State Fair of Texas Drive-Thru Experience
There was plenty of consternation about the fate of the State Fair of Texas as we approached the summer months and cases of COVID-19 were spiking at their highest rates yet. How would the State Fair go on with the such a great risk to public health? Surveys were sent to the Big Tex Insiders and Season Pass holders (which I am, of course) and I was completely honest. I didn't see how it would be possible in any version of the "normal" proceedings. They offered options of limited capacity, mask requirements, and hand sanitizing stations among others, but if you've been to the Fair, you know there was just no safe way to enforce masks while offering up the largest selection of hand held fried foods known to man. So, to most Texans' chagrin, the State Fair was canceled in early July. It was the right call, despite what the dumpster fire of a comments section might say. There was no way to ensure the Fair did not become a super spreader event given how unpredictable the future of the pandemic is even today.
But in a shocking turn of events just over 6 weeks later, the State Fair of Texas had been saved (sort of) by the announcement of the Drive-Thru Experience! It would be a taste of the Fair experience complete with the fair food staples and a portrait with Big Tex. I bought my tickets the day they went on sale. There was no way I was missing out on Opening Day as it has become tradition since I moved a less than a mile from the main gate.
I had no idea what to expect as my trusty Opening Day partner, Michelle, and I made our way to Gate 11 to get in line for the Drive-Thru. The line weaves back and forth throughout the lot complete with silly jokes to keep you entertained and portable bathrooms for your wait. As we pulled in, we queued all the way at the back of the lot. I can tell you from there it takes about an hour and a half actually get into park. They are limiting capacity and selling tickets for timed entry to keep the flow moving. Once you enter the gate, the fair experience took us just under an hour. You can generally expect about 2.5 hours in total not including the time we spent picnicking in the parking lot afterwards.
At the gate, you'll receive a paper for your dash informing the vendors of the package you've pre-purchased. We got the standard package with no add-ons, but you can add on additional corny dogs, sausages, turkey legs, or corn on the cob. The route takes you across the fairgrounds showcasing images of past fair events and fun facts. You even get a mini auto show with plenty of new cars from Jeep, Toyota, and Chevy among others. You come to several stop signs along the route with your food of choice. The first stop is drinks (which was welcomed because we didn't bring our own). You also get your fries and Fletcher's Corny Dogs before your stop at Big Tex for your portrait. Quick tip: don't wait too long to eat the fries!
As you pass the Chevy experience in front of the Hall of State complete with live music at specific times, you'll come to the Big Tex photo op. You will need to wear your mask any time you interact with the staff, and of course this is no exception. This is the one time of the experience where you will get out of your car and possibly be around strangers. You move through the line and go to your assigned photo station. You can take off your mask when posing for your photo. Have your own camera ready in case you want selfies too. It's tradition for me now! Our photographer was great even directing us to ensure we had the best pose. They took two photos and texted them immediately. Once back in the car, we continued on by the Leonhardt Lagoon and received the rest of our goodies including fried Oreos and kettle corn. Before the end, there's a Midway game where you pick a door and get a prize. It's a cute end to a fun little taste of the State Fair.
I cannot say enough how impressed I was with how smoothly the drive-thru flowed once inside the gates. All the food was made fresh. We waited for nothing. As we pulled up to each food tent, the vendor was ready with our food on a tray. The car only stopped moving long enough to grab it from them. If I had any complaint it actually might be that the experience went by too quickly. It was truly incredible what they pulled off in just a few weeks of preparation on day one of this entirely reimagined State Fair. I'd say it's well worth the money and the trip just to see what they managed to put together.
I do look forward to the State Fair we all know and love coming back. It was tough to miss out on the Big Tex Choice Awards with all the new fair food concoctions. The sounds and smells of the fair with all the hustle and bustle. The chance to go find a spot by the quiet side of the fair and relax for some people watching. Browsing through all the shopping and watching the various shows. I look forward to a time when I get to go any time, and day of the week! But when we were faced with the possibility of no Fair at all, I'm thrilled we got to at least got a scaled-down, safe version that allowed just a hint of the magic of the State Fair of Texas.
Brit's Tip: Bring your own drinks! And don't forget your foldout chairs/blanket for a picnic in Lot 8 where the Drive-Thru ends. It's the best way to enjoy all the foods you've picked up along the route.