The Bay Area Renaissance Festival is the whole package, offering musicals, magicians, comedies and dramas – all wrapped up in a Renaissance bow. A living history museum with a twist, this popular fair is jam-packed with fun and entertainment.
The festival takes place adjacent to Tampa’s science museum MOSI and runs weekends from mid-February through the end of March. For just under $20, guests can experience the fairy-tale atmosphere of a 16th-century village and meet fairies, wizards and talking trees, pages and peasants or even the king and queen.
Attend a royal audience, and then join the royals as they enjoy a day at court. Enjoy a jousting competition, and wave them on as they parade the grounds.
Meet the queen and her court at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
The grounds are large, and there's plenty to explore, with all the action nestled under cover of sprawling oak trees. Wide dirt paths are lined on both sides with food vendors, small pubs, entertainment venues, buskers, games and activities for all ages. (While much of the festival grounds are shaded, it can still get both hot and dusty, so dress accordingly, drink water and prepare to get a little dirty.)
The festival has a fun, party-like atmosphere, and contributing to this are several pubs serving beer and wine throughout the grounds. The wine selection is limited to red and white, but there's a surprisingly good variety of beer, including options from local microbreweries. The selection changes from pub to pub, so you have to get around and explore all your options.
Pubs also feature musical entertainment in the form of peasant-garbed bands of ruffians singing sea shanties and making numerous toasts. Most popular are festival mainstays: the Bawdy Boys. Tons of fun, and don’t let the rough appearance fool you: they are quite talented as well.
Shows are performed on twelve stages throughout the grounds, and there's always something going on. Visitors can check out comedy acts, magical acts and just plain silly acts, like the Splatter Time Players Mud Show. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is very entertaining and guaranteed to make even the grumpiest smile.
Most shows are suitable for all ages, but there are a few that are pretty risqué, so choose your entertainment accordingly. While all the festival shows are free to attend, it's customary to tip your appreciation.
Kids and adults alike love to dress as their favorite character — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
In addition to the festival cast, many guests come dressed up as well. Want to join in the fun? There are plenty of places onsite to create your own character. Vendors are selling everything the average Renaissance person would need, from broadswords and armor to corsets and tiaras.
The shopping doesn’t end there. There are many vendors to choose from and a wide variety of wares available. Handcrafted pottery, artisan-crafted jewelry, leather-work and much more are on display.
Not sure what to buy? Peer beyond the veil by securing the services of a nearby astrologer, palm or tarot card reader.
If you’re visiting Tampa and looking for a day of imagination-capturing fun, then come on out and experience the region’s most popular Renaissance fair: the Bay Area Renaissance Festival.
Each weekend features a different theme and optional special events, so be sure to check the event website for details before you come.