Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Back for 2021
- 1. Bring Cash.
- 2. Be on the Lookout for Bosoms.
- 3. Don’t Miss the Mud Show.
- 4. Enjoy the Entertainment.
- 5. Feel Free to Dress the Part.
- 6. Try the Tempura.
- 7. Take a Spin on the Human-Powered Rides.
- 8. Get Discounted Admission.
- 9. Bring a Water Bottle.
- 10. Test the Weapons.
- 11. Don’t Expect a History Lesson.
- 12. Choose the Cheap Parking Lot
From human-powered rides to playing in the mud to surprisingly good food, the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is the place to go if you want to party like it’s 1574. Reopening in 2021 after missing 2020 thanks to the pandemic, the Bristol Renaissance Faire was voted “Best Renaissance Faire” for the ninth consecutive year in 2021. Here are 11 secrets to having fun and making the most of a visit to medieval times.
The fun at the Bristol Renaissance Faire near Kenosha, Wisconsin, is just smutty enough for teens to label it “inappropriate for parents.” At least my kids said that the first time we took them. That means, of course, that they were uncomfortable sitting next to Mom and Dad while giggling at the performers who dish out silly double entendres. That kind of bawdy humor is the mainstay of much of the entertainment at this annual summer festival where guests are invited to party like it’s 1574.
But if you don’t mind a little sexual humor amid period-costumed workers and faire visitors, then there’s plenty to enjoy at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
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Back for 2021
The faire was shuttered in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But, as the faire says, “after the plague comes the renaissance.” Opening weekend at this outdoor event found few visitors or workers wearing masks. The only CDC-recommended safety protocol I found was at the Mud Show, where entertainers are skipping the moment when they choose an unwitting visitor for a mud-covered kiss. But, as my son pointed out, hygiene wasn’t a big thing in the 1500s.
The faire operate Saturdays and Sundays through September and closes after a bonus Monday showing on Labor Day (September 6, 2021). Almost all of the activities, picnic tables and performances are outdoors, even the shops. About the only times you’ll be indoors are when you visit the “flushies” (bathrooms).
Here are 12 things to know about the Bristol Renaissance Faire i Kenosha, which is just north of the Illinois state line in Wisconsin.
1. Bring Cash.
The Bristol Renaissance Fair does not take credit cards. At least the food vendors we patronized didn’t. And the performers work for tips, so bring plenty of singles and $5 bills.
In fact, bring lots of $5 bills. It’s been a tough 15 months for people who make a living doing live performance. They deserve a little extra appreciation this year. So if you can afford it, be generous. OK. Moving on…
2. Be on the Lookout for Bosoms.
Lots of bosoms. Enough to make a 12-year-old boy drool.
Chances are you will happen upon a young wench with her tip jar strategically nestled among her ample… Well, you likely get the picture. And if you don’t, just ask the nearest 12-year-old boy.
And the bosoms aren’t limited to the workers. When we visited on opening weekend with clouds threatening to dump buckets of rain on us, the crowds were light. But many, many of the visitors were costumed. We saw everything from women dressed up as fairies, complete with pointed ears and plastic wings, to one fully outfitted Batman. But the biggest group of costumed visitors were those honoring the time period with corsets and other get-ups that emphasized their chest area. (See #5 below for more on that.)
3. Don’t Miss the Mud Show.
Officially called The Sturdy Beggars Mud Show, this ongoing show is silly and smutty and fun. When I posted on Facebook that I was headed to the Faire and asked my friends what I shouldn’t miss, this was the most-often-mentioned feature.
With good reason. The “beggars” keep up a steady banter of off-color jokes interspersed with plenty of time spent wallowing in the mud. Their adage: “The whole world’s a stage, just add water.”
The performers lived up their billing as “beggars.” They spend a significant chunk of time during the show collecting cash from an appreciative audience.
4. Enjoy the Entertainment.
The faire schedule reads like a day planner on a cruise ship. There are 19 different performance venues, ranging from the Mud Pit to the Joust Arena. We only found about half of those during our six-hour visit. Every show was worth at least a few minutes’ time spent watching.
But the Barely Balanced trio of comedian acrobats is not to be missed. This talented crew tells jokes, juggles, and entertains while climbing atop one another, twisting themselves into impossible shapes and holding some Olympic Gold Medal-worthy gymnastics poses.
Several of the shows include some funny jokes that younger kids won’t get but will make adults chuckle. Several of the performers announced at their early shows that they would be doing a later show that would be decidedly adults-only. So if you’re visiting with kids, go early for the family friendlier stuff.
TravelingMom Tip: If you plan to watch the jousting tournament, arrive early if you want a seat in the small stands. We didn’t and ended up sitting the grass, where we ate a lot of dust stirred up by the charging horses.
5. Feel Free to Dress the Part.
Dressing up is a feature of this faire. It is encouraged by weekend-specific themes and costume contests.
We found the costumes this year to be far more extreme than we have ever seen before. A few were downright scary looking. Just be prepared if you’re bringing little ones.
6. Try the Tempura.
My friend Jennifer Olvera suggested it on her blog and she was right. We really liked the tempura shrimp and veggies Jennifer recommended.
The food at the faire overall is pretty darn good. The beef stew in bread bowl was tasty, but I couldn’t understand why hubby chose stew the year we visited on a 90+ degree day. Every year we see lots of people eating the traditional food of 1574: huge BBQ turkey legs.
This year, we tried the Scotch egg — a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and bread crumbs then deep fried. Yum.
7. Take a Spin on the Human-Powered Rides.
The faire might call them thrill rides, but they’re more kitschy fun. The teens enjoyed hopping on a ride and having a couple of able-bodied, period-costumed workers push them around.
Most of the rides require an additional per-person fee, generally about $4. There are some activities for younger kids that are free, including the chance to be made a Knight or Lady of the Realm by Queen Elizabeth.
8. Get Discounted Admission.
The 2021 per-person admission fee at the door is $25.95 for adults, $24.95 for seniors (62+) and military with an ID, $11.50 for kids ages 5-12, kids 4 and under are free.
Discounted tickets — $22 for adults and $10 for kids — are available at Menard’s home improvement stores. Or you can sign up on the website to get an email when discount tickets are available.
TravelingMom Tip: Buy your tickets before you go, either online from the faire or in person at a Menard’s. Having your tickets in hand means you can skip the long lines of people waiting to buy tickets at the entrance to the faire.
9. Bring a Water Bottle.
It gets hot and dusty at the faire and bottles of water are pricey. So bring your own bottle and fill it up at the water fountains located outside the “flushies.”
TravelingMom Tip: Because of the dustiness, it makes sense to wear comfortable closed-toe shoes such as sneakers to walk around the dirt and stone paths.
10. Test the Weapons.
This was the big draw for the males in our group–one teen and two guys 50+. This is another pay-to-play activity, but they thought it was well worth the money for the chance to throw axes, shoot arrows and toss Ninja-style metal throwing stars.
11. Don’t Expect a History Lesson.
My 17-year-old daughter, a history buff, was disappointed that the faire was more Disney than historically accurate. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun!
12. Choose the Cheap Parking Lot
There’s a preferred parking lot near the front gate that charges $10 (cash only) for parking. There’s also a general parking lot to the far north side of the faire (entrance off the frontage road only) for $5. Both lots are mowed grass fields. The $5 lot isn’t that much farther away. Save the $5 on parking and spend it buying another turkey leg.