If you're looking for a fun and unusual event, then you need to check out the Texas Renaissance Festival. This is the nation's largest and most acclaimed renaissance theme park which is an authentically recreated 16th century village with over 340 shops, 16 stages for performances, a Roman coliseum, games and rides. The village is situated on 53 acres under the tall Texas pines and has lush landscaped grounds with gardens and vines - a beautiful and perfect setting for the festival.
The Texas Renaissance Festival runs on Saturdays and Sundays from early October to late November and is located between Plantersville and Magnolia about 50 miles northwest of Houston. We attended the 35th annual festival the weekend of November 7th and 8th. On the way to the entrance we couldn't help but stare and marvel at the the ingenuity and creativity of thousands of guests dressed in a wide variety of wild and original period costumes. We saw everything from elves, to pirates, to barbarians, to solders marching together in full Roman legend outfits. And as soon as we passed through the entrance gate, the atmosphere changed and you started to feel like you had traversed 300 years back in time to the 16th century complete with period characters speaking the native tongue, authentic architecture, and games and entertainment from King Henry VIII and his Queen Katherine's era.
As you stroll along the cobblestone paths you won't have any trouble finding some type of food to fit your fancy. Over 60 merchants offer English, French, German, Greek, Italian, and Polish fare. Several taverns, some with music and performances, offer beer, wine, margaritas, and pina colodas. I could spend hours just sampling and munching on the variety of good food. There are over 340 shops that line the perimeter of the 53 acres offering a wide variety of unique arts and crafts, games of skill, attractions, and more. Each of the shops are manned by attendants in 16th century costumes speaking the native tongue.
In addition to the food offerings and shops, there are 200 daily performances with a wide variety of entertainment on 16 stages. Stage entertainment includes: juggling, various forms of music (bagpipes to flutes) and singing, magicians, belly dancing, story tellers, weapons and fighting demonstrations, bird shows, and lots more. And the Roman coliseum modeled from the 14th century is packed when the action starts with costumed steeds and noble knights in shinning armor brandishing swords, jousting sticks, and shields to compete for the King and Queen's blessing. We particularly enjoyed the humorous Sturdy Beggars mud pit show, the humor and range of music from the drums and bagpipe played by the Tartanic, the Pirates singing, and the slapstick humor and performance of the Other Brothers. In addition to the stage performances, there is a feisty group of performers like the Elves, Barbarians, Scottish Nobles, Puppeteers, Peasants, English Court, and others roaming the village streets and performing and entertaining. And don't miss the opening parade - a real highlight for us and an amazing assembly of costumed renaissance characters! The grand kids' mouths were open the entire time, as was mine, and we heard a lot of "Wow, did you see that!"
As you meander throughout the village you'll be amazed at the costumes that visitors and works are dressed up in!
In addition to all the shops and entertainment as you stroll through the park you'll find:
If you can't find some good food, something to buy, a performance you like, or a game of skill to enjoy, then something's wrong! In fact, there is so much to see and do, you won't be able to get it all in with just a one day visit. So either get there when the gates open, plan on making it a weekend and visit both days, or plan another time to come back.
Each of the eight weekends that the festival runs is a themed weekend like Pirate Adventure, Octoberfest, Barbarian Invasion, Roman Bacchanal, and Celtic Christmas. The weekend we attended it was Roman Bacchanal to cry "Hail to Caesar" and join in the Kings celebration of ancient Rome. As such, meandering through the festival and enjoying the merriment we spotted everything from Roman legioneers in full battle dress to guests dressed in a wide variety of togas. The contests during the weekend included some of the games of Italy like Bocce Ball competition, pasta eating contest, and a Royal Toga Contest.
To make the event even more fun, gather a bunch of your friends, dress in period costumes, and make it a weekend. If you don't want to make your own costume, you have a wide variety of options available for purchase within the village. Make it a weekend and stay in a near by motel or camp on the festival grounds.
There are two sections for camping primitive camping (no water or electricity, no designated sites, and a scattering of porta potties) - a quiet family camping area or the general camping area. We stayed in the general camping area and loved it. What a wild party until all hours of the night. It was a blast walking through the campground, joining some of the partying around the multiple campfires, or joining the crowd making merry and dancing to the bongos at the central bonfire. The campground was packed and most of the campers were in period costume and some have been coming for the last 10 years! You'll be disappointed if you don't buy a weekend pass and even then you'll never get to see all of the acts.
For group outings, the Festival can host you with beautifully landscaped picnic areas, catered food, face painters, fortune tellers, musical entertainment, and interactive characters. Have fun.