Editor’s note: this was originally published in 2014 and has been updated with current information.
I’ve been going to the Bristol Renaissance Faire regularly since I was a teenager. Given my current age, that’s quite a number of years. Stop being nosy! You don’t need to know the exact number. Just take it from me that despite the many, many years I’ve been going to the faire I never cease to discover something new and delightful. I’ve found when it comes to the Bristol Renaissance Faire; it can be a case of the more you learn, the less you know. Because there’s so much to see and do for all ages, it can almost be overwhelming for first-time guests, especially those bringing children. So here’s a “compass” to help you navigate – I submit for your approval the “Insider’s Guide for Families to the Bristol Renaissance Faire.”
Insider’s Guide for Families to the Bristol Renaissance Faire
Tickets for the Bristol Renaissance Faire
You can buy full-price tickets at the gate, but insiders will take advantage of the many discounts available. Children 5-12 pay less than adults, and kids four and under are always FREE. If you plan to attend regularly throughout the season, consider a Season Pass.
Friends of Faire
Feasting and revelry is a hot, sweaty business in July and August, and that’s without your heavy Elizabethan costume! On our next visit this year, we plan to take advantage of daily admission to the Friends of Faire Garden. Primarily offered as a seasonal membership for frequent guests, it’s a little-known fact that there is also a daily rate payable at the garden entrance. That rate gives you access to the Friends of Faire Garden, which offers a comfortable shaded pavilion with seating, private privies (port-a-johns), baby changing station, private dressing rooms for cosplay enthusiasts, and best of all free, Gatorade and water all day. They even have bug spray and sunscreen available for you to use. For parents who have to lug around huge diaper bags of supplies all day and purchase endless bottles of water to keep hydrated, the Friends of Faire Garden is a paradise!
When thou needest to attend to thy “private business,” there are several banks of port-a-johns with handwashing stations throughout the fair. But insiders who are addicted to modern plumbing will seek out the Flushable Privies (aka toilets), of which there are two locations. The nicest being right by the entrance next to the pony rides. These restrooms also have a private family restroom with changing table. Attendants on duty keep things tidy, so thank them for their efforts with a small gratuity.
Paying at the Bristol Renaissance Faire
While there are plenty of sights and attractions included in your admission, you want to make sure you have budgeted to have cash on hand. ATMs are available, but save on the fees and bring yours in advance. If you plan on taking advantage of preferred parking, you will need cash before you even enter the grounds. While many vendors accept credit cards for purchases, all food and beverage is cash only, and no outside food and beverage is permitted. While all stage entertainment is complimentary, the performers pass the hat at the end of each show, and you may wish to show your appreciation. There are also rides that are either powered by people or animals (it’s the 1500’s after all!) that typically charge around $3 a pop. You can run through cash fairly quickly if your kids want rides, and believe me, they will want to ride!
The variety of stages and performances at the Bristol Renaissance Faire are breathtaking! There are dancers, acrobats, musicians, singers, magic, comedians, swordplay, puppets, jugglers, and so much more it’s dizzying, to say the least. It’s important to remember that the faire is for young and old alike, so while there’s plenty for children to enjoy, some entertainment is only suitable for adults. Visit the entertainment page on the website before you go, and those shows intended for older audiences are indicated by a PG-13 or R rating. When in doubt, the performers are always working the crowd near the stage before the show begins, so you can talk to them yourself beforehand.
I would personally like to recommend seeing Gypsy Geoff, who on our last visit had my children in fits of giggles the entire time with his humor, juggling, physical comedy, and fire! My kids were lucky enough to be asked on stage, and he gave my whole family a beautiful memory for years to come.
As I mentioned before, performers pass the hat at the end of each show, and they welcome a gratuity if you have enjoyed the performance. If budget is a concern, don’t let this stop you from enjoying yourself; but each performer works so tirelessly to thrill, impress, and delight you, that you will probably feel compelled to show your appreciation. If you wish to avoid this entirely, note that the Jousts, the stage in the Kids Kingdom, the Noble’s Glade, and any show featuring Queen Elizabeth do not ask for tips.
Kids Quest at the Bristol Renaissance Faire
This is the first year my kids were old enough to participate in the Kids Quest, and they loved it! It’s an interactive adventure with the fairy tale citizens and Kids Kingdom characters of Bristol for ages 4-10. These characters will guide your children on a quest through the town of Bristol and meet new friends along the way. Even the shyest child (like my daughter) comes alive, interacting with the characters and searching for treasure. It really helps to immerse them in the magic of Bristol. There are two different quests per day, and you register and depart from the RenQuest encampment. Check the daily schedule for departure times; additional fees apply.
Parking at the Bristol Renaissance Faire
As mentioned earlier, preferred parking is $5 cash only and is a convenient walk to the front gate. Many people don’t realize this isn’t your only option. There is a FREE parking lot available just north of the frontage road entrance. Please keep in mind the lots are grassy, not paved. Handicapped and motorcycle parking is in the preferred lot.
For more tips for families, especially with young children, visit our Toddler Guide to the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
COVID-19 Modifications for the 2021 Season:
1. Everyone, ages 5 and up, must wear a mask unless eating or drinking.
2. Some experiences may be modified to reduce physical contact.
Find full information on their FAQ page.
Bristol Renaissance Faire
12550 120th Ave., Kenosha, WI (Off I-94 at the IL/WI border)
Open Saturdays, Sundays & Labor Day July 10 – September 6, 2021
For tickets, as well as discount information and coupons visit their website
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When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home.
Disclosure: The writer received complimentary one-day admission for herself and her family in order to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are her own.