The most magical event takes place every August and September in Sterling Forest, New York: the New York Renaissance Faire. A recreation of a 16th-century Elizabethan village, you can spend your entire day watching plays and strolling musicians, cheer on your favorite knight in a joust or try your hand at archery. And don’t forget about the mead. You can drink a lot of mead.
I was introduced to this fascinating world of renaissance fairs due to an episode of The Girls Next Door (I used to be obsessed with that reality TV series). After seeing how much fun Hugh Hefner and his girlfriends had, I started looking into potential renaissance fairs near me and became determined to attend one. I even added it to my bucket list as something to do. When I found out that Sterling Forest was only an hour away from us and held one of the biggest renaissance fairs in the country, I knew I had to visit.
What to expect at the New York Renaissance Faire
As soon as you enter the gates of the Faire, it is like you’ve stepped back in time. Set within 65 acres of beautiful forest, the New York Renaissance Faire features countless performances, crafts, and shopping experiences. Maps of the Faire are sold at the entrance for $2 each or if you would like to save money, you can plan ahead and print out a copy from their website.
It’s true that the admission costs are nothing to laugh over, but that cost will let you see all the performances for free and the acting is amazing. They never break character. There are so many things to do and see that it’s worth taking a look at the schedule ahead of time to plan your day out appropriately. Even if you play it by ear, like Bryan and I did most of the time, it is fascinating just walking around the forest. There are so many things to discover and see, the New York Renaissance Faire has it all.
What to wear to the New York Renaissance Faire
The first year we went to the Faire we dressed in normal street clothes. After all, to go all out and get a costume would be so geeky, right? Well, maybe it is, but I felt so left out. I wanted to be one of the medieval ladies, pirate wrenches, or fairies that were wandering about. Costumes of all kinds were there. There was even a group dressed up like Doctor Who, Amy and Rory, which was a separate group from the gentleman that dressed up like the Fourth Doctor. Needless to say, I’ve been to the Faire numerous times since our first visit, and I went in costume every time.
The last year we went, Emily came with us, pink fairy costume and all.
While anything goes as it relates to costumes, keep in mind that there are special theme weekends such as a Heroes & Villians weekend, Pirate weekend, and Celtic weekend.
What to do at the New York Renaissance Faire
There are so many different things to do that you can spend more than a day here. Musicians serenade crowds with their folk tunes. Musical and comedic plays are performed throughout the day as well. My favorite was the Washing Well Wrenches that typically performed on the Pageant Wagon Stage.
You can try your hand at medieval games of skill. The most popular one was probably archery. I thought I could channel Katniss trying to survive in the arena, but I was horrible. A very sweet, toothless, elderly gentlemen taught me how to at least hit the bag…. Though not the bulls-eye.
You can also throw ninja stars, knives, and axes. See the ax closest to the bulls-eye? That was mine! I got the ax champion award of our group. (That’s the sticker I’m pointing at in the second picture.) No one else beside Bryan and me even got it lodged on the board. Yup, we are awesome.
There is medieval pageantry, including the arrival of the Queen, jousting tournaments, and parades.
Amongst their more interesting events are lessons on hawking and throwing tomatoes at a clown that will insult you.
And of course, no renaissance fair is complete without maypole dancing. Note to self: add “participate in a maypole dance” to my Bucket List.
What to buy at the New York Renaissance Faire
If you don’t want to buy a costume, you can always rent one for the day at the Faire. Additionally, there are shops that sell armor, glasses, candles, soaps, jewelry, you name it. You can even see a glass-blowing demonstration.
What to eat (and drink) at the New York Renaissance Faire
The food, oh the food. Everything you can imagine at a typical fair and more can be found at the Renaissance Faire. There was, pizza, chicken fingers, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, french fries, fried cheese, jerky and gyros just to name a few. And of course turkey legs.
Several pubs are scattered throughout the park serving all kids of delectable treats, but I was partial to one drink more than others every time we went there…. mead!
The one thing I’ve never been brave enough to try while at the Renaissance Faire was the BBQ Sundae. Although, I guess it is just a really efficient way to eat BBQ.
Keep in mind that food tends to be expensive and typically only cash payment options exist. However, you are not allowed to bring in outside food, so either do not go hungry or prepared to spend your money.
Where to park at the New York Renaissance Faire
Get to the New York Renaissance Faire early. Parking is free (unless you want the preferred $15 parking) but fills up fast.
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Check out Destinations to see all the other places I’ve talked about.