The Minnesota Renaissance Festival: An Immersive Family Experience

Castle exterior at Minnesota Renaissance Fest "The Minnesota Renaissance Festival with Kids"

Huzzah! It’s the season of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival! We’ve got some tips if you’re thinking about bringing the family.

The 2023 Minnesota Renaissance Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays from August 19th through October 1st from 9am to 7pm, rain or shine. With special on days on Labor Day, September 4th, and September 29th for Fest Friday.

I’m always a little surprised by how quickly the weather turns in September. During the first couple weeks of school we’ll get daily reminders to send water bottles and then suddenly the messages change to reminders to dress appropriately for cool weather. This is great news for attending the Minnesota Renaissance Festival because my only complaint was the heat.  We wandered the festival grounds for a couple hours enjoying ourselves wherever we were. However, we had to cut our visit shorter than we would have liked because of the sun. Already, this week, the weather started to have that subtle feel of autumn. This will make a visit to the festival more comfortable — especially if you choose to wear costumes.

While, I have always thought of the Renaissance Faires as an adult outing, attending with my kids brought out a whole new side of this festival. Below are my favorite family-friendly activities and few ideas for what we will do next year to make our day even better.

If you are an old hand at this festival, there are some new RenFest activities to check out in 2022.

12 Tips for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for Families

1.  Buy your Minnesota Renaissance Festival tickets in advance

We recommend buying your tickets in advance online to save about $3 off admission price. This also allows you to bypass the lines at the ticket booths when you arrive. 2019 prices are listed below.

  • Festival Gate Admission: Adult/$26.95, Senior/$24.95, Child 5-12/$17.95 Under 4 Free,
  • Advanced Admission (purchase online): Adult/$23.95, Child 5-12/$15.50, Under 4 Free
  • Best Deal: Get a Family 4-Pack for $69.00 (2 adults and 2 children).
Looking for discounted tickets to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival? Check the festival’s promotions page.

2.  Pick One of The Theme Weekends

Want to see the pets? Fairytales? The Highland Games? Pick your weekend to visit based on what appeals most to your family.

Renaissance Festival

3.  Dress up!

My daughter and I dressed up simply because she has a dress up box to work from and my loose-fitting maternity dresses translated easily into a gypsy look. I didn’t make my boys dress up, but I truly believe we had more fun and definitely know we got better pictures because we dressed up. However, I recommend sensible walking shoes that don’t mind a little dirt or mud.

Find quality boys, girls and women’s costumes. Disclosure: Affiliate LInk

 4.  Unless necessary, skip the stroller

A stroller may be unavoidable for many, particularly if your family is planning to spend the entire day. But if you think your youngest is up for it, leave the stroller in the car. If you have the option, bring your all-terrain stroller. I was unpleasantly surprised to find how bumpy and uneven the grade of the grounds is. I swear I was pushing the stroller uphill and sideways all day; in fact, I could’ve used a stroller myself by the end.

5.  Grab a Daily Program/map on your way in and take a few moments to plan a loose strategy

We somehow missed the programs our first time around. They are conspicuously placed at the entrance, but we missed them. Therefore, we did not have a map or any sort of plan. Although this was not the issue that it was with the State Fair (where a plan is essential), we still would have gone to a few more places had we taken a moment to strategize. If you prefer, you can find the Minnesota Renaissance Festival Map HERE.

6.  Bring singles and other cash

There was a lot of passing of the hat by performers and inexpensive extras in the festival marketplace where having small bills came in handy. The artisans and vendors’ wares are so much fun to shop. Once you’ve paid a hefty admission fee it may seem disheartening that there are many nickel-and-dime-ya type attractions your kids will beg to try out, but remember there are lots of free options to enjoy, too. And speaking of…

7.  Know where the find the free stuff

The FFTC team has 4 kids each – “free” is one of our favorite words. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival’s website has a list of Family Friendly activities — many of them free and many of which we missed. In 2022, the list is long, but includes these favorites:

  • Explore the Fairy Wing Forest
  • Watch the Mermaids of Mermaid Cove
  • Participate in the daily Children’s Costume Contest
  • Watch the Grand March Parade, daily at 11:30am
  • Get Knighted at the daily Children’s Knighting Ceremony at 3:30pm
  • List to stories or watch cooking demos in the Irish Cottage
  • Get up close with reptiles in the Herpetological House
  • Watch the Joust
  • Dance around the Maypole
  • Watch for dragons at the Throne of Swords
  • Meet King Henry & Queen Elizabeth in their 16th Century Court
  • Listen to adventure stories in the Palace Garden
  • Learn to juggle at Juggling School
  • Get a selfie with Albion the Unicorn
  • Visit the Cock A Doodle Petting Zoo
  • Drop a Coin in the Wishing Well
  • Learn about Scandinavian History at the Viking Encampment
  • Make a Fairy Wand and/or a Pirate Hat!

