Aww Renaissance Fairs. King of the Hill fans may remember the hilarious episode where Hank goes to sell the “King” propane, only to find himself – and wife Peggy – cast inside a time-warp dork fest. While there will always be people who think the Ren Faire is “dorky” or “weird”, it’s actually quite fun and a chill time. Not only do the workers/volunteers dress up in period garb, so do many of the paying customers (some of my family among them). While my friend Jim and I did not dress up (because the cost of each piece of clothing is outrageous ), we still had an amazing time.
Renaissance faires are held all over the United States, and we went to the one in Irwindale, California. It’s held at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, about 30 minutes from Los Angeles. This Ren faire claims to be “the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire”, and it’s so intricate and gigantic that I think they may be telling the truth. Admission is $29.95 for adults, $15 for children ages 5-12 (4 and under are free), and $28.95 for seniors or military members with I.D. Discounts are available if you pre-order. It costs $10 for general parking, or an extra $20 ($30 total) for “preferred parking”. The general parking is in a large dirt lot and is somewhat of a walk to the entrance. The fair runs from the first week of April until the third week of May (total of 6 weeks) and is only held on Saturday and Sunday. Yes, it was packed.
The crowds at the Ren Faire rival those at Universal Studios, Disneyland, or any other major theme park. Its not unpleasant, per se, but it’s also likely not anyone’s preference. Also, despite being held in April and May, it’s southern California, so expect it to be on the warmer side. There is limited shade throughout the fair, so the shaded parts will likely be swamped by people.
For those who’ve never been to Renaissance faire, it’s not just people running around pretending to be kings and knights. Well, there’s definitely some of that, but a main component is the booths full of things for sale. The booths are endless and people come from all over to sell their – usually handmade – goods, and the merchandise ranges from period clothing, to hats, stained glass windows, jewelry, flower crowns, beads, artwork, swords, furniture, rugs, metal items, candy, foods like jam or jelly, children’s toys, and much more. Approximately, 80% of the Ren Faire is vendors trying to peddle their goods, while the other 20% is rides, events like jousting and aerial acrobatics, games, shows like fire eating, and craft classes.
Of course, things like the classes and games cost extra, however, the events and shows are free (they do accept – and encourage – tips). We didn’t watch any shows because, frankly, it was too hot. We did glance at them as we were walking by and we saw the fire eater, belly dancers balancing swords on their heads, and singing groups. They perform these shows periodically throughout the day, and at the entrance they hand out a schedule.
We did watch the jousting and aerial acrobatics shows. I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining the jousting was, as well as how talented the riders were. They did various jousting games, like sticking their pole through a tiny little hoop as they rode past and “jousting”. They’d strategically hit a small wooden plate strapped to the lower shoulder area instead of trying to actually violently knock each other off the horse. The whole show lasts around 20/25 minutes and was lighthearted, fun, and comical. Afterwards, the “knights” brought their horses over to the fence, so people could pet them. They were all very nice and I highly recommend the jousting show!
The aerial acrobatics show was also impressive and I had never seen one in person before. I was super impressed by her upper body strength and ability to wrap herself securely with the cloth. I was also impressed by her apparent lack of the fear of heights. Shows like this are completely free to watch, although tips are encouraged.
There is also a food and beverage area, which is essentially a very large, uncovered, open space with multiple food vendors and picnic tables. We decided to eat once we left, because the lines were ridiculously long (and you’ll be standing under open sun). The food is decent, albeit average “fair food”.
Overall, if you’re ever in an area that is putting on a “renaissance pleasure faire” I’d highly suggest going. It’s a fun time, kids love it, there are games and rides, lots of food, and even more shopping. Also, don’t be ashamed to dress up here! Truthfully, the people who aren’t dressed up stick out more than the people who are 😅. It’s a great place to let your artistic side run wild, buy stuff you don’t really need, and just have some ye’ time ole fun.