Hear ye, hear ye — that’s right, the Maryland Renaissance Festival is returning after a year off due to the coronavirus pandemic, and we have to admit that we love having this destination event right here in the Annapolis area. Often referred to simply as Renn Fest, it’s one of the biggest Renaissance fairs you’ll encounter (it’s actually the second biggest in the country based on acreage and attendance) and it’s a time-honored tradition people look forward to year after year.
To get a good idea of this event’s popularity, all you have to do is scroll through TripAdvisor, where people share how they have been attending without fail for 20 or even 30 years, some even traveling from across state lines to be a part of this Maryland tradition. They describe it as “always a good time” and offering “merriment for all.”
What is the Renaissance Festival?
For those who have never been, you might be wondering, “What is the Renaissance Festival?” In short, it’s a recreation of a 16th-century English village that allows visitors the chance to pretend they’ve gone back in time and can indulge in all things majestic and magical. Across the 27-acre fairground, there are 130 craft shops offering everything from clothing and décor to books and weaponry; then there are 42 food outlets, including beer stands, taverns, restaurants, sandwich shops, and snack shacks; plus 10 major stages with schedules featuring plays, live music, acrobatics, dancing, comedy, and much more. There are also interactive lessons where you can learn to juggle, test your skills at archery, solve a labyrinth, or even try your hand at blowing glass. Plus there’s the jousting tournament featuring fully armored knights competing in what you might not know is Maryland’s state sport (yes, really).
The experience is so immersive that you can even expect to interact with character performers who are strolling through the fairground — you’ll be royalty, nobility, pirates, magicians, peasants, jesters, and other colorful characters.
Wow, That Sounds Cool! What Can I Expect When I Go?
Good question. After all, a great trip to the Maryland Renaissance Festival usually takes a little bit of planning. That’s because tickets tend to sell pretty quickly, especially if it’s a nice day. You can buy tickets ahead of time online, but if you’re planning to buy tickets in person, you’ll need to show up right when the line forms at 9:30AM. Revel Grove, as the festival’s 16th-century village is officially known, tends to see an average of 15,000 people per day, and it’s not unusual for tickets to be sold out by noon.
You should also expect to sit in a little bit of traffic — the streets surrounding the fairgrounds at 1821 Crownsville Road in Annapolis are single-lane roads, and things might be bumper-to-bumper once you get as close as a mile to the fairground. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about parking once you get there. About 85 acres of field designated for free parking means that it isn’t difficult at all to find a spot, even if you show up late in the day (with your pre-purchased tickets you bought ahead of time, of course).
While you don’t have to dress up in costume, many people choose to do so — they feel as if that makes the immersive experience much more complete. Don’t feel the need to throw together an elaborate costume. Simple accessories can make a big difference in your look. You can even opt to buy or rent a costume once you get there. Costume rentals are available for most body types and can help you become any character of your choice, whether that’s royalty or a peasant.
The most important thing to wear is good shoes. The village’s ground is natural forest terrain (thing dirt, mulch, and stone) with some hilly areas. You’ll be walking around between shops, food stands, and performance venues for most of the day, and your feet could potentially get sore and/or dirty. (If you’re going on a day following heavy rain, avoid wearing any shoes you don’t want to get muddy.)
Plus you’ll want to bring your appetite. The festival’s food stands are known for sweet and savory snacks and meals, most notably the smoked turkey legs that people eat with their bare hands. Those looking to imbibe will enjoy ales, wines, and ciders available in the taverns.
When you’re looking through the schedule of performances on the day you go, keep an eye out for popular acts like Nunnie Nunnie, Hildy the Skinny German Juggle Boy, and comedians Puke & Snot.
The Basic Details
The Renaissance Festival opens the last weekend in August and usually runs through the second-to-last weekend in October; for 2021, that means August 28 through October 24. It is open Saturdays and Sundays (as well as Labor Day) from 10:00AM to 7:00PM every day throughout its run.