Crowd at the Arizona Renaissance Festival Photo: neepster, Flickr

The Arizona Renaissance Festival: A Trip Back In Time

I never thought it possible to travel back in time until I went to the Renaissance Festival. From the moment you step past the entrance you are transported into a different world. There are old-fashioned shops, rides operating on man-power, jousting tournaments and plenty of live entertainment.

It was my first time attending a festival of this kind and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once there, the 16th century atmosphere instantly surrounded me. I began the day by browsing the over 200 shops that offered many things typical of the period including homemade natural soaps, celtic jewelry, swords, even beautiful carved ostrich eggs.

With shows being held on 12 stages all day long it’s crucial to know which events you’re most interested in. The schedule of events, located on the back of the festival’s map, was helpful with this. I knew for certain that I wanted to watch the jousting tournament so I planned accordingly.

As you walk from stage to stage there are plenty of sights to see, making boredom impossible. The costumed street performers portray historical characters while interacting with the visitors, turning the festival into a stage in itself. There was an instance where my boyfriend and I walked past a table seating a dozen or so acting women that shouted out to us, “Ahh lovers!” This type of interaction makes the Arizona Renaissance Festival a unique experience for each individual.

What captured my attention the most were the costumes. There were people dressed as pirates, fairies, wenches, magical trees, the list goes on. Not only was their attire historically correct but their manners were as well. The pirates were well, typical pirates, they shouted and traveled in groups causing ruckus and overall being rambunctious. The fairies played instruments, usually flutes. It was easy enough to spot the wenches since they were usually at bars serving beer to customers. I was also lucky enough to spot the queen donned in a beautiful, intricate dress and accompanied by her royal court.

Besides the shows and actors there are also contests and rides, all of which follow the theme of the Renaissance era. Vegetable Justice for instance is a game where the object is to throw tomatoes at an insulting peasant. There is also knife and axe throwing as well as a myriad of other unique games.

However, the main attraction of the Arizona Renaissance Festival are the jousting tournaments. These occur three times throughout the day (12 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.)  in the King’s Tournament Arena. Four knights fight to the death for royal recognition. This exciting show has the audience cheering for their favorite knight and insulting the opposing teams.

After all these activities you’re sure to be hungry. The Renaissance Festival offers a large variety of food items such as roasted turkey drumsticks, bread bowls, pizza, steak-on-a-stake, salads and stews. The prices were reasonable and the food was surprisingly tasty. For dessert the Monk’s Bakery, the Cappuccino Inn and the Chocolate Shoppe tempt you with their different variations of chocolate covered strawberries and other sweet treats.

If you think this might not be enough to satisfy your hunger book a seat at The Pleasure Feast. This 1 and a half hour meal includes a five course meal and lively entertainment. There are two held during the day, one at noon and the other at 2:30 p.m. You can view the 2012 menu here.

The Renaissance Festival’s unique characters, sights and food had me believing I had traveled back in time to a world where pirates and fairies still existed and magic was real.

The Arizona Renaissance Festival is open from February through March. With over 30 acres of music, shows, street performers and shopping there is no shortage of entertainment. The festival is open every weekend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information visit the Arizona Renaissance Festival’s official site at royalfaires.com