What To Expect At A Renaissance Fairs


When the weather gets warmer, people begin to look for things to do outdoors. One of the things that many people enjoy doing is taking part in a local fair. Although these may come in almost every variety possible, a Renaissance fair can certainly be an interesting event.

At a Renaissance fair, you can expect a lot of entertainment: acrobats and musicians, fortune tellers, games, archery competitions, petting zoos, fair quests/adventure games, dancers and jugglers, stilt walkers, actors reenacting sword fights, and much more.

Renaissance Faire in New York
Attendants of New York Renaissance Faire. Source: Deborah Grosmark; www.timeout.com

If you’ve never taken part in a Renaissance fair before, you may have some hesitation in getting involved. Perhaps it is the fact that you don’t know what to expect when you attend or perhaps you don’t even know what a Renaissance fair is in the first place.

Before we begin to look at some of the specific things that you can expect at a Renaissance fair, it’s good to have a general overview. It can help to put your mind at ease and let you know that it is something that can be enjoyed by anyone.

Generally speaking, a Renaissance fair is a weekend or multi-weekend event where people go to enjoy games, food, crafts, and other enjoyable pastimes at an event that is made to mimic the Renaissance period. You will find vendors and performers who dress in character costumes and make the event interesting.

USA Renaissance Faires map
Yearly map of Renaissance Fairs (pink pins) in the USA according to The Renlist (online fairs catalog).

You might also be interested in the first Renaissance fair. Although the Renaissance is a period of time that lasted from the 14th till 17th century, the first modern-day Renaissance fair took place in 1962.

A local radio station held the event as a way to raise some money. The specific event was the Renaissance Pleasure Fair of Southern California. It was a very popular event and their popularity continued as Renaissance fairs popped up in almost all parts of the world.

Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire
One of the first events, Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire, 1970. Source: www.marinmagazine.com from Marin History Museum

Of course, Renaissance fairs were also a popular item during the Renaissance as well. They also took place in the 1800s, with one particular event bringing in about 100,000 spectators in Scotland. More modern events, however, are not often going to bring in that many people.

painting of Renaissance Faire
Renaissance Festival Painting. Source: www.fineartamerica.com; author: Joris Hoefnagel

Why do people hold back from attending renaissance fairs?

As is the case with any event, if you are unsure of what is going to take place, you are not likely to take an active part in it. In addition, there may be other things that are holding you back. Here are some of the most common.

  • Not Knowing What a Renaissance Fair Is – Although this is a common issue, most people recognize at least some factors associated with a Renaissance fair. After reading the description above, you would likely be well beyond this barrier to entry.
  • Not Knowing What to Expect – It can be a little intimidating when you see some pictures from a Renaissance fair but you’ve never attended one in person. You might expect that everyone is going to be acting as outlandish as some of those who make it into the pictures.
visitors to Renaissance Faire
People attending Renaissance Faire – Sleepy Hollow Des Moines. Source: www.weareiowa.com

Rest assured, all types of people attend including many that are considered to be average, normal people. For the most part, they do so because it is somewhere you can get out, enjoy being around people, be entertained, and get some good food.

  • Not Having a Costume – You may not want to attend a Renaissance faire because you are afraid you’re going to be the only person without a costume on. Again, this is likely because you have seen pictures of other Renaissance fairs with people that are dressed in some rather interesting clothing.
Renaissance faire costume example
Example of Renaissance Faire costumes.

Although it certainly is possible to dress the part and it is enjoyable to do so, it is not a requirement. When you actually go to a Renaissance fair, you will find that the majority of people are just dressed in regular, comfortable clothing. Of course, as you begin to enjoy the fairs more and more, you may want to join in the fun and get dressed for the part.

If you will someday decide to join with your own costume, here are some examples of what can be found on Amazon for less than $40:

How long does a renaissance fair last?

Most Renaissance fairs are only going to last for a day or two and they are typically held on the weekend. Some of the larger events may span several different weekends and they could even be open during the week, although the number of visitors is going to drop considerably during the weekdays.

Renaissance Faires duration
Variouse duration of Renaissance Faires in the USA. Source: www.therenlist.com

In most cases, once a Renaissance fair is held, it will continue to gain popularity year after year. They will hold it on the same weekend every year, typically in the springtime when the long winter has ended.

Of course, you can find Renaissance fairs in many areas during the middle of the summer or perhaps even in the fall. It’s an interesting way to take part in these events because you can travel and visit many of them throughout the year.

What to expect at renaissance fairs

Each and every Renaissance fair is unique, although there are some similarities. Once you visit a fair in your local area, you will get the hang of it and likely even go back year after year because of what they have to offer.

  • Food – One of the most popular parts of any Renaissance fair is going to be the food. It will be offered through a variety of stands and shops that may be built while the fair is taking place.
Food at The Texas Renaissance Festival
Food at The Texas Renaissance Festival. Source: www.chron.com

Some food is going to be somewhat authentic, such as large turkey legs, giant pickles, and other items. There are also likely to be other fair-type food that you might find at almost any event. This can include anything from candy apples to funnel cakes.

  • Shops Selling Goods – Along with food, you will find trinkets and other items that are sold at the Renaissance fairs. Some of these may include Renaissance clothing, which you can pick up and wear to play the part.
Shops at Florida Renaissance Festival, Deerfield Beach, FL. Source: www.vacationsmadeeasy.com

You will find a wide variety of other items being sold at Renaissance fairs, including T-shirts and other memorabilia.

  • Live Entertainment – When it comes to entertainment, you truly can’t beat what a Renaissance fair has to offer. There will be people who are dressed in Renaissance clothing and taking part in various reenactments throughout the event. This might even include a surprise or two.
Live shows at The Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival
Live shows at The Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival in Las Vegas. Source: www.reviewjournal.com
  • Actors In Character – In many Renaissance fairs, actors will be hired to play a certain character. It’s an excellent way to learn a little about that period of time. They also take their job very seriously.
  • People In Costume – Finally, if you are into people-watching, you will love going to a Renaissance fair. There are so many people, including those who dress up in those who don’t that are worth watching.

How much money to bring to renaissance fair

Generally speaking, you should bring about $300 to the Renaissance fair. Some vendors are going to take credit cards, but others will take cash. Of course, if you run out of cash, you can always use one of the ATMs that they bring to those events.

Prices at Bristol Renaissance Faire
Ticket prices at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Source www.renfair.com

Additional money may also be necessary for parking and for tips. Keep in mind that the people who work at the Renaissance fair are not paid a lot of money for their effort. They do it because they love doing it, but tips are helpful as well.

Should you dress up for the Renaissance fair?

One of the biggest questions that are asked about attending a Renaissance fair is if you should dress up or not. Although you will likely find that is enjoyable to do so, it is absolutely not necessary to be involved.

At first, you might just want to wear comfortable clothing, such as shorts and a T-shirt. As you continue to enjoy these events, however, you may find that you want to join in on the fun.

visitors at Ohio Renaissance Festival
Not everyone is dressed up – visitors at Ohio Renaissance Festival. Source: www.rove.me

It is also important to understand that not everybody dresses the same. You may see some people that are dressed in Renaissance clothing and they may have spent many hours designing and creating that clothing on their own. Other people, however, just enjoy dressing up in costumes.

When you understand what is behind a Renaissance fair, you quickly realize that there is no reason to avoid attending one. It’s an enjoyable event that can get you outside and get you in on the fun.

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