The State Fair of Texas returns this fall with a "Celebrating Texas Agriculture" theme, kicking off Friday, September 30. Although that may seem far away, it will be here sooner than you think. The State Fair team is already prepping and planning for the big event. Shouldn't we be doing the same?
For us, prepping and planning boils down to one thing: discounts. Every year we tackle the topic: How many ways can we find to get a bargain? It's not that we're cheap. We just want to save every cent we have for the food, drink, and entertainment.
We've dug up more than a dozen ways to enjoy the State Fair at a marked-down rate. We'll start our countdown to the big event by spotlighting a money-saving tip every Friday.
Discount tip No. 1: Season passes
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 to your hot little hands early, you're essentially getting a second season pass for only $5 (or two for $45, however you want to look at it). This deal is available only at BigTex.com.
All season passes come with extra perks, like one free single-day bring-a-friend ticket, a free State Fair of Texas reusable tote bag, a free commemorative Big Tex photo, a free Midway Race Game, a coupon for $5 off the 2016 State Fair Cookbook, and 10 percent off all State Fair gear at official merchandise stores.
Discount tip No. 2: Buy your tickets in advance
If a season pass is not for you, you still have multiple options to save. Back for another year is DART's GoPass app. Starting on September 12, you can save $2 on individual tickets and pre-buy DART tickets to get you to the fair. The best part is your tickets are right there on your phone, ready to be activated whenever you want to use them.
Similar to the season pass combo is a family deal for individual tickets. The Family Four-Pack deal gives you four one-time-only general admission tickets and 100 food/ride coupons for just $99, a 26 percent saving over normal ticket prices. There's also a $189 family pack that ups the food/ride coupon number to 300 or a $69 combo pack that gives you two general admission tickets and 100 food/ride coupons.
You can also save a little 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.
Discount tip No. 3: Opening day deals
Going to the State Fair on opening day (this year, it's September 30) always saves a little money, but now there are two ways to save. As always, anyone who brings in a full 20-ounce Dasani water or Coca-Cola product on opening day gets in for half price. No cheating: Every person in your group must have a bottle to get the discount.
And new this year is the OneMain Financial Military Appreciation Day on opening day, which offers free admission for all active military, retired military, and veterans, as well as their spouses and children under 18. Both military members and spouses must present valid military IDs at the gate.
Discount tip No. 4: North Texas Food Bank deal
If you choose to bring in a 20-ounce Dasani water or Coca-Cola product on opening day, those products are donated to the North Texas Food Bank. Your philanthropy can get you even more discounts every Wednesday during the State Fair, as every person who brings in at least four cans of food for the North Texas Food Bank on October 5, 12, or 19 gets in for just $4.
Discount tip No. 5: Senior deals
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 single day. But nothing can beat the deal they get every Thursday on Seniorific Senior Days (October 6, 13, and 20), as those lucky ducks get in for free.
Discount tip No. 6: 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 good for tickets purchased at the gate and cannot be combined with any other offer.
Discount tip No. 7: Dr Pepper deals
Don't recycle all those empty Dr Pepper cans. Save 'em up, as every person with one gets $5 admission all day on Tuesdays — October 4, 11, and 18 — or half-price tickets after 5 pm any day of the week.
Discount tip No. 8: Thrifty Thursdays
After opening day, feel free to drink those 20-ounce Coca-Cola products, but hold on to them, as you can get in for just $6 every Thursday — October 6, 13, and 20 — with an empty 20-ounce Coke bottle. Also, back again for 2016 are discounts on certain popular food items every Thursday. Not only are there deals on State Fair classics like Frito pies, cotton candy, and funnel cakes, but deals on specialty foods can be had too. In all, you can get discounts on more than 60 items, most of them half-price or more; check out this handy State Fair map for a full list of vendors and foods.
Discount tip No. 9: KISS-FM Fridays
You can get $5 off general admission on Fridays — October 7, October 14, and October 21 — simply by going to the KISS-FM website and printing a coupon for every member of your group. The discount does not apply to senior or children's tickets.
Discount tip No. 10: 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. Groups can also pre-purchase food/ride coupons and get special rental spaces.
Discount tip No. 11: Discounts on Midway rides
Tuesdays are a great day to go to the fair, as you can get your $5 Dr Pepper ticket and then save more inside, when all rides except for thrill rides and the Texas Star are only six coupons. If you buy a season pass combo and only go on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you've found the perfect way to save a bundle.