Monday, October 3rd, 2011
The Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF for short) is about to open for its 37th season. For 8 Weeks in the Fall, the TRF transports you back into time, around the world, and even to realms of magic and fantasy, all in the idyllic setting of Todd’s Mission Texas. Set back in the pine forest off FM 1488, between Plantersville and Magnolia, there are acres upon acres of fun, food and friends.
Now every year, I make at least a few trips to the TRF. Last year, I went 10 times and made it 7 of 8 weekends, I was there opening Saturday, and watched the Final Fireworks on the Festival’s last Sunday. (unfortunately, I had too much going on last Halloween to make to All Hallow’s Eve weekend) Now that seems like a lot of merriment for someone who doesn’t actually work for the TRF, and I would almost have to agree. However, each year I try to take a new group or a new person with me. And now after bringing new folks to the TRF and showing them around, each year they ask me to go back with them, because we’ve always had such a great time. Since I’ve been kind of guiding friends since 2003, I have a lot of friends that want to roll with me.
This year I’ve made the decision that I can’t go with everyone and I’m going to have to say “NO” to at least one bus trip or last minute trip. However, I still want to help everyone out and give you a few tips and pointers on how to maximize your TRF experience. So with that intro out of the way, I give to you:
ADAM’S SUPER GUIDE TO THE TEXAS RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL
Section 1: Before You Leave the House
Before you head back in time to the 16th century and beyond you’re going to need to prepare yourself. First of all purchase your tickets ahead of time. Buy them online at http://www.texrenfest.com/buy-tickets they have family packs, adult packs, group discounts…discounts…discounts…discounts. Let’s face it the recession ain’t getting any better, save some money and buy your tickets online before you go. Next, hit the ATM machine and bring cash, my rule is a minimum $35 cash per head for families, and a minimum $50 a head for adult groups that are going to consume some beverages. Now they do have ATM’s at the park, but why pay a fee if you don’t have too.
Sunscreen/Coats/Ponchos and appropriate clothing. Before you leave the house, check the weather channel. This is the TRF, and the first word isTEXAS. It’s going to be hot during the afternoons in October, and brisk in the evenings late in November. Also, those heels look great, but get stuck in the mud. So wear appropriate shoes that you can walk in all day long. COSTUMES are cool if you have one, if you don’t and want to rent a pair of tights you can before you enter the park, once again remember, you’re going to be wearing it all day, make sure it’s comfortable. (Guys I recommend Under Armor for a day at the TRF, especially early in the season)
Don’t forget your camera; you never know when you’ll get a chance to have a picture taken with me. Also, you might want to throw some deodorant/cologne/or body spray in the car, so you can freshen up before you drive home.
Finally, before you get to the TRF, makes sure you have more than a ½ tank of gas. Some times the traffic getting to and from the park can be a bit slow going. Well it’s even SLOWER if you run out of gas in front of me, and you make your kids push your Escalade down 105 (true story) So gas up in Navasota, Magnolia, or Montgomery before you turn off for the TRF and you’ll be good to go.
Section 2: You’ve Arrived What’s First
TAKE NOTE OF WHERE YOU PARKED. Each row is numbered, so remember that number and which side you parked on, in relation to the park. Before you leave your car, hide your valuables in the trunk, under the seat, lock them in the glove box, this includes: Cell Phones, Briefcases, Laptops, IPods, Small Electronics, Purses, Wallets, Checkbooks etc. Also, if you drove a truck; lock your toolboxes, and put any valuables in the cab golf clubs and whatnot (should’ve left those at home today anyway)… The Sheriff’s office has staff on duty and they do their best to prevent crime, but personal vigilance is a much better preventative measure. Once your valuables are secure, lock you vehicle and head towards the entrance. Outside the entrance they have bathrooms, costume rentals and wagon rentals. If you have smaller kids, but children too big for strollers, the little red wagons are a great deal. You should already have your tickets, so unless you’re waiting for the rest of your friends head to the gates and head back in time.
As soon as you walk in, BUY A PROGRAM. This program has a list of vendors, shows, events, and a MAP of the park. With your program, make a plan of what shows you want to see, where you need to meet if you lose a member of your party or where you want to meet up before heading home. Cell phone service is pretty good in the park, but if you’re watching a show it should be on silent and it’s always good to have a rally point, away from the entrance.
Also as you walk in, lose the attitude, and immerse yourself as much or as little as you want, and HAVE FUN. I know you want to judge, but why? Enjoy yourself, say hello to complete strangers, Yell Huzzah, when you hear someone else bellow it out, you’re at the TRF HAVE FUN!!!
Section 3: What to see?
The TRF is much more family friendly than when I first visited in 1988 as a 12 year old kid. Now my little pre adolescent eyes couldn’t get enough of the women in chainmail and nothing else underneath, but the TRF now has rules concerning “decency” so you parents won’t have to worry near as much. As for the shows, remember these performers work for tips, so please if you enjoy a show give a couple of bucks (that’s what the cash is for/along with food and drinks) ALSO, if there is audience participation, PARTICPATE it will be more fun for you and everyone else if you do.
