Many first time visitors to a Renaissance Festival – an event also often known as a Renaissance Faire – are rather overwhelmed by everything they see, hear and smell. It is the goal of every Renaissance Festival to recreate a world from long ago and transport visitors back into it, something that most of them do very well.
A Gateway to Another World
Almost all of the popular Renaissance Festivals are based, at least loosely, on the Elizabethan era circa the late 16th century. This time was the height of the English Renaissance when all kinds of discoveries were being made and romance and intrigue often ruled the day. The theme does tend to expand these days though to include fantasy characters, pirates and sometimes even characters from another era.
If you go to a Renaissance Festival you will find all kinds of entertainments on offer, as well as amazing food and drink and usually all manner of different things to buy. These days a Renaissance Festival is more about living an experience in a uniquely enjoyable manner than it is an actual historical reenactment of any kind.
Terrible liberties are often taken with historical fact but no one really cares. After all where else can you watch a joust, while sipping on a yard of ale before heading off to dance around a maypole, mingle with the likes of Robin Hood and Good Queen Bess.
A great deal of the fun of a Renaissance Festival is provided by the actors and volunteers who spend their weekends in character at all times but the faire goers themselves usually add a great deal of color as well. There is no rule to say that you have to dress up to go to Renaissance Festival and thoroughly enjoy yourself but for may people they would not dream of doing anything else!
Wherever you happen to live the chances are good that somewhere, not too far away, you will be able to find a Renaissance Festival to attend at some point in the year, that is just how popular they have become.
The History of Renaissance Festivals
Although Ren Fests (as many fans prefer to refer to them) are usually based around a culture that existed in England centuries ago they began as a very American notion.
The first real Renaissance Festival was created by a schoolteacher from Los Angeles, Phyllis Patterson and her husband in 1963. The very first ” Renaissance Pleasure Faire” was held on May 11th and 12th of that year, primarily as a fund raiser for the local radio station. 8,000 people attended over the course of the two days and thus began the tradition of holding an annual ” Renaissance Pleasure Faire” that continues today and has now been emulated at sites all over the country.
What to Expect
Each Renaissance Festival has its differences but they all have their similarities as well that mark them as a real Ren Fest. First time visitors to any of the major Renaissance Festivals held across the country each can expect:
- Lots of stalls and shops selling all kinds of Renaissance themed apparel, swords, jewelry and artwork.
- A great deal of food and drink including lots of beer and wine
- Themed comedy skits and many different kinds of performance artists with lots of audience participation
- Shortened or adapted versions of Shakespearean plays
- Celtic and Medieval musicians and dancers
- Jousting, archery, swordplay and falconry
- Wandering actors and actresses all portraying historical figures from the Tudor era as well as increasingly fictional characters that vaguely fit the Renaissance theme.
When to Go
Almost all the activities at any Renaissance Festival are held outdoors so they are seasonal. That having been said because the climates are so very different across the United States Renaissance Festivals are held around the country almost year round.
Here you will find information about many of the largest and most popular of those events as well as additional information for first time Renaissance Festival goers and seasoned Ren Fest vets.