20 acres of 16th century European style art and entertainment combining outdoor theater, circus acts, charming cottages and castles, an arts and crafts marketplace, a jousting tournament, kitchens and pubs, a petting zoo, and an unusual collection of people-powered rides and games of skill come together to form The Carolina Renaissance Festival. We went last year for the first time and now we’re lifers. As a family, we took advantage of the character interactions, animal encounters, and a jousting tournament. The festival was both unique and entertaining with enough “bizarre” to keep us guessing what was going to appear before our eyes next.
The village streets were full of peasants singing songs and street entertainers surprising us with tall tales and tricks, each with a role to play. Twig, the beautiful fairy, was Athena’s favorite. Twig is a curious, lively woodland sprite who embodies childlike innocence and wonder. Her bashful mannerisms and graceful flitting movements created a whimsical space that she warmly invited everyone to share. My usually timid Athena was ready to play and explore Twig’s world. She sat in the grass and listened to Twig’s musical talents. It was a welcoming way to start our Renaissance day.
Gunther Tinkerson, the village inventor, rode around the village on his Wheelie-stick but Athena couldn’t get past his glasses. For the next ten minutes, she looked for Gunther while continuously saying, “glasses”. It was amazing to experience this bizarre world through her eyes. Things that would go unnoticed by me or the average adult were pointed out by Athena’s new eyes. I was able to see so much more.
The grounds were littered with games of skill and rides for the entire family. We watched as children took a spin on Da Vinci’s Flying Machine and sailed the high seas on the Voyage to the New World.
During our visit to the petting zoo, Athena fed the animals for herself. After swimming with dolphins and encountering several animals up close and personal at Lazy 5 Ranch, she’s no stranger to slobber or the little nibble of hungry farm animals.
We witnessed the clashing of armor and the thundering of hooves at the joust, which brought alive the spectacle and pageantry of the chivalric age. Knights in shining armor performed a display of daring deeds of bravery and skill including a Battle for the Queen’s Favor.
After petting and feeding animals, endless entertainment, exploring the Artisan Marketplace and watching the tournament, we had to try the staple turkey leg before leaving the festival. It doesn’t get much more “Renaissance” than a juicy, dripping leg of meat and a pint of beer.
The Carolina Renaissance Festival was a medieval amusement park, an interactive circus, a village marketplace, an arts and crafts fair, a jousting tournament, a zoo, and a feast all rolled into one family day of exploration. With new, special guests and entertainers each year, we’ll continue to go back for more.