Slip into your chain mail and grab a turkey leg — the Texas Renaissance Festival has returned for its 45th year. Let us be your guide, lords and ladies, to this beloved tradition, which, with more than 500,000 visitors annually, is widely considered the largest festival of its kind in the nation. Here’s everything you need to know.
The festival is set inside a recreation of a 16th-century European village and has become famous for its outlandish outfits, memorable performances and, yes, at times, acerbic actors.
“That's definitely why the actors are there, so people are interacting with you and speaking to you in the King's language and just really making you feel like you've stepped away from the outside world and come to a very different place within the gates of the festival,” said marketing manager Marlena Solomon.
This 55-acre festival located a little over two hours from Austin in Todd Mission features 20 stages and 350 on-site shops. It’s so sprawling that the average person travels 25,000 steps during a day at the fest, Solomon said.
“You're immersed into this European Village that’s been created here. Kids and adults and families can get lost for a day at the festival,” said Solomon, who was a longtime festival attendee before she began working there. “Basically it's an opportunity to leave your cares behind.”
Expect more than 100 interactive characters across the grounds, ranging from circus performers and bawdy barbarians to jousting knights and merry men, well, making merry. It runs weekends through the first week of December; it’s also open the Friday after Thanksgiving. The festival is family friendly, although some experiences are only for adults.
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Food and drink
Here’s a fun fact for you: Last year, more than 98,267 turkey legs were consumed at the Texas Renaissance Festival. But if you’re seeking a little more variety, never fear. From a loaded Plunderer's Po' Boy to Fat Fannie’s Funnel Cakes, options are bountiful at RenFest. Expect fish and chips and tea and strumpets, sure, but also keep an eye out for muffulettas, empanadas and pizza. The types of food represented include Greek, German, Spanish, French/Cajun, Polish, Asian, Italian and traditional English fare, as well as pub food and hamburgers. You also can dine with royalty if you book the two-hour King’s Feast Package, which is offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and includes admission to the festival, an all-you-can-eat meal and “flagons of wine, mead and ale.”
Pick a theme
This year’s festival features a variety of themed weekends ranging from Oktoberfest to Pirate Adventure. Remaining themed weekends of the season include Return to the Renaissance (Nov. 2-3, complete with a costume contest and a spaghetti-and-meatball-eating contest); Heroes and Villains (Nov. 9-10); Barbarian Invasion (Nov. 16-17); Highland Fling (Nov. 23-24); and Celtic Christmas (Nov. 29-Dec. 1).
Say ’I Do’
If you love RenFest — like, really, really love RenFest — you can show off that love with a 16th-century-themed wedding of your dreams in the backdrop of the festival’s charming English Village. Last year, the festival hosted 68 weddings; proposals are common, too. (This weekend, six weddings and a proposal are scheduled, Solomon said.)
“It’s a big thing,” she said, adding that the festival features five on-site wedding venues, two reception areas and a wedding planner. “Not everyone does a themed or costume wedding. Many of the brides wear traditional dresses. We try to make sure people know they can have a very traditional wedding here as well. You don’t have to be dressed in garb or costume.”
Wedding packages are available, such as the Royal Celebration package ($7,500), which includes: RenFest tickets for the couple and 50 guests; 90-minute reception and meals for bride, groom and guests; wedding cake; dressing room; sword arch; bagpipes; a minister; sparkling wine; hand-carved wedding candles and more.
Stay the night
Don’t want to hop into your horse-drawn carriage and hit the dirt road just yet? Stay the night at the 200-acre Fields of New Market campground, which is set in a bucolic meadow that offers tent camping and RV and trailer accommodations. The campground also offers cabin rentals and glamping packages that include a pre-pitched tent with one queen or two twin beds (with real mattresses!), two pillows with pillowcases, an end table, two chairs, a lantern and a rug.
Those staying at the campground may also purchase tickets to the campground’s After Dark Club, which is open on Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and includes shows, a DJ, a karaoke room and a hookah lounge.
If you go
Admission is $23.95 for adults and $11.95 for children 12 and under plus fees if purchased online. Admission at the gate is $34 for adults and $17 for children. Children are also admitted free on Sundays.
The festival opens at 9 a.m. with a village cannon and closes at 8 p.m. with royal fireworks. A Grand Marche Parade takes place at noon, during which residents of the New Market Village gather at the Globe Stage and parade through the village to greet all of the guests of the King and Queen. Guests are encouraged to come in costume, and there is also a costume rental shop available on-site.
Learn more at texrenfest.com.