Updated throughout with 2018 information on Sept. 28, 2018
Part of the fun of going to the fair is seeing the wonder in your kids' eyes as they take it all in. Big Tex has made sure there's plenty for smaller children to do at the fair — there's even a Kidway section of the midway for little ones not quite tall enough for the big rides. Here's a list of some of our favorite attractions, and where you can find them on the fair's official map. Bonus: They're all free with fair admission.
Home on the Range
The fair has done parents a favor —moved two very popular family attractions into one (air-conditioned) space. The Children's Health Barnyard petting zoo and the Little Hands on the Farm attraction have been relocated to the Coliseum building. It's a great pairing, as both are fun ways to introduce kids to the fair. The petting zoo, a treat for all ages, features pigs and piglets, goats, cows and a bevy of other critters, while Little Hands on the Farm lets kids up to about age 8 "work" their way through a day in the life of a farmer, harvesting eggs, planting seeds and driving tiny tractors. If you forget the petting zoo has moved and go to its old location, you're still in luck: It's now the Birthing Barn. Home on the Range is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Peewee Stampede and Rodeo / Kids' Pedal Tractor Pulls
Pretend your kids are rodeo riders at these two attractions. The Peewee Stampede lets kids 3-6 ride on stick horses — and even stick bulls — during mock rodeo events, daily in the Ranch Arena. Gear is provided to add to the fun. If your little kids liked the tractors at Little Hands on the Farm, you can bet the older ones will enjoy the tractor pulls. Kids 4-12 can test their tractor-driving skills in contests to see who can pull the most weight. Prizes — and cheering crowds — are involved. Try it out daily between the Swine Barn and Horse Barn.
Big Tex's Farmyard
Interactive exhibits as well as live animals including sheep teach fairgoers of all ages about agriculture and livestock's impact on our daily lives. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. near the Bandshell and the lagoon.
Check out kid-friendly shows, arts and crafts, face painting and games at this boardwalk along the southwestern edge of the Leonhardt Lagoon. Pro tip: Visit this area of the fair when the kids need some quieter time; it's much more low-key than the midway. Also unlike the midway, it's free. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Stretch the boundaries of bedtime a bit, because there's plenty of fun to be had at the fair in the evening. The Starlight Parade, held nightly at 7:15, is a merry little procession of illuminated floats, costumed characters and more. Pro tip: Watch the parade from the shores of Leonhardt Lagoon across from Cotton Bowl Plaza or in Big Tex Circle. Next, Head for the Esplanade (across from the main fair entrance) for the Mattress Firm Illumination Sensation light show, presented nightly at 8, featuring fireworks, as well as dancers and acrobats doing their thing with pop music playing in the background.
Tips for your fair trip
Plan it out: Do yourself a huge favor and print out the State Fair map ahead of time. With dozens of locations marked, plus numerous symbols for restrooms and such, it can be difficult to quickly find specific places within the fairgrounds. You'll soon discover that kids' activities are spread out over a lot of ground. Figure out which areas you want to visit and plot your path. Mark them on your printed map so you're not trying to navigate the fairgrounds among the crowds. Don't forget to take the map with you.
Save money on tickets: Admission for kids under 4 feet tall (48 inches) is $14; kids 3 and younger get in free. Also, check out this list of ways to get discount State Fair tickets.
Bring your own stroller (or wagon): If you decide after you arrive at the fair that you need one, strollers can be rented at these locations: the Pennsylvania pedestrian gate, inside the Parry entrance and at the Grand gate. Better to bring your own, if possible. Kids get tired from all the excitement of the fair.
Games: While food and rides require the use of State Fair coupons (priced two for $1 at various machines and booths around the park), games on the midway require the use of a reloadable Big Tex card, which you can find near the gaming areas.
Keep track of your kid: Do you have a runner? The first thing you need to do upon arriving at Fair Park is to take your kids to the nearest information stand and tag them with a Safe Kids ID Band that will help them if they get lost. The bracelet is designed to keep kids' names and info secure while giving parents two ways to "claim" their child should they become separated.
- The restroom situation: For those still in the diaper years, changing tables are located in every women's restroom and most men's restrooms. If you need some privacy to feed or change your infant, there are air-conditioned Baby Care stations near the intersection of Nimitz Drive and MLK Jr. Boulevard, on First Avenue near the children's aquarium, and near the Top O' Texas Tower.
- Limit the length of your visit: The fair has a lot going on — music, carnival sounds, crowds, games — so it can be a sensory overload for young kids. Plan to stay only about two to four hours if you have preschoolers or toddlers, unless you want to deal with tired-kid temper tantrums in public.
- Take lots of snacks and drinks: The fair (awesomely) allows guests to take in coolers, ice chests and food and drinks, so you can take munchies that will satisfy picky eaters. The best part: saving money on expensive fair foods. There are, of course, rules as to what you need to leave at home.
Follow your plan: There are so many awesome things to see and do at the fair that it's easy to get sidetracked. Schedule another trip to the fair if you find more things you want to do (a season pass is great for this), or start your fair to-do list for 2019.