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 1599. Here are the 11 things you need to know (including where to get a great deal on tickets) before heading to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, which sets up every summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Bristol Renaissance Faire Fun
The fun at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is just smutty enough for my teens to label it “inappropriate for parents.” That means, of course, that they are 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 1599.”
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.
Here are 11 things to know about the Bristol Renaissance Faire (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 some small bills.
2. Be on the Lookout for Bosoms.
Lots of bosoms. Enough to make a 12-year-old drool–before you 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.
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 a little time spent wallowing in the mud. There’s plenty of audience participation and the coupe de grace: One lucky man and one lucky woman who are chosen to get a kissed from one very muddy beggar. Take it from me, don’t sit at the end of a row. I learned that the hard way. (See the photo if you don’t want to just take my word for it).
4. Enjoy the Entertainment.
The faire schedule reads like a day planner on a cruise ship–there are 20 different performance venues, ranging from the Kids’ Kingdom Stage 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 Gold Medal-worthy gymnastics poses. 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 as well as the
free loan of skimpy chain mail costumes to visitors. All you need to do is hand over an ID and talk up the chain mail shop as you wander around the faire grounds. (See note about bosoms, which is only enhanced by well-endowed visitors.)
6. Try the Tempura.
My friend (and former TravelingMom Food Editor) Jennifer Olvera suggested it on her blog and she was right. Much of the food at the faire is your standard not-so-great theme park food. But we did like the tempura shrimp and veggies Jennifer recommended.
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. Note that most of the rides require an additional per-person fee, generally about $3. There are some activities for younger kids that are free.
8. Buy Your Tickets at Walgreen’s.
The 2016 per-person admission fee at the door is $24.95 for adults, $11.50 for kids ages 5-12. But it’s only $20.95/$9.95 at participating Walgreen’s stores (there’s a list of participating stores on the Bristol Renaissance Faire website). As an added benefit, having your tickets in hand means you can skip the long lines to buy tickets at the entrance to the faire. You can also buy tickets online through the Bristol Ren Faire website at a discount, where you can download a coupon in return for joining the email list.
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.” Re: the dustiness, it also 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.
Details: There are renaissance faires around the country, but the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was voted the best renaissance fair in the country in 2012. It’s open weekends only through Labor Day, rain or shine.
Disclosure: I did not get free passes to the fair. We went as a family and paid our own way. As always, the opinions here are all my own.