Renaissance Festival


renaissance festival



As a teenager, my parents brought me to the MN Renaissance Festival a couple of times and I thought it was “pretty cool” (this is what teenagers say when something is actually super awesome). I shopped for jewelry, ate cheese curds and enjoyed the sarcasm of the man behind the Vegetable Justice wall. Then as a college student, I went back and did what college students do – I bought a RenFest-branded tankard and refilled it with beer. All. Day. Long.

Since then, I hadn’t returned until I had children. And let me tell you right now: this place is incredible for little ones. Knights and fairies and kings and mermaids? Giant pickles and flower crowns and wooden swords? Games and rides and crafts and root beer floats? Man, I just described my kids’ heavens. If this sounds like a fit for your wee ones too, now is the season to head down to Shakopee and make some medieval memories! And I’ll let you know what kid-friendliness you really shouldn’t miss…

renaissance festival

What is it?

In 2015, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival is celebrating its 45th season. Named the country’s largest festival of its kind, this outdoor celebration brings in 300,000 people a year and offers themed weekends, unique shopping, tons of live entertainment, costumed characters everywhere you look and food. So much good food! Immediately upon entering, you will be transformed into a land of wonder. People in medieval costume chit-chat with you around every corner (full accent and all) and most of them have a pretty great sense of humor, but some don’t have much for boundaries when it comes to children, so protect thine ears. 🙂

The seasons is relatively short (usually late August through early October) and their weekends are themed so you can be selective about when you want to go. They list all themed weekends on their website along with the fun activities that accompany the theme. I swear, one of these years, I’m going to leave the kids at home and hit up the “Wine, Chocolate & Romance” weekend with my husband.

Even if you don’t go for the “theme,” every day has an awesome lineup of events and activities – many very family friendly! I’ll go over some of these in my “Tips” section, but you can also see a full listing on their website.

renaissance festival

Fit for what ages?

I see strollers here every once in awhile and they don’t look like they’re struggling to get around, so I simply can’t put a minimum age on this place. My three and six-year olds loved it, and – had this baby been out in time to join us – I certainly would’ve brought him along too. There is even designated “stroller parking” in certain places. They have an adorable kiddie ride and game area for a variety of ages, from pony rides to a tiny “obstacle course” to butterfly swings to an actual ninja throwing star challenge (you can imagine how dreamy my son thought it was to throw an actual ninja star – yikes!). We have taken our kids since they were two and every year, I feel like they get into it even a little bit more. This year was the year of my daughter! She is the perfect age for mermaids and princesses and dress-up and make-believe and seeing that excitement on her face made it all the more enjoyable. Be sure to hit up Fairywing Forest Theater to see dancing fairies, puppets and live animals and come prepared to get everyone a good state-fair-priced meal or two.

It is a lot of walking and there isn’t a whole ton of shaded areas or diaper changing spots, so keep that in mind if you are going sans-stroller. Little legs get tired quickly and they are sure to let you know it by stopping in the middle of a massive crowd and refusing to walk. And we all know how fun that can be. The good news? Admission for kids ages 4 and under is FREE!

renaissance festival

Older kids should enjoy the festival as well. There are a number of comedy and entertainment acts that will make a tween smile – be sure to check out Some of our favorites include the clever Dr. Thora Pandora (a scientist who blow things up), Tuey the Juggler (at one point, he juggles balls, rings, and fire while standing on a ladder 10 feet in the air), and the ever-classic Puke & Snot (these guys…SO funny! If your kids are old enough to get pirate humor, check them out!). Keep in mind, some stage shows are geared slightly more towards the adult crowd with their subtly-suggestive scripts (think Shrek’s “Do you think he’s compensating for something?” line when he sees Lord Farquaad’s giant castle), but nothing is so in-your-face that parents should be offended. I mean, c’mon, there are women everywhere dressed as wenches walking around with all of there, ahem, “assets” proudly hanging out, so just embrace the theme of the day and let your kids be exposed to it all, right? Also new for older kids is Castle Escape (costs $14.95 extra), where you try to beat the clock and find the stolen sword using brain-testing clues before your time runs out.

You know your kids better than anyone, so only you can determine if this kind of festival is worth the money, but I absolutely love the magic and imagination it brings out in them every year.

renaissance festival

How much are we talkin?

As I said above, ages 4 and under are FREE to get in, but then it gets steep quickly. Kids ages 5-12 cost $13.95/person and adults 13+ cost $22.95/person. It definitely seems heavy, but keep in mind there are deals everywhere before the festival opens or you can save $2-3/ticket by purchasing them online beforehand. They also offer a special 2-day weekend or season pass price, but with kids, one day is usually enough.

Be sure to look for special events too. This year, they hosted a Fairytale Princess Party for kids up to age 12 for $10/child, where your kiddo can mingle with princesses, have a snack and make a craft. Going adults-only? Consider paying a little extra for a wine tasting or pub crawl.

After admission is paid for, be sure to have cash on hand for a delicious meal or two, some drinks, and potential rides, games and purchases from the Marketplace. Food prices here sit around the same range as the State Fair (a $9 turkey leg, a $5 root beer float, a $3 giant pickle, $6 cheese curds…you get the picture), but there are some really tasty options that you won’t want to miss. Rides and games also cost money (about $2-4/ride and anywhere from $1-5/game). We always limit our kids to choosing two rides and one game each so as to not break the bank. They could spend hours just watching the games too, so keep that in mind to save money. The balloon fencing is highly entertaining to watch, as is the real jousting ring, Vegetable Justice and the dueling buckets.

