Your Essential Guide to the Renaissance Festival

Make the most of your trip to the Renaissance Festival! Whether you’ve been before or you are a newbie, the following 10 tips will help you enjoy the day. Our family has been attending the Colorado Renaissance Festival for several years now, one-to-three trips per year because, as our son puts it, he’s a “Renaissance Geek” and because, well, it’s positively awesome.

Yes, we are one of those crazy families that arrive in costume and chat up the vendors like they’re old friends (because they are now). Over all this time, we have learned some essential tricks I am happy to share with you:

  1. Prepare for the weather. Larkspur, Colorado has two modes in the summer time: hot or raining. But if you are prepared, this mustn’t dim the fun. Wear a hat, bring sunscreen, and have your arms covered to protect from the high altitude sun, which can burn you to a crisp as you watch the midday jousting tournament. Some bring fans and/or umbrellas for sun/rain. We also pack ponchos, but if it rains you can find us perusing the shops.
  2. Bring water bottles. This is related to the weather but worth its own point. You are not permitted to bring in outside food or drink (consider the festival one huge restaurant), but water bottles are fine. We freeze ours, which provides cool refreshment all day. You can refill them at the several bathrooms with running water (not just port-a-potties!). We bring an empty, collapsible water bottle that can more easily fit under the sinks’ spigots.
  3. Bring your appetite. The Colorado Ren Fest has GREAT food, including lots of options for vegetarians, gluten free, and most other dietary restrictions. My favorites are the beans and rice, artichokes with garlic butter, roasted almonds, and the old standby (but best
    lean protein out there): turkey legs. There are old-standbys for kids, including pizza and popcorn shrimp, but this has been a good opportunity to introduce our son to new foods (elk jerky!). The choices seem endless, and there are plenty of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage options to wash it all down. Prices are surprisingly reasonable.
  4. Bring cash. Food vendors only take paper money for food and you’ll want cash to tip the performers- all of the performances from jugglers to big cats to bag pipes are “free” but they make their living from our tips. Most of the other vendors take “Master Card and Lady Visa” but may offer a discount if you pay cash (just ask).
  5. Prepare for walking/rolling. Comfortable shoes are a must- the Colorado Ren Fest is huge and you don’t want to miss any of it. The whole thing is on a bit of a hill, which helps you keep your bearings (downhill to exit, uphill to the jousting field), but also can make it challenging for those with mobility restrictions. All paths are wheelchair accessible but are packed dirt, not paved, and yeah, the incline. Be sure to take a break to ride an elephant!
  6. Plan for the big shows. Upon entry, pick up a map and schedule of the shows, including the don’t-miss events at the arena: not just jousting on horseback, but also sword-fighting and plenty of drama. These shows get more violent as the day progresses, ending in the tournament “to the death” at the end of the day. They used to carry the bodies off the field in a wheelbarrow, but last year all of the slain jumped up and waved at the crowd, presumably to avoid traumatizing the young ones. For sitting, be sure to bring the above-mentioned ponchos or a blanket for sitting on the grass for these, as it is usually wet. This show is performed by the festival itself and no tips are solicited. All other shows (as mentioned above) are independent performers, but most are
    on one of the nine (!) stages and there are wood benches (some shaded, some not). Arrive early at your favorite shows to get the best seating. My favorites are Arsne of Paris (hilarious), Acrobatix (amazing and funny duo) and The Craic (foot-stomping drums and pipes). I’m eager to check out the Living Fountain performance this year. Performances on the Pirate Ship Stage tend to be more adult humor, by the way, but everything else has been great for our 10-and-under.
  7. Prepare to shop. Okay, you don’t really need to prepare except know that there are over 200 wonderful shops with everything from whimsical trinkets (small bottles of fairy dust), to high-quality items for the home (hanging swings, fine art, blown glass, etc.). Visiting vendors has become our favorite thing, including both our old favorites (Legacy Forge for best historical recreations and fantasy weapons and the Knotty Lady for jewelry) and new ones that appear each year.
  8. Dress up. This is your one big opportunity, folks! Everything goes here, from Harry Potter costumes to elaborate (and expensive) full-body armor. Not sure if that bodice is more Medieval or turn-of-the-century? Doesn’t matter! Colorado is a laid back and accepting place, and there are no “authenticity police” to be found. Anyone who makes any effort at all to be creative will be accepted with smiles and in-character greetings of “greetings, m’lady/my lord.” A major reason my son keeps wanting to come back is the way the adults treat him here, with utmost respect as a “fellow knight”. Don’t have a costume? You can rent or buy one there, or even just get your hair braided or body painted with henna to get into the festival spirit.
  9. Interact with the actors. Anyone officially associated with the Festival will be in costume and wearing a red rose pin (tell your kids to approach one if they get lost), but we have found everyone “in garb” to be wonderful. Those who are stationary with a hat out (the owl’s nest near the entrance comes to mind) make their living from tips — do support them! However, regardless of whether they are “working” the festival or not, many folks in costume give out little trinkets to children who approach them, like “gold coins” or “dragon tears.”
  10. Take lots of pictures. Anyone who has taken the trouble to dress up will welcome a photo (some do this for a living, see above), just ask. You will want to capture this magical experience. There is even a photo contest each year (see festival program for details)!

Note the themed weekends, knighting ceremonies for kids, BOGO coupons offered at Subway, and other information to be found on the website and the program.

See you there (in costume, I hope)!

The Renaissance Festival is open Saturdays and Sundays through August 5, 2018. For more information, visit: