6 Things You Might Not Know About the Renaissance Festival

February 26, 2019 - By: Amanda Thrower

When you hear “Renaissance” do you picture jousting knights and oversized drumsticks? Or Shakespeare and centaurs? If so, you’re right on track. But those are only some of the things that make Renaissance festivals so unique.

Of the 60+ Renaissance festivals that happen across the country, no two are the same. Each one brings its own flavor to the round table (get it?). In honor of one of our favorite events, the Florida Renaissance Festival (happening February to March), we put together this fun list of facts and Renaissance history you probably didn’t know.

1. Renaissance festivals are not as old as you think

Renaissance Festival musician playing at the fair

While most of the festivals focus on the English Renaissance period, which dates from the late 15th century to the early 17th century, the first festival began only 57 years ago. In 1962, Phyllis Patterson, a school teacher, and her husband, Ron, hosted a small Renaissance fair at their Laurel Canyon home as a class activity. And thus began a rich, history-filled tradition of celebrating medieval and Renaissance culture. Thank you, Phyllis and Ron for helping us time travel! 

2. A Renaissance festival might cure your ‘Game of Thrones’ withdrawal

While the fictional story of Game of Thrones and Renaissance history do not directly parallel one another, their similarities may satisfy your inner Lannister. It is not uncommon to spot an attendee dressed as a character from King’s Landing or Winterfell. So, don a doublet, lace up your breeches and try your hand at archery after watching knights joust.

3. Ahoy! Not all the festivals focus on the English Renaissance

Many Renaissance fairs are set during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign of England. Some are set earlier, during Henry VIII’s reign. However, some festivals, like the St. Louis Renaissance Festival, are set during the French Renaissance. And others are set outside the Renaissance altogether, including earlier medieval periods or the later pirate periods of the 17th & 18th centuries. Stay away from those scurvy lasses, aye, aye! 

4. What exactly happens at a Renaissance festival?

Renaissance festival Shakespeare performance

Well, we can’t say what exactly, because like we said earlier, no two fairs are the same, but we are confident you’ll come across some of the following. Expect to see Shakespearean plays and anachronistic comedy routines. If you’re lucky, the set will have serious Shakespeare in Love vibes (what can we say? We’re hopeless romantics).

At a Renaissance festival, you’ll also bump into crowds of actors and attendees who play historical figures and roam the fair. Don’t be surprised if some of them trick you into believing they’re Queen Elizabeth or Shakespeare reincarnated. Some of the actors are that good (and some think they actually have been reincarnated). 

5. Food at the Faire

renaissance medieval cheers

Because the average person during the Renaissance was a peasant, food consisted of soup from scraps or mush for nearly every meal. Yum? Salt was expensive back then and refrigerators didn’t exist, so peasants didn't get a lot of meat to eat. So mush it was. But mush it isn’t at the next Ren Fest you attend.

The dining experience might be one of our favorite (and indulgent) parts of attending the Renaissance festival. Shepherds pie, strumpets, all things deep fried, massive turkey legs and mugs of ale. Okay, okay… turkey legs aren’t exactly historically correct when it comes to the Renaissance, but be thankful you don’t have to eat some of the actual food eaten back then. Onion soup, anyone?

6. Ren Fest Dress Code

Renaissance Festival costumes

Are you an adult with desires to dress up as a knight in shining armor or a whimsical fairy? What about a fire breathing dragon or Khaleesi from Game of Thrones? You’re in luck. With so many Ren Fests happening throughout the year, you don’t have to wait until Halloween to let your Renaissance fantasies shine. The festivals celebrate and encourage traditional garb from both staff and attendees. But don’t worry, if you’re more of a low-key spectator, feel free to wear everyday clothing and enjoy what’s happening around you. Trust us, whether performing or attending, you’ll have a blast. 

Interested in taking the experience to the next level? The Florida Renaissance Festival offers attendees the chance to strategize their way out of an escape room by solving puzzles and riddles. Purchase tickets here!