Outdoor Renaissance Festivals
Renaissance Festivals usually take place outdoors and were initially created to mimic life, through historical reenactments, in the late 15th century, often referred to as the English Renaissance. Historical reenactments did not begin in America but apparently the Renaissance Fair or Festival did.
Most Renaissance Fairs and Festivals focus on the Elizabethan Age, the reign of Elizabeth I which also coincided with the life and time of William Shakespeare. There’s always plenty of food, crafts, drink, and shopping but the draw is farce, plays, juggling, mimes, minstrels, and jesters. Over the past decade, fair-goers have gotten into the act by dressing up in period costume alongside their actor counterparts.
Anthony Pierpont tells us that we can “attend a Renaissance festival and feel like you’ve been transported back in time.” The Renaissance and medieval festivals provide Anthony with a place to take visiting family that’s fun, safe and educational, too. “Kids especially enjoy the themed festivals,” says Anthony, “and it’s a great way to spend time with them and help them learn about history.”
The best Renaissance festivals are in Arizona, Maryland and Minnesota. Find our readers’ favorite medieval festivals in Colorado, Oklahoma and Ohio. From jousting battles to turkey legs, elaborate costumes to mead, the medieval renaissance festivals have something for the whole family.
Best Festivals Guide: Renaissance Festivals by Anthony Pierpoint of St. Paul, Minnesota
- Arizona’s Renaissance Festival has activities for the entire family. The Arizona festival includes a Renaissance theater with 12 stages, a jousting tournament, circus, arts and crafts fair, a Middle Ages-themed amusement park and plenty of great food, too. Runs from February to beginning of April.
- The Maryland Renaissance Festival is a fun addition to the best festivals guide. This festival outside Annapolis, Maryland includes renaissance crafts, five pubs (count ‘em, five!), ten stages for shows, jousting and plenty of games for kids. End of August through most of October.
- Minnesota’s Renaissance Festival started in 1970, and has grown tremendously in size ever since. The Minnesota Renaissance festival is often included in best festival guides because it has the highest seasonal attendance of any Midwest festival! Weekends during August and September.
Medieval Festivals in Colorado, Oklahoma and Ohio are Worth the Drive by Steven Andrews Louisville, Kentucky
Medieval festivals celebrate the Middle Ages through food, music, entertainment and craft demonstrations. The Middle Ages refers to the period between the 5th century and the 16th century in Europe. The Middle Ages is generally separated into three periods: The Early Middle Ages, starting around 500 AD and lasting until 1000 AD; the High Middle Ages, starting in the year 1000 and ending in 1300; and the Late Middle Ages, which lasted from 1300 to 1500 AD.
The Early Middle Ages began after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and is notable for many socioeconomic changes, most notably, feudalism. Feudalism allowed working class citizens to work and live on lands owned by the nobility for a fee; the resulting exploitation of the peasants, and their reliance on the nobility is often dramatized at medieval festivals.
By the High Middle Ages, feudalism was beginning to wane and new merchant classes were emerging. The European population exploded, and the overriding emphasis in literature, philosophy and higher learning (also experiencing a growth during this time) was on religion, typified by the Crusades. The Crusades included a series of religious wars that lasted for hundreds of years. The Crusades united peasants, the working class and nobility in the cause to promote Christianity. The crusaders’ travels fostered growth in the European economy, arts, architecture and literature.
The Late Middle Ages was a time of change and included events like the Peasants Revolt, when peasants revolted against the nobility that enslaved them through feudalism. The uprising began after the Black Death (plague) killed millions of European residents and resulted in a shortage of goods, inflation and a general mistrust of the Church, whose priests refused to help plague victims. In addition, revolutionary literature became prevalent and encouraged all classes to question authority and to fight for their human rights.
Medieval festivals celebrate the Middle Ages with mock battles, kings and queens lording over their subjects and by giving you a taste of the rural atmosphere of the time, with craftspeople and trades people working on-site. It’s a great way to learn a little bit about history, while enjoying a day out with the family.
Join fair maidens, kings, queens and brave knights at a medieval festival celebrating the Middle Ages. The festivals are fun and the performers are up close and personal, so you feel like you’re really part of the action.
“Find out if your medieval festival of choice allows or offers nearby camping sites,” says Steven. “Because you’ll want to get the full medieval festival experience when you stay overnight, drink ale by the fire, and listen to tales of times past.”
- The Colorado Medieval Festival recreates the Middle Ages every year at the beginning of June.Crafts demonstrations, live combat, and yummy food combine to make this the perfect family road trip. Street performers and demonstrators help educate visitors on the Middle Ages, allowing you to see how the crafts were made. The Colorado medieval festival is known for their live music- the entertainment tops off the event perfectly. A portion of the proceeds benefits local artisans.
- The Medieval Fair of Norman, Oklahoma started in 1976 and continues to grow and expand each year. Jousting tournaments, human chess games and costume contests make this festival lively and interactive. Jugglers, magicians and minstrels entertain strolling visitors, and the theater features reenactments and shows. Free admission. The Oklahoma medieval festival begins of April.
- Stop by the Great Lakes Medieval Faire 13th century theme park and find out why it’s in our best festivals guide. The Rock Creek, Ohio medieval festival runs from the second week of July through mid-August. Ongoing entertainment includes rides, interactive games, jousting tournaments and of course, delectable food and drink.
We thank our contributors:
- Anthony Pierpont St. Paul, Minnesota
- Steve Andrews Louisville, Kentucky