Having been to this Festival in Tampa Bay, FL, before, I had an idea of what it would be like and what to expect. But my good pal, Shelley, was in for a treat since she was a virgin to these Renn Fest excursions, and they made sure to welcome her as so- THIS is B.A.R.F.
After dressing up at my house, we were soon on the road, taking about a little under an hour to get to Tampa from the Orlando area. You haven’t driven uncomfortably until you have driven in a Corset for an hour’s time- I am so proud Shelley!
We got there taking Interstate 4 and then 75, traffic was light and it has always seemed to be in this area. and parked in the field behind the Museum of Science & Industry. Parking is free, but keep in mind that you ARE parking on topWe arrived of rocks and branches. They do a fair job of making sure it is drivable, but if it is raining, you are in for a headache with the mud.
We did not pre-purchase tickets online, but paid for them at the window. Discounted tickets are available online, Subway Restaurants, and other participating Tampa establishments (listed on their official website). Tickets cost Shelley and I each $18.95 plus tax. They have special rates for children, seniors, students, and dogs. Dogs are the only animal that IS allowed at this Renn Festival. They also have a policy on what weapons you can bring in, so make sure to read the official site before taking yours in.
We walked into Festival at around 10:30 a.m. (hours are 10 am to 6 p.m.) and we were greeted by the Royals and the Villagers as a welcome to their town of “Fittleworth.” I try so hard not to compare it to my beloved “Bristol,” but it’s difficult to not.
I will say that I loved the fact that the King and Queen were accessible to us common folk for a picture and a chat. In 10 years at Bristol, I never once got remotely close enough to get a picture with the Queen. Realizing now I knew enough people to make it happen, I guess I just didn’t try hard enough. We met the King and Queen and they welcomed Lady Shelley to their town by announcing she was the latest virgin to their town because she had never been there. Shelley’s smile is seriously priceless during this moment, and I was happy I caught it on camera.
We then took a walk around, taking in the sights and smells that is the Festival. I love the smell of cigars, meat cooking, and here and there the sultry smell of incense burning.
Every few feet we would catch a show in progress, and it always amazes me the talent that is out there in this big blue World of ours. Whether it be bagpipes playing, or someone juggling spaghetti on a tight rope- it was just cool to watch. The parade that we encountered showed each of the players in this fabulous show, and they were more than happy to wave, say hello, and acknowledge our interest in them.
And the shops…my goodness what you could come home with!! Dragon statues, fairy wands, swords of steel, and leather boots- Lady Visa could get quite a workout in a place like this. I know the next time I go to any Renn event I have to invest in boots or special shoes- the sandals aren’t cutting it anymore.
So there was shopping, there were shows, there were characters- but the most important factor of any Renn event is not only the beer, but the food. They have everything under the sun you could think of to eat, and I am not joking. Apple Dumplings, Baby Back Ribs, Baklava, Bangers & Mash, BBQ Pork, Big Pig Sandwich, Breadsticks, Broccoli & Cheese Soup, Buffalo Wings, Caesar Salad, Calamari, Cheeseburgers, Cheesecakes, Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Sandwich, Chicken & Wild Rice Soup, Chili, Chili Cheese Dogs, Chili Cheese Fries, Cookies, Cream Pies, Fish & Chips, Fish Sandwich, Flatbreads, Footlong Corndogs, Fruit Fritters, Fried Mac & Cheese, Fried Mushrooms, Fried Pickle Chips, Fried Veggies, Gourmet Brownies, Greek Salad, Gyros, Hot Cross Spuds, Hot Dogs, Italian Sandwiches, Irish Nachos, Meatball Sandwich, Mozzarella Sticks, Onion Rings, Oysters & Chips, Pizza, Pork on a Stick, Portabello Burgers, Potato Skins, Potroast Sandwich, Pretzels, Prime Rib, Quesadillas, Roasted Corn, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms, Scotch Eggs, Seafood Jambalaya, Seafood Po Boys, Shepperds Pie, Shrimp & Chips, Steak on a Stick, Strawberry Shortcake, Spring Rolls, Spanikopita, Tacos, Turkey Drumsticks, Veggie Wrap, and Veggie Burgers. Now the reason I wrote it all out is because it is a VERY impressive list and there is something for everyone to try and much on! I had the sheppards pie, which was tasty, and Shelley had a cheeseburger which she said was very good.
One of the newest features they had this year was the “LIVE” Mermaid. Now, in my head, I pictured a very large pool or tank that everyone could gather around and watch her swim and come up, and so on. This area was very disorganize as they had it fenced off, so everyone was corralled in one large area to see a very small tank with one Mermaid in it. It was a very cool idea, but it was crowded making it impossible to get any type of picture of her. They invite the children to come to the front of the tank to watch her, and when you tip or not, she brings you a magic stone from the bottom of the tank. Again, she was very pretty and it’s a very cool idea, but the execution of it and the placing of where it stood to the large area for crowds didn’t work. If you want to see her, keep in mind that she’s not out all day, so watch for posted times in the guide.
They also hold special daily events that are a bit more extra, but sound like they would be fun to try. There is the Queens Royal High Tea, Pub Crawls, Renaissance Smoke with the Bawdy Boys, the Pirates Galley Restaurant, and the Royal Romance Package. Speaking of romance, they had FREE vow renewals at 11:00 the day we were there. (So cool!)
I have heard this is the largest Renn Festival in Florida, and I would definitely say it will keep you busy for hours on end.
A couple things to keep in mind:
*They do these in FL in the Spring for a reason- the heat. The humidity is also a factor and was present yesterday. If you are used to dressing up at your own Faire where this isn’t an issue, keep in mind with all those layers on, it can be.
*This is a tremendous value for your dollar- the shows, atmosphere, and access to wares you can’t go to the Mall and buy is priceless!
*The actors work hard at making it a fantasy, a world you can escape from. This is their REAL job, and should be treated and respected as so. If you think it’s silly, or have an unflattering opinion, keep it to yourself – they know how they look and sound, they don’t need to hear your negativity. They also work on tips, so if you loved it, show them by placing a dollar bill in their basket and THANK them for the enjoyment they brought you!
*People come dressed up in anything and everything, whether it is Renn themed or not. Be respectful, they are just having fun and that’s what it is all about.
*This is a GREAT thing to do as a family, couple, or by yourself- a fun for all ages sort of day. I saw many children engaged in talking to Fairies, and playing in their own area the Festival has set up. Couples can enjoy the romance of the atmosphere, or try out one of the romance packages offered. And by yourself you can shop, eat, and enjoy the day away on your own time. Perfecto!
I hope you all have enjoyed this review on my second trip to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. A huge thank you to Shelley for hanging out with me, it was a great day! For more information, check out the OFFICIAL SITE to find out more about how YOU can join in on the fun.
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