Editor’s note: this was originally published in 2014 and has been updated with current information.
The enchantment and pageantry of a bygone era await you and your family just north of the IL/WI border off I-94. The 2021 season of the Bristol Renaissance Faire opens on July 10, 2021. For more than 30 seasons, this annual summer festival has delighted faire goers of all ages.
Ultimate Kids’ Guide to The Bristol Renaissance Faire
Mayhaps you have never ventured to the Bristol Renaissance Faire? Or perchance it has been so long you doth forget? How wilt thou navigate the festival with thine children? Take heart, my noble squire, for I, along with our faithful readers, shall give you all the tips and tricks you need for a magical time at the faire with your family.
Admission to the Bristol Renaissance Faire
You can buy full-price tickets at the gate ($25.95 adults, $11.50 children ages 5-12), or save a couple of bucks and avoid lines by purchasing in advance on their website.
Sign up to receive the Bristol newsletter and receive an exclusive coupon and also news and updates year-round. If you plan to attend next year, the best ticket prices can be had by purchasing advance tickets in the off-season when the faire offers specials to newsletter subscribers. I have received email notifications for advance tickets as low as $12 (certain restrictions apply – promotions may vary.)
Remember that children 5-12 pay less than adults and kids 4 and under are always FREE. Members of the military with valid ID, receive $2 off box office admission as do seniors 65 and up. If you plan to attend regularly throughout the season, consider a Season Pass.
Children’s Attractions at the Bristol Renaissance Faire
The festival truly appeals to young and old alike, but some attractions are more kid-friendly than others. For the smallest faire goers, be sure to check out our in-depth Toddler Guide to the Bristol Renaissance Faire from a previous year. There’s so much available for kids; we’ll go over just the highlights…
The popular Kid’s Kingdom was updated in 2015 to be bigger and better than ever. The familiar pirate ship play area is still there and Reader Jody C. warns:
Avoid the ship play set the kids can play on, if you want to see anything else. They’ll never leave.
The stage was refurbished in 2015 and is now the largest and most regal in all of Bristol. As in years past, the Queen will continue to perform the Knighting Ceremony to bequeath honors upon visiting children of the realm. Check the daily schedule you receive at the gate for this can’t-miss photo opportunity.
In addition to the artwork and murals, you will discover a new air-conditioned rest area designed as a resting place for changing and nursing infants and toddlers. Five thrones grace the entrance of the Kids Kingdom: a Pirate Throne, Fairy Throne, Dragon Throne, Tree Beard Thorne, and Jester’s Throne. Which throne will your child choose?
Another popular attraction for children is the Faerie Glen where the Fantastikals roam. ‘Tis a grassy area shaded beneath tall trees where Bristol’s fairie population gather to weave their nature magic. Their gentle spirit will charm even the timidest toddler, and some of the sprites are so shy, you may have to coax them out to play yourself. Their interactions are entirely silent which only adds to their magic.
If your children are looking for an even more immersive experience, sign them up for Kids Quest! It’s an interactive adventure with the fairy tale citizens and Kids Kingdom characters of Bristol for ages 4-11. These characters will guide your children on an adventure through the Kids Kingdom where they’ll meet new friends along the way. Even the shyest child (like my daughter) comes alive interacting with the characters and searching for treasure. Register any time between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the RenQuest encampment for a 30-minute adventure.
Stage Entertainment at Bristol Renisannce Faire
The variety of stages and performances at the faire are breathtaking! There are dancers, acrobats, musicians, singers, magic, comedians, swordplay, puppets, jugglers, jousting, 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 to check out some of the acts in advance. 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.
No trip to the Faire is complete without seeing The Joust! While not necessarily Elizabethan-era, the Faire would not be the same without the gallantry, drama, and antics of Sir Maxmillian, Earl of Braden, Sir Edgeron of Aquataine, Don Vincenzo di Sicilia and Sir Mauldron, Baron of Blackburn. Select your favorite knight and cheer him on to victory! There are three jousts per day, and the thrill factor increases as the day progresses. The “Joust to the Death” is the final contest of the day.
Expect that at some stages performers will pass the hat at the end of each show for a gratuity. 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.
Friends of Faire Garden
A primary complaint we hear about the faire is how hot it can get, and heat takes its toll on the little ones especially. If you’re looking for a slightly upgraded experience from the rest area in the Kids Kingdom, check out the Friends of Faire Garden. Open to members only, the garden is a private oasis in the midst of all the revelry. Access to the garden includes:
- Free Gatorade and water
- Covered pavilion
- Shaded tables and benches
- Private dressing rooms
- Clean, private, handicapped sized privies (port-a-johns)
- Hot water for hand washing
- Baby changing station
You can purchase a membership for the entire season which offers even more extensive benefits, or simply pay for one-day access (children under 12 are included in caregiver’s membership.) Note that you may only purchase day membership 3 times per year and rates may increase on feast days. Our reader Tiana C. says:
Join the friends of faire for free water, a cool place to sit, and lovely people who are nice to kids.
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.
All food and beverage is cash only. While all stage entertainment is free, as previously mentioned many performers ask for a gratuity if you have enjoyed their performance. There are also rides and games which are either powered by people or animals (it’s the 1500’s after all!) that typically charge $3-$5 a pop. You can run through cash fairly quickly if your kids want rides, and believe me, they will want to ride.
Restrooms, Parking, Food and Souvenirs
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 restrooms are 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. Don’t forget about the baby changing station and nursing station available in the Kids Kingdom and at the Friends of Faire Garden.
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. A FREE parking lost is 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.
While many of the vendors accept credit cards for purchases, as mentioned before, all food and beverage is cash only. No outside food and beverage are permitted. Consider bringing along your own refillable water bottle to save money and stay hydrated. Our fan-favorite food items include giant pickles, giant turkey legs, stewed mushrooms, cheese fritters and sassafras.
To Stroller or Not to Stroller?
Our readers were divided on the stroller issue, but all would forewarn you of the natural terrain. Ground can be bumpy and uneven in places and difficult to steer unless you have an “all-terrain” model. Our reader Karissa K. wrote,
Take a wagon! The strollers will get stuck everywhere unless you have one made for gravel and dirt roads with potholes.
Our reader Gwen R. recommends wearing small children and infants in a baby carrier in order to avoid wheels entirely. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind there will be lots of walking, wear comfortable shoes and prepare for lots of breaks if your kids tire easily.
Now that you’ve read The Ultimate Kid’s Guide to The Bristol Renaissance Faire, you know just where to find a shady spot to take a break, and if you need a little extra help, here’s a map.
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.