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What is a Renaissance Fair?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A Renaissance fair or festival is an event which is meant to replicate the look and feel of fairs during the Renaissance period in Europe or England. The fair typically includes a number of traditional entertainments such as music, jousting, dancing, and theatrical performance, and an assortment of foods and drinks from the period are available as well. Many fairs also have an assortment of vendors offering a range of products, both Renaissance themed and otherwise.

The precise nature of a fair varies, depending on who is putting it on. In some cases, a Renaissance fair is designed to be a historically accurate re-enactment which offers learning opportunities for visitors. The vendors are kept strictly within the confines of the period, and actors dress up like historical figures to mingle with the fairgoers. In other instances, a Renaissance fair may seem more like an amusement park, with more leeway in the types of products offered and a generally more commercial feel.

In either case, attending a Renaissance fair can be a fun experience, especially when a range of entertainments are on offer. Many people dress up in period costumes to get into the feel of things, with most fairs focusing on the Tudor period in England, especially the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Other Renaissance fairs may have a more European feel, focusing on Italian or French history. In all cases, the fairs celebrate the flowering of arts and culture which marked the Renaissance period.

During the Renaissance itself, fairs were common events. They were typically located in a central area so that a range of vendors and patrons could meet, and entertainments like traveling players and clowns were common. At a fair, visitors could shoe their horses, purchase kitchen supplies, exchange information about their region, and obtain a variety of other needed goods and services, ranging from farmhands to fine fabrics. A modern fair is often quite similar, although the proliferation of actors dressed up as royalty might be a bit inaccurate, strictly speaking.

The United States holds a proliferation of Renaissance fairs every year, typically in the summer months so that the weather is enjoyable. In other countries, the fairs tend to have a slightly different look and feel, with more of a focus on education and less of a focus on commercialism, and they may be less abundant in some cases. If you are interested in attending a Renaissance fair, try searching for “Renaissance fair” and your region in your favorite search engine.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports n' Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By watson42 — On Dec 20, 2011

@sapphire12- I agree, the performers especially seem to be more dedicated to fans than at bigger venues. One of the best acts I saw was at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, a group called the Danger Committee. They do knife throwing and all sorts of crazy things. I've seen groups like them at other festivals I attended, like a renaissance fair in CA and some others, but I don't think I've seen anymore as good as them anywhere else.

By sapphire12 — On Dec 20, 2011

I love renaissance fairs, and the ones I have been to have always been almost entirely run by really nice people. From the main acts to the people just there to give directions, performers and craftspeople seem so happy to be there. It is such a positive atmosphere, and I like it much better than traditional modern fairs, like county fairs and such.

By SarahSon — On Dec 19, 2011

We attend a family camp in the mountains the same week every year. There is also a Renaissance fair going on in town this same week every year.

When we go to town to get groceries for the week, it is not unusual to see people wearing their Renaissance fair dress around town.

I find many of these outfits very interesting. Most of them look pretty hot though. This is always held in the summer, and I would think many of these outfits would be hot to wear all day long in the sun.

I am glad I didn't live during the Renaissance time. I enjoy our modern conveniences way to much to want to go back to a time like that.

I can see how it would be interesting to learn about and observe how they lived though. Maybe next year, we should make it a point to check out the fair for a first hand look.

By bagley79 — On Dec 19, 2011

When my son was in 5th grade, their class took a field trip to a local Renaissance fair. Since I was usually a chaperone on most of their class trips, I joined them on this way too.

This was my first experience at going to a Renaissance fair, and I really had no idea what to expect.

One of the things I enjoyed most, is that it is a great place for the whole family. There is something that every person and age group can find interesting.

I was most interested in the dueling matches on horseback, but there were also a lot of other great events going on.

The food is another plus. If you leave there hungry, it is your own fault. It was fun to try new kinds of food that I have never had before.

By drtroubles — On Dec 18, 2011

Renaissance costumes are only a small part of the renaissance scene in my opinion. I absolutely love the old games and sporting events that go on. Plus, that feeling of stepping back in time and really experiencing a long past era makes going to these events all the more worthwhile.

If you go to a renaissance fair I would suggest seeing if they have anything like falconing or sword training as these can be a lot of fun to experience. I think everyone should wield a weapon of old just once to get a feeling of what we've been missing in the modern era.

By Sara007 — On Dec 18, 2011

@manykitties2 -I would suggest that if you need some renaissance fair clothing that you try and make a bar wench costume. Just look up some pictures of renaissance fair women online and you'd be surprised at how simple some of the costumes are. Most just consist of a long dress with a corset and a few accessories.

For myself when I go to a renaissance fair I like to dress up in more elaborate costumes, but I can certainly see why you wouldn't want to go to the effort. You can also probably rent a cheap costume if you really don't want to make anything.

By manykitties2 — On Dec 17, 2011

Can anyone recommend some easy to wear renaissance fair costumes for women?

My friend is dead set on taking me to a renaissance fair this year and she is insisting that I dress up and really get into the festivities. My friend is pretty hardcore about the renaissance scene and even makes chainmail jewelry to sell at the events she goes to. I don't want to spend a fortune on a costume, so if anyone has any suggestions on what to wear without breaking the bank that would be great. I can sew a bit so I would be willing to try to make some simple renaissance clothing.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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