Here are the G-rated shows I consider must see everyone:
Ded Bob – The Globe Theater Stage (funny puppet show, with humor for the kids and adults)
Arsene – The Odeon (magic, juggling and the ancient French art of shoe throwing at its best)
The Sturdy Beggars Mudd Showe – the Mudd Pitt (I was a beggar in this show last year so I’m a lot biased)
The Fire Whip Show – Falconer’s Stage (Adam’s whips are World Famous)
Birds of Prey – Falconer’s stage (this show is different every week and the birds are amazing)
Other things for the Kids: Blacksmith demonstration is cool for the boys that like tools and fire and the sort. Hand in Wax is great for kids of all ages. Archery, throwing stars, knives, hatchets and other semi-sharp objects are great skills to hone in the event of a zombie apocalypse. The Joust is loud fun, and not nearly as dangerous as it used to be. Let the kids go through the maze, ride an elephant, or let the city kids pet the goats and other animals in the petting zoo. There are swings, bungee tramps, and face painting all over the park grounds.
Here are the ADULT shows I consider must sees (however only for visitors 18 and older)
The Sound and Fury – The Odeon (Shakespeare with a Vaudevillian twist, not for everyone but the Smart folks love it)
Iris and Rose – Iris and Rose Polish Pub (BAWDY, DIRTY, HILARIOUS SONGS AND SING ALONGS)
Christophe the Insulter – the Agora Stage (so funny you’re mom/wife/girlfriend will laugh her d!@k off, sorry Christophe, I won’t steal anymore of your jokes)
The Dunking Wenches and Hit the Guy with a tomato are hilarious fun for adults, but they are vicious and will say things that would get your kid suspended from public schools…be warned.
Section 4: What to Eat?
You really can’t go wrong eating at TRF; there are food and drink vendors all over. My group always heckles this one particular traveling pickle vendor, but we love him. As for things I recommend you must try: Fried Alligator on a Stick, in Sherwood Forest get the Pig on a Stick (pork loin marinated seasoned and so good you’ll get seconds) Funnel Cakes, a gyro in the Agora market, and anything wrapped in bacon on a stick. They have gumbo, chowder and other soups in bread bowls. Stop by the Polish area the pierogi, cabbage wraps, and sausages are amazing. Literally any and all cuisines are represented and my suggestion is, get one of something and share with your friends and family and just graze your way across the park.
The Kings Feast is the ultimate in TRF Dining; however it is not for everyone. This 90 minute dinner theater is held twice a day, and it cost $95 per person (that price includes park admission, a commemorative drinking vessel, and it’s a full all you can eat multi course meal.) Start with wine and cheese and fruit pairings, work through delicious gourmet quality salads, soups, grilled courses, perfectly cooked prime rib, and finish with a decadently rich and delicious dessert. Once when I went to Las Vegas, I stayed at the Excalibur and I tried their version of the Kings Feast, it was WAY more expensive, the entertainment (scripted jousting) sucked, and the food quality wasn’t half as good as what I’ve had at Kings Feast. All in all, The King’s Feast is one of the greatest experiences at TRF, I’ve ever enjoyed. I can’t do it every year, but if you can go I highly recommend it. You MUST book your seats ahead of time, and you can book online or by calling 1-800-224-0761. Kings Feast Website
Section 5: Shopping
Between Shows I window shop. Every year I get some new reminder of each season, last year it was a cool black leather belt with a skull and crossbones buckle. Ladies and Gentleman you can buy just about anything at the TRF. Everyone thinks Leatherworks, Armor, Swords, and Weapons, and TRF has tons. What some folks don’t know, TRF has vendors selling hand carved furniture, incense, metal roses that smell like roses, dresses, costumes, hats, shoes, miniatures, books, hand made books, jewelry, costume jewelry, feathers, horns, replica coins, brew/distill your own drinks kits, toys, wooden swords, hand made candles, home made soaps and so much more. Also most all the vendors accept credit cards, so you can make your purchases with plastic and keep your folding money for food/drink vendors and performers. So go get yourself a kilt!
Section 6: The Conclusion
At dusk each day, TRF begins to shut down, the revelry used to end with a fireworks extravaganza featuring live music, the Kings Court and more. This year due to the drought conditions I’ve learned we get something new, a Renaissance Laser Light Show. I’ve heard some scoffing, but it is ALSO a Fantasy festival as well, and I’ve seen Storm Troopers, Boba Fett and Star Trek ensigns attending TRF too, so lasers are fine!
There are new acts this year that I am going to check out, and of course I’m sure I left something out, so email me if you think I missed something.
I truly hope you enjoy the Texas Renaissance Festival as much as I do each year and I look forward to seeing you and all my friends out there again this year.