Been feeling the itch to visit Disneyland lately but don’t have the time or money? Hit up the Arizona Renaissance Fair instead! For just $22 ($20 if you buy a ticket at Fry’s), you have the chance to experience a mini theme park with great entertainment, food, rides and most importantly, excellent people watching.
The Renaissance Fair is a day-long medieval experience designed to whisk you back to the 1600s and give you a taste of life in the nobility or the peasantry. Over its 30-acre lot in Apache Junction, there are 13 stages with shows running from opening at 10 a.m. to closing at 6 p.m. and a traditional arts and crafts fair. It’s an educational opportunity for kids and a fun break from reality for adults.
As a Renaissance Fair newbie myself, I visited the fair this past Saturday with two experienced friends and compiled a list of the 10 best things to do at the “Ren Faire."
1. Enjoy the vast number of food and drink options
The Renaissance Fair has almost every type of food you could imagine, from turkey legs to taco salads. Kids and adults alike will be very happy with the food offerings, though adults may be happier about the many drink stands offering selections of beer, wine, cocktails and frozen alcoholic drinks. I personally enjoyed a turkey leg, bread bowl with broccoli and cheese soup and a Tanqueray 10 cocktail with gin, grapefruit juice and cranberry juice. My friend tried the Shipwrecked cocktail, with rum, orange juice and grenadine, which was also quite tasty. Remember to bring your 21+ ID, if you choose to drink and always have a DD!
2. Camel and elephant rides
Yes, you can ride a camel or an elephant at the Renaissance Fair. While we didn’t get a chance to do this ourselves, it looked really cool. How many people can say they’ve ridden an elephant after all?
Throughout the day there are three full jousting shows, complete with a royal court presiding over the ceremonies. Stunt riders and their horses charge at each other with over ten foot lances, attempting to shatter the other rider’s shield. No, this is not the traditional jousting to the death, but it’s still pretty cool to watch! Pro-tip: You can watch the horses be un-saddled from the traditional armor after the show.
4. Comedy shows
If clichéd history jokes are your thing, check out the many comedy shows offered each day. Some shows are family-friendly, others are rated “LC” for “loose cannon,” meaning there’s a strong chance things will get rowdy. We watched a mid-day show of the Tortuga Twins who specialize in audience participation and dirty jokes. If you’re not looking to be singled out in the crowd, consider skipping this show. Some of the jokes were pretty good, others were a little cringe worthy, but that’s all part of the schtick. If comedy’s not your thing, there are other shows with fire eating, glassblowing, storytelling, bellydancing, sword fighting and music for all ages. It's definitely worth checking out!
5. People watching
Arguably the best place to people watch all year, the fair attracts folks from all over Arizona and even neighboring states (we saw many out of state license plates in the parking lot). We chatted with one couple in the stands at the comedy show, dressed to the nines in medieval garb, who have been coming to the fair for over 10 years, usually bringing along their 15-year-old son, too. It’s a safe haven for everyone who secretly wishes costumes were the everyday norm. Seeing all the excited, costumed guests makes the atmosphere quite up lifting.
6. Shops and crafts
Jewelry, candles, swords, trinkets, clothes, leather goods and more can be found in shops around the fair. Plan to spend at least two hours perusing the arts and crafts on display, and if you can, bring a little extra cash to spend, too. Who knows, you may find a great early Christmas gift! You can also visit the “Lokel Yokels Village” to see authentic, traditional craftsmen at work. We were mesmerized by the blacksmith pounding away at fiery metal and the sweet little woman spinning wool into yarn. You can learn something new every day!
7. Dress up
If you can’t wait until Halloween, luckily there is a costume rental store right by the entrance to the fair. Pick out your favorite medieval outfit for the day and return it before 6 p.m. on your way out! When else will you have the chance to become a regal lord or lady?
8. Throw a knife or axe
Midterms got you feeling like you want to throw a knife at the wall? Funny enough, you can do just that at the fair! Or an axe if you’re really looking to let off steam. There’s plenty of other medieval arcade games throughout the fair so bring a few bucks and play on!
9. Chat with the cast members
Seriously, do it. It’s so interesting to hear about their lives outside of the fair and also what it’s like to travel around. This particular fair is also in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the fall every year
10. Get your fortune told
There are psychics who can read your palm, tarot cards and even your face. Sounds strange, but we can vouch for the face reader: He’s good. They were all quite good actually, with very specific insight that was disturbingly accurate, at least in my case. You think I’m kidding, but the woman who read my tarot cards described an ex to the T. That’s cray. If you don’t trust my word, see for yourself.
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