Arizona Renaissance Festival with Kids
By Meg Brunson
This past weekend, my family attended the Arizona Renaissance Festival for our first time. The festival grounds are located in Gold Canyon, East of Apache Junction on US Highway 60. From Peoria, it was just over an hour drive - and so worth the trip!
We arrived at the festival knowing the things we wanted to do first - the Mermaids and the Fairies - to ensure we didn't get caught up in other stuff and miss them. When you have 4 daughters, mermaids and fairies are everything! We obtained a map at the information desk and the woman at the booth was extremely friendly and helpful. As we made our way to the Mermaid/Fairy area, we encountered some amazing street performers, food vendors, and artisans. The line for the mermaids was not too long when we arrived, and it moved rather quickly. There was a mermaid swimming and chatting with those in line, as well as a mermaid taking photos with the kids (and adults!). The fairy shop was right next door and there was a very short wait to visit with her - the fairy blew bubbles for the kids, magically popping a bubble and turning it into a magical marble. You'll have to visit to find out what makes the fairy's marbles so magical! We did notice that the lines got longer throughout the day - traffic picked up pretty steadily through the morning - so I am glad we started with the one thing we really wanted to experience!
After that point, we rarely referred to the map. We enjoyed just wandering with the flow, and seeing where the day took us. I really enjoyed that there were many free (or low-cost) activities dispersed throughout the fairgrounds. There are 13 stages where performances were happening throughout the day - everything from music to comedy and circus acts! Plus, there are street performers around every corner, eager to engage with you. We enjoyed one such experience in which we encountered a family whose dad was stuck on the ground. The kids engaged in a game, involving throwing a 20-sided die, in an attempt to help him back to his feet.
The kids will tell you that their favorite part were the rides. The rides at the Arizona Renaissance Festival were great, people-powered rides like the Piccolo Pony (a rocking horse bigger than an elephant), a great (3+ story) dragon tail slide, and even elephant, camel and llama rides. The rides were spread out throughout the grounds, which meant that as we made our way through the fairgrounds there was always something that interested everyone nearby. I enjoyed that we were not restricted to a "kiddie corner" or anything like that - the entire festival was offered something for everyone around every corner. Most of the rides we experienced ranged from $2-5 per person, which we felt was very reasonable.
Each weekend features it's own special theme. We happened to attend on Pirates weekend and met 2 local authors on site to promote their pirate-themed children's books: The Ballad of Stinky Pete the Pirate (by Tao Baker) and Flushed (by Jennifer Zbylski). We have not read the books yet, but when we do we will let you know how much we enjoy them!
Shops line the paths throughout the festival grounds, offering food, artisan crafts, souvenirs, and more. You will find jewelry, clothing, home decor, swords, fairy wings, flower crowns and magic wands among other unique crafts and souvenirs. If you are more hands-on, you can create your own scented candle or make a wax hand. The food is amazing as well - I enjoyed a pretzel from a street vendor, whereas my husband spent a lot of time deciding between the steak-on-a-steak or a turkey leg, and the kids would have stayed at the chocolate shop or bakery all day!
We did not dress up, but we should have. It was so fun to see all the people dressed up in so many different ways. So whether your style is more pirate, fairy, princess, or peasant - have fun and dress the part! If you don't have anything in your closet that would work - they have costume rental on site, or you could shop at the fair! Next year, we'll definitely get into character.
Quick tips for enjoying the Arizona Renaissance Festival:
- Get there early
- Stay all day
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Bring sunscreen
- Bring Cash (ATMs are on site if needed)
- Arrive hungry
- Get into character - dress up, and/or yell "Huzzah!" often
I was nervous about bringing the stroller - but with our youngest 2 on the med from illness we knew they would prefer to stroll most of the day so we brought the double stroller. While the terrain is mostly outdoors, we did not have any issues navigating our stroller throughout the dirt walkways. We were even able to peruse some of the shops without any issue - much of the festival is wheelchair/stroller friendly.
The Arizona Renaissance Festival is a great way to spend a day with your family. The festival is open every weekend from now through April 2, 2017 from 10am-6pm. The 30-acre festival grounds are bursting at the seams with fun things to do for kids and adults alike! Find even more information, buy your tickets, and plan your trip at: RenFestInfo.com