Renfests celebrate life in the Middle Ages, at least the fun parts: No plagues or bloody dynastic battles. Actors take on historic personae — both real and legendary — while jugglers and fire eaters entertain. There are continuous stage performances and medieval sports, like mud wrestling, and carny games attract contestants trying ax-tossing, archery, and the ‘Drench the Wench’ dunking booth.
At the jousting ring, peasants lead “Olde English” cheers while skilled riders try to knock each other off their mounts in the medieval equivalent of the NFL Playoffs. Vendors sell high-end leatherwork, tapestries, pottery, and jewelry. And wonder of wonders, the banks of the Middle Ages take Visa and MasterCard.
Here are some places to visit Camelot:
Sterling Renaissance Festival, Sterling, New York:
This is one of the oldest Renfests in the world, with 100 stage and street performers, musicians, and artisans.
Weekends through August 16, plus Labor Day, www.sterlingfestival.com
New York Renaissance Festival, Tuxedo Park, New York:
This fest features the expected schedule of jousting, troubadours, food and artisans, plus Chinese dragons, a swashbuckling swordsmen act and a stunning Elizabethan Court.
Weekends from August 1–September 27, plus Labor Day, www.renfair.com/ny
Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, Mt. Hope Estate, Manheim, Pennsylvania:
The 35th year of this festival will include 90 daily stage shows, 22 “royal kitchens” and over 80 artisans in a 35-acre village. Check the website for special themed weekends.
Maryland Renaissance Festival, Annapolis, Maryland:
This is one of the best festivals, with a massive line-up of entertainment, food and shows. King Henry VIII and his current still-headed queen (this year it’s Catherine of Aragon) take a break from royal pressures to visit. Check schedule for ASL-interpretation weekends.
Weekends from August 29–October 25, plus Labor Day, www.rennfest.com
For more travel tips go to www.insightguides.com.