Seven years ago, I attended my first Renaissance fair – the Texas Renaissance Festival northeast of Houston, Texas. I had a wonderful time, so when I discovered that SoCal boasted its own version, the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, I had to see it for myself.
My husband Eric joined me, as did two of our good friends. We ordered our tickets online, which offered a slight discount. You can save even more by purchasing your tickets at participating Walgreens locations. You can also buy tickets at the gate for their full price, which is $28 for adults and $15 for kids. Or you can splurge for a season pass, if that’s your thing.
There are a few additional costs you’ll want be aware of. Parking is $10 per car. The food court and many of the booths are cash only. There are several ATMs scattered throughout the faire, but they do charge fees, so if you’d like to avoid those be sure to take out cash before you leave. Bring plenty of cash. The faire is expensive, and if you don’t plan on purchasing anything there you honestly won’t be doing much.
During each of the faire’s seven weekends a different theme is selected to further enhance your fun. We attended on “Time Traveler Weekend,” which encouraged visitors to wear their best steampunk costumes. Other themed weekends include “Pirate Weekend,” “Fantasy & Fairies,” and “Homebrew Feature Weekend.” This year, there was even one weekend that allowed kids to enter the faire for free! These themed weekends change from year to year, so be sure to check out the website for more information.
There are also a number of add-on experiences that you can pay a little extra to participate in. Each day of the faire, you can have tea with the queen. Advance reservations are required and cost $26 for adults and $13 for children. You can also take part in the twice-daily pub crawl for $45 (children drink free – just kidding!). While you can purchase tickets for the pub crawl at the faire, advance reservations are encouraged. I can’t vouch for these experiences because we opted not to take part, but we nevertheless had a great time.
So, what did I think about the faire itself? Despite it being expensive, it was a lot of fun and we all ended up getting our fill of beer, sweet mead, and kitschy souvenirs. It was entertaining to wander and browse the unique and interesting merchandise. I was tempted to purchase a bejeweled pewter dragon goblet, but was deterred by the $170 price tag. I did, however, get myself a simple rosette crown, which I think was both a practical and perfectly reasonable purchase. I have been wearing it every Sunday to watch Game of Thrones.
I was pleased with the abundance of “drynk” tents; no matter where you went you were never far from a supply of beer. Our friends purchased some amazing drinking horns from which they could drink, but I was content with plastic cups (though I suppose I would have preferred a pewter dragon goblet). While my compatriots selected a variety of beers, I was content to stick with sweet mead, which came in two delicious varieties: honey and raspberry.
For lunch we headed to the food court, which hosted a huge variety of tasty choices. We opted for the sausages, a decision we did not regret. I had the bratwurst covered in saurkraut and grilled onions, topped with plenty of spicy mustard. It was quite appetizing, made even better when washed down with sweet honey mead.
In addition to food, drink, and shopping, we participated in a number of other exciting activities. We stopped in for a number of shows, including Lord Franko the Hypnotist, a pair of astonishing aerial dancers, and even caught part of a joust! We tried our hands at a bit of knife throwing and axe tossing as well, at which point my friends and I all discovered we are terrible at throwing sharp metal objects (though Eric would like me to note that he was the best at it because he actually got one knife to stick in the target – a questionable statement considering his target was much larger than anyone else’s).
Here’s a quick tip for the game booths found throughout the faire: haggle for the best price! When we went to the knife-throwing booth, we were offered $5 each for seven knives, but when we acted disinterested, they offered us twelve knives for the same price. When we later visited the axe-throwing booth, we got similar offers, but kept declining. Finally, the woman working the booth offered to let three of us throw seven axes each for $10. The number of things they let you throw is not so important as getting the price down from $5 each (especially when you miss the target every time). Also, let’s be real: $5 is a lot of money when you’re just throwing a handful of dull “knives” at a bale of hay.
In addition to the faire-sponsored activities, we found ourselves playing our own little games. Our most favorite was a game we called “employee or crazy?” in which we tried to guess whether a particular costumed person doing something strange was a faire employee or just a visitor enjoying the festivities in their own special way. There were many of these, and we’re still not sure which category they all fell under.
All in all, we participated in enough activities to completely fill our day. By the time we headed back to our car, tired, dusty, and on aching feet, we were content. In fact, there were plenty of things left to do, which means I have a reason to go back next year! If you’ve never attended, I highly recommend the Renaissance Pleasure Faire for a fun-filled day!
Quick facts about the Renaissance Pleasure Faire:
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 7pm. Runs from the beginning of April through mid-May.
Address: Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, 15501 East Arrow Highway, Irwindale, CA
Getting there: Follow the 210 freeway east and exit at Irwindale. Head south, then take a right at Arrow Highway. Turn right into the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area and follow the road until you see the parking attendants.
Admission: [Adults] $28, [Children under 12] $15, [Children under 4] Free. Discount tickets available online and from participating Walgreens stores. Group discounts are also available, as are senior discounts and military discounts.
Season Passes available. They cost $150 for adults and $60 for children ages 5 to 12.
What to bring: Cash. Costumes if you desire. Drinking vessels such as drinking horns or pewter goblets.
Parking onsite. $10 flat rate. $30 for busses. Valet parking available for an additional $20.
Some vendors accept credit cards. Food & drink stands are cash only, as are games and some merchandise. ATMs available onsite.
Beer, wine, and mead served.
Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options available.
Good for groups & kids.