State Fair on the Cheap

How to get every possible discount at the 2017 State Fair of Texas

How to get every possible discount at the 2017 State Fair of Texas

Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas runs September 29-October 22. Photo by Jason Hays

The 2017 State Fair of Texas starts its 24-day run at Fair Park on Friday, September 29. For many, the fair is an annual ritual, a segue from summer to fall, and a touchstone of life in Texas. For us, it's all about the discounts. Call us cheap — but when State Fair time rolls around, our thoughts turn to finding the best ways to save a little cash.

Tickets are $18 for general admission and $14 for seniors and kids under 48 inches tall. But with the multitude of options that allow you to pay much less than that, why would anyone pay the normal price?

Below are the many ways we've found for you to save money on tickets to State Fair of Texas:

The season pass
If you plan on going to the State Fair more than once, a season pass is the way to go. Although you could just buy individual season passes for $39.95 each (or $34.95 at participating Kroger stores) and still claim a good deal, everyone knows the two biggest reasons to attend are the food and the rides.

That's why the $95 Season Pass Combo Pack, which includes two season passes and 100 food/ride tickets (worth $50), is the much better deal. Not only will you have the food/ride tickets delivered early to your hot little hands, you're essentially getting a second season pass for only $5 (or two for $45, however you want to look at it). If for some reason you don't want the food/ride tickets, you can also get two season passes for just $49.95, a huge savings in and of itself. These deals are available only at BigTex.com.

All season passes come with extra perks: one free single-day bring-a-friend ticket, a free State Fair of Texas reusable bag (limited to first 8,000 people), a free Midway Race Game, a coupon for $5 off the 2017 State Fair Cookbook, 10 percent off all State Fair gear at official merchandise stores, and special discounts on Fair food and Midway rides.

Buy your ticket in advance
If a season pass is not for you, you still have multiple options to save. Tickets bought in advance through BigTex.com are $1.50 off — but we recommend waiting until DART's GoPass app starts selling tickets in September. At $2 off, you'll get an extra 50-cent savings on individual tickets, plus you can also pre-buy DART tickets to get you to the Fair. The best part is that your tickets are right there on your phone, ready to be activated whenever you're ready to use them.

Similar to the season pass combo is a family deal for individual tickets. The Family Four-Pack gives you four one-time-only general admission tickets and 100 food/ride coupons for $99. That's a 26-percent savings over normal ticket prices. If you want more, there's also a $199 family pack that ups the food/ride coupon number to 300; if you want less, there's a $79 combo pack that gets you two general admission tickets and 100 food/ride coupons. For a little extra savings courtesy of CultureMap, you can also use promo code CULTURECOMBO5 and get $5 off the two ticket combo pack.

You can also save by buying advance tickets at Kroger. General admission tickets there cost $16.50, but no senior or children discounts are available. Keep in mind that kids 2 and under do not require a ticket.

Opening day deals
Unfortunately, gone are the days when the State Fair offered half-price deals on opening day. Now, anyone who brings in a full 20-ounce Dasani water or Coca-Cola product for donation to the North Texas Food Bank gets in for $10. No cheating: Every person in your group must have a bottle to get the discount.

Back again for the second year is Military Appreciation Day, which offers free admission for all active military, retired military, and veterans, as well as their spouses and children under 18 on opening day only. Both military members and spouses must present valid military IDs at the gate.

First Responders Day
On October 13, First Responders Day will honor various active and retired public law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency services agencies. All first responders, plus up to three family members, receive free admission to the Fair when they present a valid badge or ID card from their department or organization at the gate.

McDonald's coupons
The next time you eat at Mickey D's, make sure to check your tray liner or bag for State Fair coupons. You'll find ones for $5 off general admission any day, and ones that offer half-price tickets for kids when an adult pays full price. All coupons are only good for tickets purchased at the gate and cannot be combined with any other offer.

Dr Pepper Tuesdays
Don't toss your empty Dr Pepper cans. Save 'em up, as every person with one gets $6 admission all day on Tuesdays — October 3, 10, and 17 — or half-price tickets after 5 pm any day of the week.

North Texas Food Bank Wednesdays
Every Wednesday during the State Fair is Philanthropy Day, and the discount is large. Bring in at least four cans of food for the North Texas Food Bank on October 4, 11, or 18, and you get in for just $4.

Senior steals
Seniors 60 and over have it made in the shade — or the sun, more likely — as they can get into the fair for $4 off every day. But nothing beats the deal they get every Thursday on Seniorific Senior Days (October 5, 12, and 19): They get in totally for free.

Thrifty Thursdays
Thursdays have two ways to save. The first involves 20-ounce Coca-Cola products. If you drink them, hold on to your empties, as you can get in for just $7 every Thursday — October 5, 12, and 19 — with an empty 20-ounce Coke bottle.

Back again for 2017 are special Thursday discounts on more than 60 popular food items. Those include State Fair classics like Frito pies, cotton candy, and funnel cakes, and deals on specialty foods too. Most are half-price or better; check out this handy State Fair map for a full list of vendors and foods.

NorthPark Center
If you want to save some money and do some good, you might want get your tickets from NorthPark Center. They are offering tickets for $15 each, with $5 from each ticket given directly to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Proceeds will benefit The Salvation Army and American Red Cross. Tickets are available through the final day of the fair, October 22, at the NorthPark Concierge, located on Level One near Neiman Marcus.

AdPages Giveaway
AdPages.com is once again giving away 500 tickets to the Fair in the form of family four-packs. To enter for a chance to win, fill out this form on its website. As with many giveaway contests, you can share your entry on Facebook to earn more entries. 

Group tickets
Not everyone can take advantage of this discount, but for anyone coming with a big group, you can rack up the savings. Groups of 20-249 people can get in for $12 each, or $6 off regular admission, which equals the best single-ticket price you can normally buy. If you happen to have a group of 250 or more, you can get tickets for $10 each.

New this year are Group Value Packs, which include admission tickets, food and ride coupons, and $10 Midway game cards. Packs are available for 20, 35, 50, and 75 people. Groups can also pre-purchase food/ride coupons and get special rental spaces.

Discounts on Midway rides
Tuesdays are a great day to go to the Fair. Not only can you get your $6 Dr Pepper ticket, you can save more inside, when all rides (except for thrill rides and the Texas Star) are discounted. If you buy a season pass combo and only go on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you've found the perfect way to save a bundle.