Introduction to Renaissance Fairs: We Answer Your 10 Burning Questions!
by Mads Colvin
Renaissance Fairs - also called Renaissance Festivals, Ren Fairs, Ren Fests, and many other names - are so much fun! They offer you lots of opportunities to learn cool new things, meet new people, and experience the wonders of medieval life. While all of that sounds fun written down, we understand how intimidating it can be to attend an event without any prior knowledge, especially one that deals with such a specific topic. So, we thought we would take some of the most common questions our customers ask us and help you on your first step towards attending one!
1. What is a Renaissance Fair?
At a very base level, they are an outdoor celebration of Renaissance life to educate and entertain guests. Some of these events will pop up for a weekend, whereas others will stay open for weeks at a time. Often they will have entertainers, food, costuming, stalls of wares, workshops, and other festivities. They are most popular in the United States, where they have been occurring for decades! The USA doesn’t have the same medieval history as we have in Europe, so these kinds of events make for a great way to connect with this part of history in an interactive environment. Similar types of events do occur all over the world, though.
2. When and Where can I attend one?
Your next question is where is the Renaissance Fair? The answer, truly, is all over the place - this is the part where you get to use your Google-Fu to find something convenient to your location. Every single state and country has different events, and we have no doubt that you will be able to find one locally. Another thing to take into account is that there might be a bigger one just a short drive away - always consider this option, because it might make for the perfect weekend away! Next: when is the renaissance fair? We find that they mostly occur during the warmer months, usually running from Spring until the end of Autumn.
3. How much is it to get into the renaissance fair?
Ren Fairs are all privately run events, which means that each one costs a different amount. In most cases, general admission for an adult into one of these events will cost you between $20-$40.This cost usually involves pretty much every activity within the show. The fee is usually calculated based on the cost of running things, including performers, insurance, venue rental, and many other organizational requirements. These events are huge, so a lot goes into making sure they run smoothly!
4. Are Renaissance Fairs strictly Renaissance?
“Renaissance Fair” is often used as a general term to describe any large scale event that delves into some historical culture. There are tons of festivals that also include Vikings, the Medieval Period, as well as many other points in time. In our experience, even though it says “Renaissance”, these events are just a general celebration of medieval life. Lots of Renaissance Fairs also embrace some level of magic and fantasy, such as wizards and elves!
5. What is for sale at a Renaissance Fair?
You will find all sorts of different stalls and salespeople at Renaissance fairs. They are all different in how strict they are about the time period, so sometimes you’ll find a historical assortment of goods, and other times it will be a bit more whimsical. Common wares are jewelry, soap, trinkets, arts and crafts, clothing, leatherworking, blacksmithing, weaving, pottery, and much more! It all depends on what the local artisans have the offer.
6. Will there be entertainment?
Most fairs or festivals will have hired entertainment to keep the day moving and keep attendees entertained. These could be a prince and princess acting out a scene, or acrobats, jugglers, and musicians. Most festivals also have comedy shows and circus performances, as well as horse rides and petting zoos. Aside from the people who will walk around and entertain you, there are also endless places to discover and have fun!
7. Is there food available?
LOTS of food! Food is one of the great joys of life, so most festivals put a great offer into making sure there is lots of interesting and delicious food available. Most festivals will not allow you to bring food in from the outside, so they make sure there is lots of variety. You’ll find modern food, similar to a good court, but also usually some more interesting food options that are more in line with the theme of the fair. We would recommend bringing cash, just in case your favorite little restaurant isn’t accepting card transactions.
8. What about drinks?
Most will also sell alcoholic drinks! More often than not you will find the average drinks you can get at a modern bar, but if you’re lucky they will also have some local artisans who are producing interesting and tasty treats for you to enjoy. Obviously, this is on a case by case basis, but in our experience, the vast majority of fairs will have a license.
9. Can I wear a costume if I don’t work at the Renaissance Fair?
Yes! As an attendee, you can join in and wear a costume… though it won’t earn you a discount on entry or any other privileges. You can ask what to wear to a renaissance fair, but let’s be honest…. there is SO much choice! So why not start with what is actually a far easier question: what not to wear to a renaissance fair.
Our general answer is: don’t wear anything uncomfortable! You’re going to be walking around all day, potentially going on adventures and getting into mischief, so you don’t want to wear anything too restricting or shoes that you won’t be able to walk in it. When it comes to costume specifics, it completely depends on the one you are planning on attending. Each will have a slightly different ideal time period, so we recommend jumping on their Facebook page or website to understand the time period better. We would usually recommend a basic combination that you can customer later, such as our bestselling “Red Elise” dress, or our “German Rose” collection. One thing we know for sure, though, is if you are new to the hobby and wish to attend, everyone will appreciate your enthusiasm and will not call you out for wearing the wrong era! Any effort will be noticed and appreciated.
10. Where can I buy a costume beforehand?
So you’re probably wondering where to buy renaissance fair costumes… well, you’re already in the right place! Here at ArmStreet, we’ve been specializing in this kind of costume for years. We love making things that can be applied to a number of different eras, and take great joy in creating designs that are flattering on all sorts of body types. Take a look at our clothing and accessories and see if anything speaks to you. We have fixed sizes available or can do custom sizing if our size chart doesn’t quite work for you. Keep in mind that if you can’t find anything to wear beforehand, there are usually vendors who will sell things at the actual event that you can wear, and some even have a place where you can rent a costume! You never know the quality or the size that you’re going to find, though, so we always recommend being prepared and buying beforehand.
So… what are you waiting for? Start getting ready and be prepared to have a ton of fun. If you have additional questions, most Renaissance Festival website actually have very in-depth FAQ's for that specific event, so we recommend having a look through those!
Photos by Rissy Lynn Dollins