Arizona Renaissance Festival

The Arizona Renaissance Festival is a yearly event that’s loved by many Arizonans.  Tucked away at the base of the Superstition Mountains, an empty village full of shacks, steeples, and turrets await for the months of February and March to be filled with costumed revelers and performers. The Ren Fest is celebrating its 25th year and opened on February 8 to the public. Tickets are 20 dollars when purchased through Fry’s and two more dollars at the door. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the Festival for the last two years, and found myself making a mental checklist of the highlights this last year. I highly encourage everyone to head out and spend a day exploring. Here are the top six things to do at the Renaissance Festival.

1.) Dress up.
First time visitors might shy away from the idea of getting all dressed up, but it’ll seriously be worth it. Historical accuracy isn’t required (or even suggested), but a little bit of effort goes a long way. If your closet isn’t up for outfitting you, there are stores when you arrive where you can rent or purchase full costumes, but these can get pricey really quickly. Accessories are the cheaper route, and there aren’t any shortages of silly hats to try on. I still advise putting together an outfit yourself; getting into costume gives you a chance to get some excellent photos, and you’re less likely to be harassed by actors or vendors if you look like you belong. That being said…

2.) Learn how to heckle.
If you’re attending the Festival, there’s a very high chance strangers are going to engage you in conversation. Some of the actors are paid just to walk around and talk to people. Either you can be extremely awkward (which only encourages most people), or you can hold your own and chat back. If you’re still feeling shy, you can try find the Insulting Man, who will, for a small fee, mercilessly insult the person of your choice with Shakespearean verbosity.

3.) Buy some food.
With all this walking and talking, you’re going to get hungry. There are numerous vendors to choose from, and you can order full meals like bread bowls and steak-on-a-stake, or simple snacks like pretzels and chocolate covered berries. The cheapest snack is the giant pickle, which cost only a dollar and is surprisingly good. For your meal option, you can always get the iconic turkey leg, which is one of the most advertised foods available. You are allowed to bring food inside, so there’s always the option of packing a lunch.

4.) See a joust.
One of the most iconic events of the Festival is the joust. Trumpet fanfare and a troupe of escorted nobles will alert you when it’s time to watch, and you can join the procession to the back jousting arena. There are three jousts throughout the day (in the morning, afternoon, and evening) and the champions from each round proceed to the finale, a dramatic “fight to the death.” Choose a champion to cheer for and experience a fight for honor and glory!

5.) Visit the historical corner.
Despite the large amount of fairies and pirates and Assassin’s Creed cosplayers running around, there’s still a section that accurately depicts Medieval and Renaissance life for you history nerds. Play games of the time period; watch artisans weave, knit, and spin wool; and watch the preparation of a historical meal.

6.) See a show.
There are twelve stages within the village with different acts throughout the day. You can choose from various musicians, a fire whip demonstration, live falconry, various acrobatics and tumbling circus acts, or simpler comedy shows. Recommended shows are Tartanic, an excellent bagpipe and drumming group, or Hey Nunnie Nunnie, a comedic duo of “nuns” with perfect punchlines and an in-show singalong. The shows are all highly interactive, so be prepared to engage with performers if you sit in the front. (No guarantees you’ll be left alone if you stay in the back, though.)

Associate Editor, Devin Jones, also has a pro-tip for any guys attending the Festival with a group of female friends. Learn from his first hand experience, gentlemen.

7.) If you’re guy, don’t go with multiple females unless you are dating one. The actors are sure to give you an exceptionally hard time for coming without a date if there are women in your company, so bring a date! There are plenty of date-friendly activities to do at Ren Fest, so go for it! However,  gentlemen may have to suffer through countless hours of shopping for shiny things, trying on hats (as seen above), and sniffing soap. While this may not be the most manly thing that a guy could imagine, it’s bound to happen.

Now that you know all the secrets of attending, you’re well prepared. Make sure to bring some extra money (there are hundreds of vendors selling jewelry, armor, books, and trinkets of all kinds). If you follow these tips, you’ll have a day to remember. Have fun and find your inner reveler at the Renaissance Festival!

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