Renaissance Faire Survival Guide
I have been working at renaissance faires all over the Western United States for over a decade, and attending them as a customer since long before that! They are strange, but wonderful events that capture the imaginations of all kinds of people. There is really something for everyone, but a few simple tips will help you get more enjoyment from your time at a faire.
Alcoholic beverages are the drink that ren faires are known for serving. Imbibing can be a fun part of your day, but most renaissance faires take place in the hotter months of the year. Try to match your alcohol intake with equal amounts of water. Dehydration and overheating are the most common reasons for First Aid treatment of faire customers, especially those in costume.
The average renaissance faire visitor will walk over four miles at a large faire. Most of that will be on uneven dirt paths, which make the mileage even harder on your feet. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes to maximize your fun and enjoyment. I also suggest wearing closed toed shoes because of all the dirt (sweaty feet + dirt = toe mud… eww). Sexy spike heeled boots may seem like a wonderful idea when you leave the house, but you may regret wearing them by the end of the day as you’re hobbling to the exit.
It’s vital that you know where to find different shows, food vendors, and most importantly, the ale stands and restrooms. This will save you lots of time if you want to be on a schedule, or let you know which direction to wander if you don’t have a specific destination in mind. Most faires hand out maps as you enter the front gate.
Commonly known as Port-a-Potties, these are one of the drawbacks of visiting most renaissance faires. They are not pleasant, but there are ways to make the experience less miserable. First, go to the units farthest from the entrance to the port-a-potty area. These are usually the least used and the cleanest. Leave most of your stuff with your friends when you go in, because you want to limit the contamination and avoid dropping things into the Privy abyss.
Faires are a wonderful place to buy jewelry, costumes, art, and so much more directly from the artists. It’s a great opportunity, however, the methods of payment that you can use may vary from booth to booth. Most merchants can accept credit card payments thanks to the magic of smart phones, but there are still a few who can’t. Ale stands are usually cash-only as well, and it’s good form to leave tips for servers and performers. Be ready for that and bring cash with you to avoid the crazy ATM fees and lines that happen at most faires.
Costumes are one of the best things about visiting renaissance faires. You will see a huge variety of outfits, including stunning historically accurate recreations, pirates, fairies and fantasy creatures, vikings, Stormtroopers, and SO MUCH MORE! Feel free to dress up and join in the fun, but remember tip #2 from above. Costumes made from natural fibers are the best because they breath in the heat. Avoid large amounts of leather because it can get really hot, and avoid rubber at all costs!!!
I’ll admit, I’m a little biased here. I love performing and faire crowds are wonderful! Renaissance faire shows will have a unique feel to them and are usually very interactive. Be sure you read signs or program descriptions before you sit down to watch something, especially if you have kids with you. Some shows contain some naughty content, but usually they are clearly marked. Be sure to buy something or leave a tip at the end of the show if you enjoyed it. Renaissance faire performers work hard for their art, and are usually paid MUCH less than minimum wage, IF they are paid at all. Show your appreciation for their hard work by helping fill their gas tanks and their tankards!
Renaissance faires are a melting pot of different types of people, with some alcohol and costumes tossed in for fun. They are safe, but as with any public situation (conventions, amusement parks, county fairs, concerts, etc) you need to be aware of your surroundings. Inevitably, there are those few people who will get drunk and inappropriate. They may be inappropriate with you, or with each other. PLEASE REPORT THEM TO SECURITY! You can do this by finding a security person, or by telling the nearest ale stand or booth. We work very hard to create a fun place, and we don’t want our hard work to be in vain because of a few jerks.
**IMPORTANT: Remember that not everyone wearing a costume is a faire employee!!! Many people dress up and pretend that they are part of the show, but they paid for their ticket just like you. These “playtrons” are usually at the root of most behavior complaints since they are not trained to interact with the costumers. If someone in a costume is making you feel uncomfortable, be direct! Tell them to stop, then report them to security so it doesn’t happen to someone else!
Most faire parking is a big dirt field. If you’re lucky, there might be some flags or lines to help show you where to go. If you are VERY lucky, there might be some people pointing for you. By the end of the day it will ALL LOOK THE SAME!! A sea of dust covered cars is hard to navigate. Use a handy Car-Finding App if you have one, or at very least, take a picture with some stuff in the background to reference later. Trust me.
10. Open Mind
Renaissance faires are AMAZING. They are such an eclectic mixing of different aspects of the human experience. A mix of history, art vendors, concert, carnivals, reenactments, conventions, food festival, and costume party! I love it! Come to faire with an open mind, ready to experience something truly unique.
To find a renaissance faire near you, visit Renaissance Magazine’s Renaissance Faire List!
EDIT: I’ve received some great comments on this article! Here are a few more tips!
- Wear sunscreen and reapply it during the day! Hats are your friends!
- Pack well so that your things are easy to carry. Keep an eye on your stuff!