Other FREE activities include the kids crafting area (make a fairy wand or a pirate hat), the princess garden (kids can try on costumes and get their photo taken with a “real” princess), Mermaid Cove, a small petting zoo, the Throne of Swords (it’s a chair made of swords, guarded by a knight), and all kid-friendly shows and parades.

renaissance festival

Oh, and your kid can ride an elephant for $4. It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to ride.an.elephant! Albeit, the ride lasts about 45 seconds, but an elephant can’t help that his steps are huge and it takes him under a minute to make the loop. Good for a photo opp if nothing else!

Every kid wants a souvenir, right? Mine love crowns and swords, so to give you an idea of price, her handmade crown cost $12 (this is the cheap end) and his wooden shield was $10 (also, the cheapest option). There’s plenty of shopping options for little ones, but be prepared to drop some jack if you agree to it. But, hey, a souvenir lasts longer than face painting, that costs $15 here. So there’s that.

I mentioned discount deals as well. If you’re on top of your game and can nab the annual 2-for-1 deal from Steals from StarTribune, adult prices are only $11.50. This is a short-lived deal (usually live around late July) so be sure to follow them on Facebook so you don’t miss it next year. This year, CBS Local and other media outlets also offered half off deals, so if you keep an eye out, you can really save some money.

Didn’t jump on an early deal? No worries. Stop by a Subway, Wendy’s or Papa Murphy’s to grab a discount coupon before heading out. I’m not 100% sure how much these save you, but even a couple bucks is worth it.

Oh, one more thing: Craigslist. People are always trying to sell their tickets on Craigslist. It’s worth a shot.

renaissance festival

Want some tips?

I have so many pointers and notes that I honestly don’t know where to start. So forgive me if this seems disorganized:

Bees! I don’t want to start with the negative, but this is worth a mention this year. We’ve never had this experience in our past year’s at RenFest, but in 2015, it was the Year of the Bees! They were everywhere and affected our eating and drinking immensely. My husband and I didn’t eat at all to avoid drawing their attention. My daughter got stung and you can imagine how quickly that can ruin a day. Was a major bummer, but am hoping it was a one-time deal and something is done about them in years to come. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

renaissance festival

Now, on to logistics…

Parking is free and the lot is massive! We usually get there at opening and land a decent spot, but even then, we take the shuttle-slash-school-bus. There are shuttle stops spread throughout the parking lot and they come regularly enough to make it worth it with kids. If you decide to walk to the entrance, be prepared for a lengthy trek. Why? Longer story than I want to write here, but the MN Renaissance Festival’s last year at their Shakopee location will be 2016 due to the land-owners expansion of gravel mining. In other words, there is a giant mining pit being dug where there once was a close-and-convenient parking lot, so everything was bumped back…a lot. More information on all of that drama here. Major bummer, but I’m really hoping that continue to grow and find a wonderful new location to start anew!

Ok. So after you get to the entrance, present your tickets to the guards and enter the castle. Be prepared throughout the day to have people strike up conversations, commenting on your clothing or crowd, or simply trying to get you to smile. They mean no harm. Some are more suggestive/rude than others, but when a random knight tells your daughter she looks like a real princess or challenges your son to a sword fight? Day. Is. Made. Costumes are very encouraged, although my kids have never worn theirs, but it would certainly put them in the mood.

I suggest wearing good walking shoes. The entire place is dirt and sand, so close-toed usually works best for my family. Strollers are allowed (and so are dogs, actually), but the heat can be brutal so know this ahead of time. Bring cash. Yes, they have ATMs. Yes, they have a ton of porta potties. Yes, they have hand washing stations. Yes, they are open in crappy weather. NO, you cannot bring in your own food and drink. It gets crowded so prepare for lines and waits and some shoulder-sitting so your kiddos can see the events going on around them. All worth it, but be warned.

renaissance festival

Buy your tickets online ahead to save time when arriving. Grab a map of the daily events and food/vendor/entertainment locations if you have specific stops you want to hit.

Bringing kids? Here is a quick list of places we stop and events we try not to miss (*= FREE):

  • * Stand in line for Mermaid Cove where you can get pics taken with two mermaids
  • * Walk through the magical fairy garden
  • * Get a front row seat for the jousting event (three times daily – check website for times)
  • * Enjoy the music and movement of a belly dance show
  • * Laugh at the inappropriately endearing Puke & Snot stage show
  • * Make a wand or hat at the kids craft table
  • * Watch (don’t play against!) the mean man in the Vegetable Justice game insult people in the worst way possible
  • Play a game or two and take a ride on the butterfly swing
  • Pay a little extra to get your daughter’s hair braided
  • Consume a giant turkey leg and an ice cold beer
  • Ride a camel or an elephant
  • Feed the animals at the petting zoo
  • Buy a souvenir (just cuz)

Didn’t get your fill at the Festival? Maybe the little ones just couldn’t make it? The fun need not end! The location in Shakopee is only 5 miles short of Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, where you and your kids can pick from every candy or bottled pop imaginable. Or hit up the Minnesota Harvest Apple Orchard for a little apple-picking fun (also right down the road). Both are wonderful options on a fine fall day!

renaissance festival

Hours and Location

12364 Chestnut Blvd | Shakopee, MN 55379

The 2015 Renaissance Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays only from August 22 through October 4 (plus Labor Day and Friday, October 2) from 9am-7pm. The Festival is located just off Hwy 169. Big blue signs are everywhere so it’s hard to miss!

Parking and shuttle service are provided free of charge.


Follow the MN Renaissance on Facebook to see themed weekends and activities, discount deals, weather updates, transportation options, daily entertainment and so much more!

Disclaimer: I received 4 free admission passes from the MN Renaissance Festival in exchange for my time sharing this post. All thoughts are my own.

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