Bristol Renaissance Faire provides a way to relive English historyPhoto courtesy of the Bristol Renaissance Fair Dressing up in period costumes helps kids feel more like they're part of the party at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
Every summer the woods outside Bristol, Wis., are transformed into Queen Elizabeth's Merry Olde England, complete with 10 neighborhoods of shops and nearly 1,500 participants. It is an opportunity for kids of all ages to experience living history—using the language, observing the dress and customs, and hearing the music of the era.
While this trek back in time can be fun, it can also be expensive and overwhelming for first-time visitors. Prithee kind lords and ladies, let me guide ye in the ways of our faire (translation: Ladies and gentleman, here are some tips for making the most of this entertaining historical reenactment).
1. Get thee early to the faire. The faire opens at 10 a.m., but a stunt show outside the front gates starts at 9:45 a.m.
2. Bargain hunters, savings abound if ye know where to seek them. Tickets for the Bristol Renaissance Faire are $17.50 (13 and older), $8.50 (5-12) and free for 4 and under. However, Cub Foods and Century Foods sell discounted adult tickets as does the faire's Web site, www.renfair.com.
3. Eat, drink and be merry. There are more than 60 different food items for sale from $1 to $5.50. Experts say the large, reasonably priced meals offer the best bet. Bring your food into one of the free shows and enjoy Renaissance "Dinner Theater" for an extra treat.
4. If ye seek free activities, the faire has aplenty. Many rides at the faire cost extra, but admission includes all activities in the Kids Kingdom, a parade and all performances.
5. Beware the crowds at the big parade. Many guests head to the center of the faire for the best seats, but insiders know the parade begins at the front gate. Plenty of front row seats are available there.
6. Bow or curtsy for the queen and ye shall be rewarded. Check the schedule for a late afternoon "knighting" ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth. Children will be given an oath and dubbed a knight or lady of the faire.
7. Frolic with the locals. The Bristol Buskin Frolic dance troop teaches the dances of the Renaissance. Artisans offer free demonstrations. Stay by the stage after the Robin Hood show and take photos with the characters.
8. Dress for thy success. "A jester hat, crown or hair garland that you can make at home is great way to feel like you are joining the party," Susan Scot Fry, faire spokesperson, says. There is a daily costume contest.
9. Mothers: the faire holds a special place for thee. Behind the security/first aid station is a shaded nursing area. Diaper changing facilities are located in the center of the faire.
10. The surrounding woods hold a key to savings. Many hotels in the area offer special packages that include an overnight stay and free shuttle to the faire.
The Bristol Renaissance Faire is located just over the Wisconsin border off Interstate 94 at Wisconsin Route 50. The faire is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, June 28 to Aug. 24. Free parking is available, preferred parking is $3. (847) 395-7773.
-- Lenna Silberman Scott