on a stick” guys.)
Dentonites will be pleased to know that Morrison’s (known for their Corn-Kits) figures prominently in the recipe story.
The brothers sold their first corny dogs at the State Fair of Texas in 1942, and unbeknownst to them, a Texas icon was born. Decades later, the business is still in the family and the family recipe hasn’t changed, but Fletcher’s now offers turkey, jalapeno and cheese, and veggie/soy dogs alongside the beef and pork originals.
Lots of great State Fair of Texas things start with C. Just to mention a few, there’s coupons, cattle barns, the Coliseum, the Chevrolet Main Stage, the Creative Arts Building, the Cotton Bowl, and cotton candy. While we’re checking C words, let’s not forget that the Big Tex Choice Award winner for Most Creative went to the Cotton Candy Taco.
Dallas Police and DART
The state fair takes security seriously, and over the years, Dallas Police presence has become an expected and welcome part of the scenery. You’ll see officers keeping an eye out from their familiar podium posts and you’ll see them in golf carts and on horses, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Check out the Dallas Police Mounted Demo or K-9 Team Demo in Ranch Arena and watch for their motorcycle or mounted unit (or both) leading off the nightly parade.
Another D word that’s closely linked both to Big D and to the state fair is DART, short for Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Singles, couples, and many families and small groups find it beneficial to ride the DART green line to the state fair instead of driving there and parking. It’s been my preferred method of getting to the fair for years.Here’s a link to the DART page that is particularly helpful for riders to and from the State Fair. There’s also a DART app you can download to your phone for free.
The Esplanade and Embarcadero
If you’ve ever been to the State Fair of Texas or to Fair Park any other time of year, you know how beautiful the Esplanade is. You might not know how to pronounce it, but a mental picture of it comes to mind whenever you think of the state fair and the park it makes its home in.
The 700-foot-long reflecting pool contains multiple fountains that produce dancing waters all day and spring up accompanied by a music and lights show at night.
Art Deco buildings line both sides of the walkway. Near each building entrance, you’ll find a larger-than-life sculpture – there are six in all. Each one represents one of the six flags that flew over Texas during its history. Like the fountains during the nightly Illumination Sensation show, the sculptures are breathtaking when backlit at night.
At its end of the esplanade walkway sits the stunning Hall of State, which many consider the crown jewel of these 1936 exposition buildings.
Strolling through the Embarcadero is a little bit like walking through an “As Seen on TV” convention. If you’re like me, I guarantee you’ll see:
- A countless number of product categories from accessories to tools to pets to home décor and more
- Something you’ve never seen anywhere else, and
- At least one or two things that would make your life immeasurably better in some way, right this very minute.
All photos by the author
You can see all of the 2018 Texas State Fair Guides here.