One of my favorite things to get to do in this whole wide world is visiting the Texas Renaissance Festival.
My family are of the nerdy type and so we are big into dressing up and speaking in “thee”s and “thou”s and my favorite “HUZZAH”s. Part of our trip last January to Florida was to go to a Pirate costume sh0p. Yes, we are totally into it.
I’m not “officially” a Rennie but do know a thing or two about visiting the Texas Renaissance Festival. Below are tips about visiting one of the festival with or without kids.
Pick Your Weekend
There are 8 themed weekends to choose from each year. Most years these are the same themes but every once in a while the themes change up a bit on one of the weekends. We’ve been at the festival during fairy weekend, pirate weekend, All Hallows Eve weekend, Highland Fling, and this year for the first time we got to visit over Thanksgiving Weekend which is Celtic Christmas. If you are dressing up, you might choose your weekend based on what you would like to wear. NOTE: You can wear any costume regardless of the weekend. We saw the Mandalorian there this past year. Also, you don’t have to wear a costume if you want to just dress in regular clothes.
Another thing to consider when picking your weekend, depending on whether or not you are bringing your kids will help you decide your weekend. Maybe you have a little girl that loves to wear fairy wings, then Fairy weekend would be a great date to choose. Maybe you don’t want your kids to see too many revealing clothes, then probably skip Barbarian weekend. Althoguh there will be cleavage all over the place most weekends. Wanting to spend an extra day at the fair, then Celtic Christmas is the weekend for you as the fair is open 3 days instead of 2.
We were able to go to the festival twice this year. Once just my husband and I attended. Then for Thanksgiving weekend (Celtic Christmas) our family of 5 visited. It was so nice to have a getaway weekend but also nice to take the kids a separate weekend as well. Both weekends we camped but more on that below…
Where to Stay
The closest place to stay near the festival is actually at the festival. Fields of New Market is the campground adjacent to the festival and managed by TRF. We stay there now every time we go since moving from the Houston area. Even if you don’t like to camp, don’t worry they have options of Cabins, Glamping, and RV Pad Sites and Rentals. There are port-a-potties setup throughout camp, dumpsters for trash, food trucks/trailers, a bonfire(for adults), “Clan” camping (such as the Band of Bards which is a Karaoke clan), a little general store, dump station for RVs, and more in the 200+ acres.
If you are tent camping like we do, remember there are no designated marked out spaces. Plus, it’s first come first serve. There is a family friendly area and an adult (very adult) area. Also keep in mind if you get to the campground early on Friday, and go to sleep early(10pm), you might wake up to a bazillion tents that magically popped up all around you in the night! LOL The “party” area of the campground can get really really loud with music and inebriated people. If this is not your thing, then be sure to setup your tent in the family friendly area or on the fringe between the alcoholics and the kids zone. This is where we stayed over Celtic Christmas weekend with our kids and while it was still a little bit loud, it was fun and we were able to get some sleep.
Camping or glamping not for you? The city of Magnolia is the closest to the festival and the Texas Renaissance Festival lists a couple local hotels on their website here. Even being close to the fair can mean a timely drive in the car. What should take 10 minutes might be closer to 30 minutes to get to the parking lot. When we lived in North Houston, our drive would be anywhere between 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the themed weekend and the weather. There are also other hotels to stay like in North Houston or Conroe. And resorts on Lake Conroe are also another idea.
Plan Your Day
The first thing we do each weekend at the festival is purchase a schedule of events magazine as soon as we go through the gate. Then we buy some pastries at the Queen’s Pantry which is just a few yards past the gate on the righthand side. They are always DELICIOUS! You can purchase tea or sodas next door or go across the pathway to the coffee shop (which usually also has hot cocoa too). There are picnic tables and other tables to sit at around this area which is a great place to play out your day with your schedule of events in hand.
There is so much to do at the festival. It is 75+ acres of shops, shows, food, and fun. We still have yet to see all of the shows they have each year and haven’t been in all the shops yet.
That makes sense though considering there are 400+ shops! Also booths are setup along the walkway like a toy weaponry booth where my youngest got his wooden ax to decorate his room with and my daughter got a flower crown. They also have a blow horns and tankard mugs made from oxen horns. I even got my mom a big mushroom sculpture for her outdoor garden area. If you love shopping, you’ll enjoy this place!
Now for the food… Ohhhh the food. Good thing we walked 6 miles one of the days were were there otherwise I’d have to wear the tent next year for my costume! Keep in mind the food is pricy just like going to Disney or any other amusement park. But my, oh my, the food! There’s the regular fair food and then there is Texas Renaissance Festival food. Ok, really there are the traditional festival foods like fried stuff on a stick and kettle corn and drinks in those tall tall plastic glasses with giant straws. But there are also things like scotch eggs, tea and strumpets, the King’s feast, greek food, cajun faire, pub crawls, and scotch or absynthe tastings. And don’t forget the pickles and coconut water to drink straight from a coconut. On the short bridge to the Magical Garden/Sherwood/Pirate area this year were both a pickle cart and a coconut cart. The vendors can be tipped and these guys were hilarious with their double entendres (you can imagine with pickles and coconut vendors side by side).
