It's the moment all you fried food aficionados have been waiting for: The gates are open at Fair Park and the 2015 State Fair of Texas is now underway through Sunday, October 18.
Whether you're a State Fair newbie or just need a little refresher course, here are some tips to make sure your visit is as painless as possible. Just don't forget your Lipitor.
WHEN TO GO
- Gates open daily at 7 a.m. if you just want to gawk at the sights (or enjoy a morning run past Big Tex?), but the majority of the attractions including food will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
- Only the bravest souls who don't mind major crowds should hit up opening weekend; the Fair is considerably less crowded on weekdays, particularly during the morning hours. Other days to avoid like the plague: October 9 and October 16, which are DISD Fair Days — meaning the place will be crawling with school-age kids even moreso than usual; and October 10, which is the date of the hallowed Texas/OU game.
- Many will attest to the fact that food seems to taste better closer to the beginning of the fair, when fryer oil is fresh and the staffers are at the top of their game. If you plan on sampling as many fried foods as your body can handle, consider going sooner rather than later.
HOW TO GET THERE
- There's plenty of parking spaces to be had at Fair Park, but it'll cost you: $15, to be exact. If you've got a pickup truck (or know someone who does and is willing to lend it out), you can get free parking at the lot off 2nd Avenue and Ash thanks to Nissan. Score.
- Avoid the parking nightmare altogether by taking DART. Take the Green Line to Fair Park Station, which will deposit you right at the front gates. A DART day pass is just $5; if you're going early in the day, you may be able to get away with a midday pass (good for unlimited travel between 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. weekdays) for a mere $1.75.
- Another viable option: Uber. The average fare from Uptown to Fair Park is only $5; from the M Streets, around $7. Just watch out for that pesky surge pricing.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY
- A visit to the fair can do major wallet damage if you're not careful. A word of advice: Don't pay full price for admission tickets. CultureMap's Teresa Gubbins lays out every possible way to snag discount tickets, including getting a package deal that includes ride/food coupons, buying tickets in advance at Kroger, or using Coca-Cola or Dr Pepper cans for discounted admission.
- If you're planning to stuff your face with a lot of fried foods, consider scoping out Thrifty Thursdays. Every Thursday during the Fair's run, a select group of foods will be heavily discounted; these include 2014 Big Tex Choice Award winner the Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil, as well as some other interesting ones like the new Fried Laredo Dumplings and Deep-Fried Nutter Butters.
WHAT TO EAT
- The Big Tex Choice Awards winners are always a good place to start; this year the Bacon Margarita nabbed Most Creative, while the deep-fried carrot cake roll took Best Tasting. The year's other nominees are also worth checking out, ranging from pricey chicken-fried lobster with champagne gravy to beer-battered buffalo. Other new foods this year piquing our interest include S'Mores beer (!!), deep-fried kettle corn, and chocolate-covered bacon on a stick. Don't forget the quintessential Fair classic, the Fletcher's corny dog.
- If you want a professional chef's take on what to eat, scope out Brian Luscher's fried food reviews from last year, as most if not all of the foods will be available again this go around — and stay tuned for more chef reports from this year's State Fair.