Step into the world of fairies, dragons, unicorns, and magic at the Arizona Renaissance Festival in Gold Canyon! Every guest is a Lord or Lady, and each little prince and princess will be treated like royalty at this engaging mixture of art, culture, history and fantasy.
This is wonderful place for families, and children of all ages. There are activities, rides, and shows to entertain small children and adults alike. Dressing like your favorite fantasy character or a knight of the round table is more than acceptable at this locale. You can create your own ensemble and wear it there. Or if you’re not the crafty type but want to immerse yourself in the experience, you can rent a costume near the entrance. Or purchase your own period costume in several different shoppes around the village!
Artists showcase their clothing, jewelry, metal work, glass blowing, painting and music in beautiful displays, all themed around medieval times, and the lore that accompanies the age. Be prepared, most places take cash only. A few select clothing stores take cards, but there are eight ATMs onsite, including near the entrance, Tournament Arena, Carnival stage, and Crown Pub.
Grab a map when you first walk in, and take a moment to check out the show times and locations. Try to get to a show about 10 minutes before the start of each performance if you want to choose optimal seating, even longer for the Tournament Arena. However even those arriving late can find a way to squeeze in or stand on the sides to watch whatever performance you’re at. The glass blowing demonstration that takes place on a small stage near the King’s Arena is fascinating and educational. For something more thrilling and funny, check out the group London Broil for some juggling with fire! For the very stout hearted patron, you can see the amazing sword swallower in The Lynx Show at the Carnival Stage.
Two of the biggest must-see shows are Adam Crack with his fire whip tricks, and The Jousters in the Tournament Arena. My three year old found the crack of the whip too loud, but my seven year old could not contain her excitement and awe at the impressive display of whip skill and accuracy. Whipping the petals off a rose that was being held in the mouth of the assistant, Esmeralda, elicited loud squeals of excitement from my kids.
The horses in the jousting tournament were beautiful and elaborately dressed for the games. Each section of the audience was encouraged to cheer on their champions and boo the challengers as they competed to catch rings on their lances, or unseat their opponent. For the afternoon shows, try to sit on the side of the entrance so the sun is not shining right in your eyes.
Dragon Tail Tower is a fun walk up what looks like the tower of a castle, then a fast slide down the dragon’s tail which circles the building. It was $2 for each patron, but one of the most fun experiences of the day. Be aware that the inside of the slide is mostly dark, and I saw more than one child exit the slide crying. But most came out laughing and shrieking with mirth.
A small but very worthwhile attraction is in a pavilion with a modest sign on the side that reads simply, “Mother Goose”. Walk up the ramp and you’ll be invited to sit with the lady herself, and her goose! If you come with quiet voices and gentle hands, you can hold the goose and pet her very soft feathers, and she will honk at you to say hello. Pet a small bunny named Muffin, and see three other goose friends. If you’re an adult, there is a pair of white birds you can hold, and if they like you, one may just sit on your head. There are so many stages and shows that just walking around you will end up passing music and singing and dancing. We caught a glimpse of a falconry display while on our way to see mermaids!
The Living Mermaid exhibit is really fun and magical for the little ones. The line moved steadily, and was mostly inside the building. When we rounded the corner and my little ones saw a real mermaid swimming inside a tall tank, they were completely enchanted. They had the opportunity to take a photo with a second mermaid named Nix, who was seated in a giant oyster shell surrounded by pearls. My six year old left the building hopping on her tippie toes yelling, “I can’t believe I just met a real mermaid! I knew they were real!”
The petting farm near the mermaid exhibit is free, and includes a pair of baby goats that were born on Valentine’s Day. Here you can also meet a magical white unicorn named Kira, and for $1 feed her some hay.
If you’re looking for a bathroom you won’t have to go far, as there are many located throughout the site. However you will find nothing that says “restrooms,” only signs that say “Privys,” with arrows to one side for Lords and the other for Ladies. Changing tables for babies were always available, at least in the ladies side of things. I can’t say if they had them in the lord sides and I forgot to ask.
Come hungry because the food was delicious, and compared to most amusement venues, reasonable priced. I had a $5 Italian meatball sub that was huge, delicious, and loaded with cheese. It was so good that when I finished, I had to loosen my corset! A savory and well seasoned Turkey leg will cost $9, but easily feed three small children and their dad. The line for coffee was short, but the lines for beer were pretty long, although they moved quickly. Remember that the eateries take only cash. A large, plain coffee was $2.50. For treats, I highly recommend the Chocolate Maker. Get anything from them. You just can’t go wrong there.
The only difficulty we had here was trying to squeeze in everything we could. I can see why some people choose to buy season passes. We stayed for 6 hours and only experienced a handful of what was available. You could easily stay at any one stage or pavilion all day long and watch show after show. To save time, you could grab some food and bring it with you to one of the shows and eat while you watch. However, we sat at a picnic table under a tent near the Queen’s Kitchen, and were treated to a woman singing Irish ballads in an operatic style. She also played a flute while teaching my daughters to dance a two-step. So there are benefits to eating in the food court area. Everywhere you go you will be treated to a unique experience. Walking toward the exit, a man in a long-nosed mask made my daughter laugh when he pretended to be startled when he saw her behind him, then asked if she was trying to surprise him. She giggled as he trudged behind us, metal cups on his belt clanking with each step.
Parking is free, adult tickets at the gate are $27 and kids are $17. Children five years old and younger are free. If you buy your tickets ahead of time at any Fry’s grocery store, you get one dollar off each ticket, and have one less line to wait in at the Fair. Senior tickets are also available at the gate for $25, but not through Fry’s. Discounts are also provided at the gate for military families, if a military ID is provided.
2019 dates are February 9th – March 31st, 10am-6pm. Open rain or shine! For more information, including show schedules and a site map, please visit the official Renaissance Festival website. Huzzah!