It’s time to get medieval.
Setting up camp alongside I-94 for its 25th summer, the Bristol Renaissance Faire opened last weekend to raucous crowds and is here to entertain through Labor Day.
For the uninitiated, the fair is a trip back in time to England’s Renaissance period, with knights, queens, fair maidens, turkey legs, jousts … along with a handful of elves, fairies and the occasional dude who’s made armor out of Coors Lights boxes. I’m not joking.
First and foremost, the fair is a people-watching extravaganza. Located on a sprawling piece of countryside just over the state line in Wisconsin, the atmosphere truly adds to the experience and those attending really get into it. It’s not just the cast of characters that make you feel like you really are in merry old England. It’s where anyone can be that knight in shining armor or damsel in distress. And while some may think it’s unfortunate that some people can’t get their time periods straight, I enjoyed seeing gypsies and Klingons mixing it up with Robin Hood and Little John.
It’s also very family-friendly. In fact, most games, thrill rides and activities are geared toward those 12 and under, whereas the theatrical performances are more for older teens and adults. Kids can hone their archery skills, try jousting, and learn to juggle all in the span of a few hours.
See: It’s easy to get wrapped up in the people-watching, but don’t miss the real theater—16 stages worth. This isn’t a bunch of penny actors—many are award-winning members of Chicago and Milwaukee’s acting communities. An example—“Moonie the Magnif’cent” is really Phillip Earl Johnson, a 2012 Jefferson Award winner for his role in “The Big Meal” at American Theater Company.
Skip: The lines at the drink stands—once you enter the fair, there is a small drink stand immediately to your left. Get your bottled water there and avoid the wait later.
Tip: If you head out early (and you should), you may encounter a travel backup at the Russell Rd. exit. Head one exit further (#347), turn left over the highway and travel south back down the frontage road, which will allow you to avoid most of the line waiting to turn into the Faire.
Bristol Renaissance Faire is located at the Wisconsin/Illinois border near Kenosha, Wis. Open weekends through Labor Day, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., tickets are $19.95 for adults and $9.50 for kids. Check their website at renfair.com/bristol for special offers and daily schedules.