The Fall season in Texas means a few things: football, mildly cooler temps, and the State Fair of Texas. The Texas State Fair was established in 1886 which makes this year its 133-year birthday. 2019’s fair brought in over 2.5 million people for fun, entertainment, and good food.
This year my family and I decided to take a road trip to see what the fair is all about. Is there really anything more Texan than driving to the state fair in a big ol’ truck? I think not! So we set off on I-45 N in a Chevy Silverado early on a Saturday morning with hopes of getting to the fair by lunchtime – the famous food of the fair was calling our name.
What to Pack
Everyone knows that Texas weather is finicky, so I was prepared for all seasons. My kids wore shorts with a sweatshirt or fleece readily available, and we took jeans just in case. Hats and sunscreen are a definite necessity for the fair, because the Texas sun will get you every time. We only had a carry-on with us, and we loaded it up into the bed of the Silverado. There was plenty of room for everything we needed in the back seat. My kids had ample leg room even with their backpacks at their feet.
Where to Stop
About two hours into the trip, we decided to stop for a little break at Woody’s Smokehouse in Centerville. This is a favorite of ours because not only do they have really great Texas BBQ, they also have homemade bread (jalapeño is my favorite), jams and jellies, and their famous made from scratch fudge. We loaded up on snacks and got back on the road, but not before my daughter decided to sit in the front seat with us. While most trucks have a center console for extra storage, the Silverado has a console that converts to a seat – making it available for 6 passengers instead of the typical 5.
The State Fair of Texas – What to Eat
Two hours later and we were finally at the Texas State Fair! Parking and getting in were a little challenging, but when we hit the front gate – we were ready. The first thing we did was checkout the food. The fair is known for its crazy and over the top food items, and this year was no different.
Each year the Big Tex Choice Award is given to the best food items in different categories. Everything from fried beer to fried peaches and cream has an opportunity to be the best. This year Ruth’s Stuffed Fried Taco Cone and Big Red Chicken Bread were the winners in the savory and sweet categories, so I knew I had to try them. It was not meant to be however, after standing in line for 15 minutes, there were no taco cones left and the line for the Big Red Chicken Bread was just too long. I did however find a Fajita Fries Taco which was a taco filled with breaded and fried fajita strips – very reminiscent of chicken fried steak. The meat was covered with the usual toppings of lettuce, tomato, onions and salsa – it was beyond delicious.
I had also heard about Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dogs and was a bit intrigued. The lines for these corn dogs though were really amazing. They wrapped, stretched, and typically blocked traffic all over the fair – yes, they are that famous. Full from my fried fajita taco, I didn’t get to try them.
There are so many opportunities for good food at the fair, just make sure you have packed your patience, because the lines can get long. Eating during off peak hours will help, but I never saw the line for Fletcher’s Corn Dogs go down…ever.
The State Fair of Texas – What to do
There is so much to do, see, and explore – I would recommend having a game plan going in. There is an entire agricultural section with different animals on display. Each year more than 5,000 students participate in agricultural events at the fair. There is live music, shopping, shows, and of course the Midway which is full of carnival style games, contests, and rides. Tickets are used for food and rides and cost about $0.50 each with the average ride being between 10-12 tickets. The most popular is the Texas Star Ferris Wheel which takes you up 212 feet up in the air and gives great views not only of the fair but also downtown Dallas.
After taking in as much as we could, including a requisite photo with Big Tex, we were ready to say adios. We really enjoyed our day – it was both overwhelming and truly a one of a kind event.
On the Road Again…
After spending the night in Dallas, we were back on I-45 this time headed south towards Houston. I knew we had to make one more stop, this time at the Madisonville Buc-ee’s. Just like the State Fair of Texas, Buc-ee’s is a Texas institution with it’s own food culture, shopping experiences, and what they are most well-known for – clean restrooms. The Silverado blended right in with the sea of trucks in the parking lot. We once again loaded up on snacks, filled up the tank, and hit the road.
Experiencing the State Fair of Texas is one of those things you have to do at least once. You’ll embrace the crowds, savor the food, and vow to return the next year for a new selfie with Big Tex.
Photo Credit: Big Red Chicken Bread: Jen Branks, Fried Taco Cone: DMagazine