Last month I packed up the family to escape the ordinary and travel back to a time when kings ruled the land and knights kept the peace in the 36th annual Scarborough Renaissance Festival. Nestled in north Texas just off I-35 in Waxahachie, only 30 minutes south of downtown Dallas, is the gate to another world through this one-of-a-kind experience.
For Texans who haven’t been to this renaissance festival, Scarborough is set in the days of King Henry VIII and features a colorful collection of characters throughout the grounds with some of the coolest performers around, including full-combat jousting, human chess and birds of prey exhibitions. You’re almost certain to see festival goers dawning their own renaissance wares, including full costumes and weapons — don’t worry, everyone plays safe. This year, marks the festival’s 36th year in operation, and in all my years of visiting as a child I’ve personally seen Scarborough continue to grow and bring new elements to the festival, while sticking to its original flair by retaining many of the same acts and characters from the early years. This year was my first time going as an adult leading the excursion, and it was definitely a learning experience. Best advice: plan your trip out before you go. It’s impossible to see it all in one day.
Boasting 23 stages for entertainment and more than 200 shops featuring unique crafts and artisan demonstrations, Scarborough can be a little intimidating for a first-time festival-goer. Depending on your tastes, it’s best to plan ahead and map out the things you want to see. I learned quickly that young kids will likely disregard the bulk of your plan for whatever catches their eye. This includes shiny objects, fire breathers and weapon shops. On the other hand, a major success at the festival is one of their longest running shows — The Don Juan & Miguel Show. I first saw these two impress audiences with their expertise on handling bullwhips and sword-fighting when I was about seven, and I was excited to see them again now. Although some of their humor is more mature, they’ve crafted a perfect balance of gags and gallantry to entice any audience.
If you’re looking for something more active, there are many games of skill and challenges to enjoy, as well as a maze and petting zoo. While there’s not a lot for toddlers to enjoy, kids ages five and above can usually enjoy just about anything the festival has to offer. The archery booth and foam sword battle arena were a couple of big hits with the kids, and the petting zoo was really interesting. This year Scarborough has introduced a mermaid lagoon, but it seemed to be a little overwhelming, even for kids, so it’s not likely to become a mainstay. Feeding goats and petting bunnies was more thoroughly enjoyed by the kids, and luckily there were plenty of animals roaming around.
For the more discerning tastes, there are daily wine and beer tastings as well. Though I didn’t personally partake in the festivities, the events did draw large audiences. Another tease of the taste buds that draws a crowd is the food. Specifically, some of the delicious that you can’t really get anywhere else, like the fried ice cream and turkey legs big enough to bring out your inner barbarian. The food is a bit costly, so I would suggest taking that into account when you go, but in most cases it’s worth it — except drinks, which are way overpriced.
With a full day’s worth of fun, food and entertainment, Scarborough Renaissance Festival has been a success, and I’d recommend you take a trip into the past and enjoy a day away from it all. Admission is moderately priced at $25 for adults and $10 for children between the ages of five and 12. Children ages four and under are free, so bring the whole family — and a camera. This is a full-day event with the average outing being about five hours, so plan ahead and prepare for a fun-filled adventure — costumes are encouraged as well. Texas Lifestyle will be exploring this land again next year, so try find us there.