Shows are a big part of the festival! I love seeing all the different shows there are on the 8 main stages plus arena plus stages in pubs and more! IThere are comedy shows, belly dancing, singing, magic shows, circus shows, birds of prey, water shows, lots of rides and games (bring cash for these; we tried the throwing stars this year and was sooo fun!), jousting (of course), full armor combat, and so so much more! This past year there were 40+ shows to see. And it is not all the same shows each year. There are staples of the festival like the jousting, combat, birds of prey(my favorite), world record fire whip show, and lots more. If you are having a weekend getaway, you can catch some of the more riscque shows. If your kids are with you then be sure to check out the show rating. Most of the R shows, because of the types of jokes they tell, will actually have a sign up that says rated “R” and at the beginning of the show they will warn and sometimes ask the parents to move on to a different shows.
Someday I hope we can finish catching all of the shows on our list of to see or maybe not and it’ll keep things fresh for us. Like this year, something new was the Escape Room. It was extra over the entry price but was SO MUCH FUN! Our family has never tried out an escape room before this and it was cool!!!
If you’re only planning on going to the festival once in your life, be sure to stay for the amazing fireworks! These happen each night and IT IS AMAZING! The first year we visited we assumed these would be like watching a couple bottle rockets being shot into the air. Nope. First there are medieval type fireworks and then is a full on giant fireworks show and such a great ending to such a fun day!
What If It Rains
Ok, don’t freak out. It’s a great time to checkout the new Wormwood Theater(for adults) so get your tickets early. There are plenty of indoor shops and museums(that might cost a little extra) to checkout and most of the larger shows have some sort of covering over the seating area but might still be drizzly. The good news is that it probably won’t be as packed on rainy days. The not as good news is it can get a little muddy in some places but while we were there over Thanksgiving weekend, hay was put all over the place on the walk ways so it wasn’t a problem for us. Rainy days are a great time to watch the tavern shows, shop, check out the escape room, museums, and eat eat eat. 🙂 Thanksgiving weekend was rainy for 2 of the 3 days we were there. That Friday was just drizzly so we enjoyed walking though the festival with a more than minimal crowd. Then, that Saturday it was plain ole rainy so we threw in the towel and decided to go into Houston to watch the newly released Croods movie and enjoy some TexMex at a nearby restaurant. Not what was initially planned for our weekend but turned out to be lots of fun and a great way to spend our time. If you are camping or renting an RV or glamping, this is a great time to just hangout and spend the day relaxing watching movies. We brought our laptop and used our mobile hotspot to watch the latest episode of the Mandalorian while all snuggled up in our sleeping bags when we got back from movies and eating. Rain during the festival doesn’t have to ruin your trip; it just means a change of plans which might just be what you need to rest up for the weekend.
*Are you feeling overwhelmed by all there is to experience? When you are at the fair especially during a busy year, carve out some time to meander through the Magic Garden. This is a great place to find some peace in the hustle and bustle of the festival especially for the kids that might be worn out by this time. There are little slightly hidden areas with benches and places to sit and rest. It is always one of my favorite places to go to feel hidden while at the festival.
*You will be walking a BUNCH. One of the days we walked 6 miles! The festival is 75+ acres and the camp ground is 200+ acres. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. If you are unable to walk very well, the paths and roads are generally flat and easy to walk on or use a motorized scooter or wheelchair. There are also rickshaw rides too and from the parking areas as well.
*Save money at lunch time and eat at your campsite or at your car in the parking lot. Be sure to have your hand stamped so you will be able to get back in.
*My kids loved the elephant rides but it costs a pretty penny. Although, when else in your life can you get to ride an elephant? They also loved the regular gravity powered rides and the escape room.
*Keep an eye out for Skid’mark and other actors throughout the festival. They are pretty funny and entertaining. Skid’mark is one of our favorites and has a knack for insulting passer-bys. He is so funny(and terrible)! I also enjoy the fairies that stir up trouble and the actors just inside the gates like the ghost of Christmas past and present who greated my youngest pretending like he was the ghost of Christmas future because he was dressed as a plague doctor. LOL!
*Pay a nominal fee to have all your packages delivered to the front gate where you can pick these up at the end of the day.
Visiting the Texas Renaissance Festival can be lots of fun whether it is for a couples getaway or a family vacation! We’ve decided to try to make this our Thanksgiving Tradition from now on. They do always serve turkey legs and I won’t have to cook it! Win-win. LOL If you have the chance, try going just as a couple first and then bring kids later in the season. Camping is a blast but glamping is even better if you want to spend the money. And be sure to play out your day whether it’s just you and your love or you and your entire family. For more information check out the survival guide for newbies on the Texas Renaissance Festival website.