8.  Consider bringing your dog

Dogs are welcome, although there is an entrance fee for Fido ($10–CASH ONLY) and some rules you need to be aware of ahead of time. For instance you need to have proof of vaccination and a photo of your dog with you (or pay extra for a photo to be taken). I feel a little bad that we go on outings week after week and leave our dog at home. It is nice to know when we have an option to bring them along. NOTE: Dogs are not welcome everywhere at the festival (the petting zoo for instance), so someone will have to wait outside in those cases.

9.  Wear sunscreen

I don’t mean to sound like Baz Luhrmann, because I’m really NOT a sunscreen person. I prefer to get my sun protection through vegetables, but this is one of those occasions where I recommend it. There just is not a lot of shade, and you don’t want to have to cut your visit short to avoid burning.

10.  Hydrate on the way there.

Outside food and beverages are not allowed inside the gates. Water is available, but it doesn’t hurt to be ahead of the game before you walk through the gates. I did talk to some people who had carried in and they said they were not sneaky about bringing in water and were not stopped. I didn’t try to carry in, and I didn’t ask how strictly they enforce the policy. My guess is that on the particular day I visited, they may have been loose with the policy as a concession to the extreme heat. I certainly wouldn’t count on it.

11.  Bring car snacks and/or a picnic, but be realistic about planning to buy food, too.

This is pretty much my advice for any festival or fair. We also always have car snacks and water or Gatorade. There have been years where purchasing food was completely out of budget for us, but when we can, we try to plan for a little something. Getting turkey legs and pub drinks makes the whole experience more fun.

12.  Don’t be too married to your strategy.

Some of our favorite parts of our visit were completely spontaneous. I’m not sure we would have planned for the story garden or the wishing well, but we were happy we stopped.

Renaissance Petting

Favorite Family Activities at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Some attractions at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival are adult oriented. Beer drinking, for instance. There is a lot of beer flowing. Some of the live entertainment has adult ratings or is just not exciting enough for kids to sit through. There are also many attractions geared toward families. These are some of our favorites:

Garden of Stories - Minnesota Renaissance FestivalGarden of Stories

This is an easy attraction to miss. It is tucked away between a couple little shops. I’m so glad we stumbled on it and would recommend making a point to find it. The storyteller has a small chest of drawers with story starters and tells a different story depending on the drawer picked. She did an excellent job of drawing the smaller children in with the small story starter toys and then collecting them back during the story without incident. I was holding my breath when she took the toy back from my two year old, but he was so interested in the story that he just handed it back.

Petting Zoo - Minnesota Renaissance FestivalPetting Zoo

We had just attended the State Fair the day before. Although there are far fewer animals at the Renaissance Fest, the intimate setting of a small farm made it more appealing to the kids. Besides being able to pet the animals, they could purchase feed for $1.00. There were all the typical farm animals — except cows (which we had gotten enough of at the State Fair).

Animals - Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Elephant, Camel or Pony Rides

We didn’t do this, and I think I was the most disappointed. I always wanted to do the animal rides when I was a kid and was never allowed. I don’t want that to be my kids experience. Next year, I’m making it a priority.

Joust - Minnesota Renaissance FestivalJousting

This probably doesn’t need to be said. I assume most people think of the joust when they think of a Renaissance Festival. You do, however, want to be aware of the times — 11am, 1, 3 & 5pm — and maybe set an alarm to remind you to head to over to the track on time.

Fairy Wing Forest

If you love fairy gardens at home, you HAVE to meander through a magical veld where it’s fun to imagine that fairies dwell. When we visited, there was a significant line for this attraction because everyone wants to take their time seeking out the fairy houses along the path. Take note, strollers are not permitted.

Mermaid Cove

My daughter (the one young enough to believe) was in absolute awe of the mermaids. She wouldn’t pose for a picture next to one, but that is not reflective of how cool she thought they were. Wander the paths and meet these mythical creatures for free.

Minnesota Renaissance Festival Address/Parking:

  • Queen’s Gate, 12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee, MN 55379-8944
  • King’s Gate, 3525 145th St W, Shakopee, MN 55379-8944

The festival offers free parking. As you get close, signs will lead you to the parking areas and staff is available to help you find a spot.

This article was originally written by Joy Peters on September 1, 2014 and is updated annually.

*This article contains Little Adventures links. Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on sales through our site, which helps to keep our services free.


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2 thoughts on “The Minnesota Renaissance Festival: An Immersive Family Experience”

  1. Grommet's Leathercraft

    This is exciting! I love all of your tips for the renaissance fair. I’m planning to go to one this year. Do you know any places where I could buy clothes or costumers to wear?

    1. What an excellent question. Of course, I assume you would like us to mention your store, but since you are in California and we are hyperlocal, I did a little local research. If Twin Cities residents are willing to go for a bit of a drive, Cock’n Dragon in La Crescent and Ethereal Threads in Brainerd specialize in Renaissance wear. In the Twin Cities, I might try the Costume Collective or rent from the Guthrie. We usually hit up thrift shops with decent success. Although, one year, my MIL made me an awesome dress. I wish I had had the room to hold onto that costume. I recommend everyone find a MIL who sews.

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