Hear ye, hear ye! It’s time for the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire—the first and biggest in the entire Kingdom of Ye Olde America. Step back in time to a place where jousting knights, court jesters, fair maidens, and minstrels roamed freely. No time machine required, just a quick jaunt up the freeway and soon your own little knights and princesses will be brandishing giant turkey legs with the best of them.

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photo credit: Young Nobility by Gretchen Hampton

Our Top 12 Tips for Having a Blast From the Past with the Kids:

1. Choose the weekend of your visit carefully—your little pirate might love Pirate Weekend (April 11 & 12) which is not only swashbuckling fun, but is also “kids are free” weekend. Or if you’re looking for something special to do on Easter, they have a Peter Cottontail parade on Easter Sunday. Other weekend specials include Time Traveler Days and Fairies Days (Mother’s Day weekend). Check the special events listing online.

2. Before you go, plan your day. Check the entertainment schedule, note the shows (the joust, the magic show, the knife throwers, the falconers) you just can’t miss and plan accordingly.

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3. Come in costume. Everyone else will be dressed (and talking) in character, so you’ll fit right in. And your kids will love to see you get in on the pretend play. No costume? No problem. You can get one at the Faire—something as simple as a hat, or as elaborate as a suit of armor (no kidding!).

5. All of the children’s craft activities are free, and are on a first come first serve basis. So come here first and beat those lines.  Then go ahead and make as many peasant dolls, Celtic knots, and skeins of spun yarn as you’d like.

6. Face paintings come at an additional cost, but are worth it. One look at the fire breathing dragon, or woodland fairy design and you’ll know that it’s a must. Lines can be long by mid-day, so make this another early stop.

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photo credit: Face Painted by Charlene Huang

7. Go on the Gnome Quest, where kids can seek out the 40 gnomes hidden about the village. Get the shopkeepers and guild members to sign your map and return to Kids’ Kingdom to receive your Official Gnome Finder Certificate.

8. Get dubbed!  Only 25 lucky kids each day are chosen to be made a Knight or Dame of the Realm, in a ceremony held by the Queen. To sign up, head on down to the information tent by 1 p.m. The ceremony takes place at 4:30 p.m. in Kids Kingdom, so there’s plenty of time for roaming the rest of the grounds in between.

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photo credit: Serendipity by Clarence Alford

9. Think Ren Faire is for mini-knights at arms, not babes in arms?  Even the littlest inhabitants of the kingdom will enjoy the play area. You can take a load off on near by bales of hay (surprisingly comfortable if you’ve been on your feet all day). Then, watch your little ones build castles out of wooden blocks, plays a game of checkers on a life size board or rides stick ponies.

10. “Privy” is the old English term for bathrooms and it is marked as such on the map. Take heed.

11. There isn’t much shade, unless your watching one of the stage shows, so bring plenty of sunblock and hats for everyone.

12. Strollers are hard to navigate with all the dirt paths and grassy lawns. They rent wagons, which are better suited for the terrain. Baby carriers are also a great alternative.

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photo credit: Victory Ride by Robert Armstrong

Food Fit for a King (or Queen)
A stein full of the finest juice (or ale for the parents), turkey legs as big as your kids, freshly popped kettle corn, roasted corn on the cob, and even pork chops on a stick. There are so many food booths at the Faire, there’s something for everyone, even the pickiest of eaters. Staples like pizza, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets are also easy to come by, though not as authentic in the days of yore. Bring plenty of cash, as most booths prefer paper, as befitting the olde fashioned nature of the day. While we’re mentioning things to bring, bring wipes, too (those turkey legs are messy).

There are limited picnic tables, so plan accordingly. You’ll most likely be eating on the go.

No outside food or drink is allowed inside the Faire grounds. But with so many options (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free), there’s something for everyone.

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photo credit: Battle Pagent by Joe Foley

The Coin of the Realm
Adult single day passes are $28. Children ages 5-12 are $15 per day. Children four and younger are free. If you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll get an instant coupon emailed to you.  Huzzah!

Want even more of a discount? Head to your local Walgreens for more coupons. For a list of participating stores click here.

Parking is $10 per car. And if you really want to be treated like the Lord or Lady that you are, you can always choose valet, which will cost you an extra $20.

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photo credit: Huzzah by Leslie Charron

When and Where
The Renaissance Pleasure Faire takes place Saturdays and Sundays April 5-May 18 at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale. That’s less than an hour outside of Los Angeles (give or take, with traffic). Faire gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. In and outs are fine, as long as you have your hand stamped. For directions click here.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire
Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area
15501 E. Arrow Highway
Irwindale
Phone: 626-969-4750
Online: renfaire.com

Are you a regular or a newbie to Ren Faire adventures?  We’d love to hear your tips or questions in the comment section below.

—Christina Fiedler