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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Article Courtesy of Culture Map
In a major upset, Froot Loops were completely bypassed at the 13th Annual Big Tex Awards, announced at a judging ceremony in the Tower Building on August 27. And yet, one dish won two awards: Props to the Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger, the big winner, earning trophies both for "Most Creative" and for "Best Taste Savory." Winning for "Best Taste Sweet" was Gulf Coast Fish Bowl, a cocktail with blue punch.
The Big Tex Awards, aka the "fried food awards," is the splashy annual event in which concessionaires submit creations they'll serve at the fair that year. The contest has not only become one of the biggest publicity generators for the State Fair, it has lent a modern facade to what was previously a declining, dowdy event. Prior winners have included fried butter and fried Jell-O.
This year, Fair organizers increased the total finalists from 8 to 10. Also for the first time, they handed out three awards, instead of two. Previously, it was "Best Taste" and "Most Creative." This year, they broke the Best Taste category into "Sweet" and "Savory."
Would it be considered a backfire that one dish won two awards? Having one dish win two awards is surely not the outcome they anticipated. Meanwhile, that must be one heckuva Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger.
The full list of finalists included:
Deep Fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a Stick. Homestyle chicken noodle soup deep fried and served on a stick.
Deep Fried Froot Loops. Sweetened Froot Loops folded into marshmallow, dipped in batter, and fried.
Fat Smooth. Three mini cream puffs on a skewer.
Fernie's Fried Texas Sheet Cake. Chocolate brownie cake coated in panko and ground cocoa puffs and fried.
Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger. Burger with bacon and queso on two funnel cake "buns."
Gulf Coast Fish Bowl. A cocktail with blue alcoholic punch served in a round plastic cup that's meant to look like an aquarium.
Pinot Noir Popcorn. Cheddar-cheese flavored kettle corn dusted with a Pinot Noir burgundy wine powder.
Surfin' Turfin' Tator Boat. Baked potato stuffed with lobster and steak.
Texas Fajita Fries. Meat "fries" made of breaded beef fajita strips, seasoned with Sriracha and served in a bread cone.
The Tamale Donut. Pork tamale served in a doughnut shape.
While the additional number of entries amped up the volume, it also threatened to bog down the judging event. To "help move time along," each savory finalist was supposedly randomly selected to be paired with a sweet finalist.
Deep Fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a Stick was paired with Pinot Noir Popcorn. Texas Fajita Fries were paired with Fat Smooth. Surfin' Turfin' Tator Boat was paired with the Gulf Coast Fish Bowl cocktail. The Tamale Donut was paired with the Deep Fried Froot Loops. The two heaviest items, the Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger and the Texas Fried Sheet Cake, were last.
Could the pairings have had an effect on the ultimate winners? That seems like a definite possibility. Nothing against the Tamale Donut, but is it possible it dragged down the Froot Loops, which was surely the rightful winner?
Article courtesy of Culture Map
Whether you’re not about that seven-and-a-half-hour drive out west or you’ve had it up to here with all the hype, Marfa is far from your only option when you’re looking for a unique weekend getaway. There’s plenty of quirk out there that makes for one-of-a-kind escapes. Here are five spots we recommend adding to your travel bucket list:
Halfway between Austin and Houston in Round Top is Rancho Pillow, a 20-acre compound marked by Technicolor accommodations that are the definition of whimsy. It all started as an artistic family home but has since become a playful wonderland for the public.
Rancho Pillow offers a few lodging options, each boasting its own quirks. There’s the expansive Red House, the charming Love Shack, the funky Tower House, the intimate Teepee, and the 18th-century Barn (a sort of centerpiece for the whole place). Round Top is nationally renowned for its annual antiques fair, so it’s only fitting that there are various vintage items around the place along with additional eccentric touches.
During your stay, don’t feel restricted to hide out in your chosen abode. Feel free to wander the grounds where you’ll find a bathhouse, heated saltwater wading pool, playground, and fire pit. When you’ve had enough rest and relaxation, you can ask the staff to set up some outdoor games for you like Frisbee golf, croquet, or kickball.
11222 Schuster Rd., Round Top
For the other four destination, check out the entire article on Culture Map.
An opening date of November 2017 has been set for the Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark, a new recreational facility in Grand Prairie at State Highway 161 and the Waterwood Drive.
The water park will be an indoor-outdoor venue with a retractable roof that's open year round. For water park fans, that's a cut above its obvious competition a few miles away, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, which is open seasonally only.
It's part of The Epic recreation center, which will feature fitness equipment, indoor tracks, a digital library, and recording studio. The complex will also have a 5,000-seat amphitheater, and more than two miles of trails.
The park will have nine water slides, including an outdoor wave pool, a lazy river, an activity pool, a children's area, and an arcade. There will be cabanas, a full-service grill/bar, and private party/meeting areas, both indoor and outdoor.
Three of the slides have standout features. The Lasso Loop will be the tallest indoor aqualoop in the nation. The Yellowjacket Drop is an enclosed slide you ride with an inner tube; you come out onto an open drop that sends you high up onto a wall, creating a sense of zero gravity. The Aquanaut is the first double-rider ride, letting you ride with a friend.
The water park is running a giveaway for annual passes to the park; deadline to enter is July 1.
Article courtesy of Culture Map
Craft Beer Cellar is bringing beer bliss to Lakewood
Casa Linda resident Jim Waskow and his partner Stan Nauman are living the post-recession American dream. After years in the corporate world, Waskow at Sherwin Williams and Nauman at General Electric, they hung up their suits to pursue their real passion: beer.
Friends since they were students at Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, the pair has been interested in beer their whole lives, so they decided to make it their profession. Last year, they opened Craft Beer Cellar, the first Texas franchise for the East Coast chain, and have been serving up the suds ever since.
“We’re just a couple of corporate guys looking to do something fun,” Waskow smiles. “On our worst day, at least we’re working with beer.”
The business model is part specialty beer shop, part taproom. On the shop side, customers have hundreds of styles of beer to peruse and can mix-and-match their own six-pack. Craft Beer Cellar specializes in rare and European brews, but if you don’t see the one you want, just ask. They’re happy to order it for you. On the tap side, there are 16 beers on draught, which are switched with a new brew every time a keg runs dry.
“We do have one tap dedicated to German beers and another for Belgium beers,” Nauman says.
The partners consider themselves a bottle shop first and say 70 percent of the business is retail shoppers, versus customers who belly up to the bar. They also offer growlers for those who want to take fresh beer home.
The shop regularly offers beer education events, inviting in brewers from all over the world to talk suds and offer samples. On April 7, attend the free beer-and-cheese pairing with Real Ale Brewing Company, or come down April 14 when Founder’s Brewing releases its cult-followed KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout for those not in the beer-know).
While getting the business off the ground took longer than either Waskow or Nauman imagined, now that it’s up and running, they’re thrilled with the first six months. “It’s a chance to enjoy coming to work for the first time,” Waskow says. “That’s a welcome change.”
Craft Beer Cellar
Ambiance: Casual retail
Price Range: $6-$8
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday
6324 Gaston Ave.
Photo Credit: Kathy Tran
Article by Emily Charrier of Lakewood Advocate
Wynne McNabb Cunningham