Editor’s note: this was originally published in 2014 and has been updated with current information.
Lake County folk are so lucky to have a short drive to the Bristol Renaissance Faire just north of the IL/WI border. This annual festival is consistently ranked as the Best Renaissance Festival in the country by Renaissance Magazine. At Little Lake County, we’ve already been vocal about our love for this festival.
Toddler Guide to the Bristol Renaissance Faire
You should already know that the Bristol Renaissance Faire is a great time for kids and parents, but what about for the smallest members of the family? Let me assure you; there’s plenty for your toddler to enjoy as well. Children ages four and younger are always FREE every day of the festival, so there’s no reason to leave them with a sitter.
Top Toddler-Friendly Attractions at The Bristol Renaissance Faire
Over the years, I’ve scoped out my favorite spots to hang out with the little ones. While the pageantry, spectacle, and boisterous atmosphere make for a festive time, sometimes your toddler needs a quieter spot to cool off, chill out, and enjoy the festival at their own speed. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are my family’s:
The Fairie Glen
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. The silence can be a welcome respite for kids overstimulated by all the revelry around them. My children were literally entranced by a game they played with one fairie that consisted of nothing but handing her twigs found on the ground.
The Nobles Glade
Another shaded area, the Nobles Glade, is where the Queen and the nobility are known to hold court. Because nobles enjoy comfort, you will find it here as well, including nearby port-a-potties. Ample bench seating is available for you to watch presentations that are perfectly low-key yet visually dramatic. Check your daily schedule for when the ceremonies are held. Even when the Queen is not present, you will be sure to find plenty of stately courtiers to commiserate with or to hold the baby for a photo op.
Mythical Beasts in the Military Encampment
The Mythical Beasts attraction is where you will find the rare and elusive unicorn (I shan’t spoil the surprise with a photo!) There is a small fee to enter, but it is well worth the added expense if you have a toddler in tow. Inside it is a literal paradise for the ankle-biter crowd, with full shade and water misters to keep it cool and comfortable. While there is another petting zoo on the festival grounds, here you will find the most adorable baby goats, lambs, and bunnies that you’ll probably want to hide in your bag to bring home. It’s far less crowded and much more serene. It’s a place where you and your toddler will want to linger.
Adjacent to the popular Jousting area is the Mouseboro Play Area, which features a small pool filled with wooden boats. Children enjoy navigating the boats across the water using wooden poles. Such a simple activity is full of bygone charm. Even older children have a hard time pulling themselves away. This area also boasts the necessary shade to keep your child from wilting.
Pony Rides at the Renaissance Faire
You can’t be a knight without a noble steed, and you can’t be a parent at the Ren Faire without anteing up for a pony ride. It’s right near the entrance, so you can get this must-do out of the way first thing to forestall any whining. It’s also right next to one of two locations with flushable privies (i.e., toilets). Bonus!
Last but certainly not least is the ever-popular Kids Kingdom. It’s a play area, activity center, and theatre that sprung up after some wayward pirates wrecked their ship right in the middle of Bristol! Let the kids run off some steam (or those donuts, ice cream, and chocolate-dipped cheesecake) as they play mini-swashbucklers. Check the daily schedule for children’s programming events. Not to be missed is the late afternoon Knighting Ceremony, where Queen Elizabeth personally knights deserving lads and lasses.
Other important tips are to carry water on you and pay attention to where the closest restrooms are, particularly the flushable privies. I adore the Elizabethan era but am thoroughly smitten by the joys of 21st-century plumbing. Do remember to bring cash. While the box office accepts credit cards, as do some vendors, all food and beverage is cash only. You do NOT want to be out of cash when a hungry, sweaty toddler decides they must have a gigantic pickle right NOW.
So are you ready to pack up the family for your toddler’s first trip 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.