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Everything You Need to Know About Southern California's Renaissance Faires
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Everything You Need to Know About Southern California's Renaissance Faires

Don your doublet, gallivant from one festival to another, and take part in the games, rides, performances, and immersive experiences.

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4 min read

May 27, 2021

Want to party like it’s 1499? Head on down to SoCal for medieval adventures around every turn. You may be wondering: what does an archaic, old-world way of life have to do with a progressive state? Well, the Southern California Renaissance Faires began when the first-ever festival was held in a teacher’s backyard in 1963.

Some faires lean Celtic, others medieval—you’ll even find festivals hosting one-eyed pirates, ethereal fairies, and pointy-eared elves. Don your doublet or jerkin, gallivant from one festival to another, and take part in the games, rides, performances, and immersive experiences. Huzzah!

Renaissance faires generally include costumed entertainers or fair-goers, musical and theatrical acts, art, and handicrafts for sale.

The History of Renaissance Faires in Southern California

Before you bask in the glory days of 1500s Europe, a brief history lesson is due. In 1963, Los Angeles schoolteacher Phyllis Patterson was concerned about the lack of arts education provided to her students. Schools focused more on STEM education. Therefore, Phyllis and her husband Ron began providing after-school art and theater workshops in their backyard.

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Small backyard gatherings quickly grew into weekend fundraisers. A local radio station began hosting “The Renaissance Pleasure Faire and May Market.” From then on, a community of period-enthusiasts turned into five million attendees. People from all over the world began visiting the iconic Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Each weekend, the festivals welcomed approximately 20,000 attendees. The renaissance faires became a place where people celebrated period history through performances, artisans, and culinary delights.

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California is a commercial reenactment of a 1580s market faire at Port Deptford.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California

Travel back in time and live like your forefathers did at the iconic Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California. This festival is a can’t-miss for any Golden State resident. If you’ve always wondered how people lived in the olden days, come here to find out.

The Sante Fe Dam Recreation Area transforms into a medieval town with ribbons and flags waving in the wind. You hear the sounds of bells and ocarinas in the air everywhere you go. Lords dress to impress ladies, pirates hunt for treasures, peasants work in fields, and everyone else prances about the streets—time travel doesn’t get any better than this.

So what do people at Renaissance faires actually do for fun? How exactly should you spend the day here? The most entertaining activities at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California include face painting, braiding, going on dragon rides, and zip-lining. Soothsayers have booths for peeking into your future and Queen Elizabeth I herself serves afternoon tea—don’t forget to bow or curtsy to the Queen. 

The costumes worn by the Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California actors are styled after those of Elizabeth I of England.

If you’re a fan of live-action role-play, take part in the RenQuest live fantasy, an interactive adventure for ages 16 and up. This day-long activity takes you to every corner of the town. When participating in RenQuest, you’ll use logical reasoning to solve puzzles as well as improvisational skills to develop your own character’s backstory. Go on a whirlwind adventure through the town of Port Deptford deciphering clues, meeting townsfolk, and performing brave tasks while avoiding Deptford’s villains. The incredible thing about this adventure is that there are no bystanders—visitors influence the storyline with their creativity.

When all that time traveling finally catches up with you, head to the numerous beverage booths scattered around the area. Pick up a light snack or feast on a turkey leg, the choice is yours. But if you want our recommendation, opt for the scrumptious fruit ices. This desert fuses coconut, orange, lemon, peach, and mango shells with RenFaire’s signature gourmet sorbet. A unique, creative garnish that’s fat-free and dairy-free—you’ll fall in love in no time.

The Koroneburg Renaissance Festival began in 1998, entertaining families and friends for over 20 years.

A Renaissance Faire near Los Angeles 

Who said that the Renaissance faire in Irwindale is the only one in Southern California? Head to Crossroads Riverview Park in Riverside County for more adventures. This is where the equally famous Koroneburg Renaissance Festival kicks off one of SoCal’s only permanent medieval-themed grounds—it’s the ideal place to spend an afternoon with your family

The best part of this California Renaissance festival is the lineup. Among the popular headliners, A Fool and his Family stand out by a long shot. The improv family offers engaging and immersive performances to entertain townsfolk. Comedy acts include fractured fairy tales, spoonerism, and interactive theater. Prepare for an evening of laughs and wonder with the SoCal sunset being the curtain call.

Test your skills in archery, make your own pottery, and participate in a medieval-themed escape room, whatever suits your fancy. The Koroneburg Renaissance Faires also hosts themed weekends. All visitors are encouraged to dress up according to the weekly theme—you can even earn discounts for showing up in costume.

Peasant outfits are the least expensive, most comfortable, and easiest to mix and match. The skirts and blouses make the perfect foundation pieces.

What to Wear to a California Renaissance Faire

Now that you know where to go and what to do, only one thing remains. You might be thinking: “That’s a cool way to spend the day, but I’m only a 21st-century plebeian, what am I supposed to wear to a Renaissance faire in California?!” Fret not, for nailing the medieval look is a quest you can easily complete. Burst into your capsule closet, ditch the denim, and prepare for a Middle-Age makeover.

Boots, sandals, and natural leather shoes dominate the medieval fashion industry. Blousy shirts in natural colors are usually worn with leather vests. Match your top with pocketless snug-fitting pants to look Dark Age-chic. As for the cherry on top, straw hats are the name of the game. And voila, this is how you become an influencer in the 1500s. 

If you don’t own any of these clothing items, worry not. Ren faires are filled with vendors selling the coolest medieval fads. Snatch the hottest Middle-Age leather vest or rent a last-minute costume if you’d rather not commit to a lifelong Renaissance aesthetic.

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