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Greetings Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost, and welcome to a perfect 24 Hours of the best things to do in the New York Renaissance Faire! Some attractions in New York State, like the Statue of Liberty or the Times Square Olive Garden are known all around the world. But some are known mostly only to locals.
That’s where the New York Renaissance Faire comes in. This wonderful festival lasts from August to September every year, and it’s a true New York tradition. In fact, this native New Yorker has been visiting the Ren Faire every year since she was seven years old…and loving it!
The New York Renaissance Faire is easy to get to from New York City; detailed instructions on how to get here, including by bus if you don’t have a car, are here. So join me for a day of mead, magic, and more. HUZZAH!
Things to Do in the New York Renaissance Faire
The New York Renaissance Faire is the same every year, except when it is different. There are some acts and shops that come every single year, and then there are some old acts that never return and new favorites to meet and enjoy.
I’ll share my favorite shows, shops, and snacks, but be sure to check the (free) schedule at the information booth when you arrive for more up to date into on showtimes.
And now that the preliminaries are out of the way, I give you…
Approximately Top 5: Morning at the Ren Faire!
1) Dave’s Mini Donuts
Dave’s Mini Donuts are my traditional way to start a day at the Ren Faire. Did they have mini donuts during the Renaissance? Probably not. But get used to anachronism. We’re at the New York Renaissance Faire!
Dave’s Mini Donuts can come plain, but I prefer to get mine in one of their crazy flavors like S’mores or Pumpkin Spice. This year I got caramel pretzel, which had that addictive salty-sweet combination reminiscent of caramel-cheese popcorn mixes.
You can also get their “complete breakfast” maple bacon donut, if you missed breakfast this morning. I always get a half portion, which is six mini donuts.
They are made piping hot, fresh to order, and also delicious as they look. You’ll be busting out of your corset by the time you’re finished. And yes, I do wear an actual corset to the Ren Faire.
You can’t see it, but trust me that it’s there. And it’s VERY purple.
24 Hour Tip
Bring tons of one dollar bills to the Ren Faire for the food stand tip jars. Every time you tip, the food staff will yell, “HUZZAH TO MY LOVELY TIPPER!!!!” or words to that effect. It will definitely include the word Huzzah, though.
That’s a Ren Faire promise! And how many times in your life can you guarantee that someone will yell Huzzah at you?
2) Tiny Girl, Big Show
Aside from the food and shopping, the best thing about the Ren Faire is the shows. Don’t miss Tiny Girl, Big Show, with the star performer named Stahr.
Stahr used to be half of a couple show called Acrobatrix, but she and her partner broke up, so now she’s flying solo. I mean, she does not literally fly, but she does do cool tricks with a unicycle and everything.
There were some funny breakup jokes in the show, which seemed to resonate with everyone in the audience who had experienced heartache. (I assume that’s everyone except for the small children.)
But you didn’t come to the show for breakup jokes! You came to see a contortionist do a backbend and pick up a flaming torch with her teeth! This show has that too.
Remember that all the shows are free, so please bring some 5 dollars bills or such to tip the entertainers. I don’t think anyone ever got rich performing Ren Faires, so all tips are greatly appreciated. Some of the acts do sell merchandise as well, though I didn’t see so much of that this year.
3) Aaron Bonk
I can’t guarantee that Aaron Bonk is the most popular show at the New York Renaissance Faire. But I also can’t guarantee that he isn’t! His shows always seem to fill out crazy fast, so get there early if you want to get a good seat.
People come from all over the Ren Faire to see his tricks with fire, whips, swords, and fire whips. That might be why his act is so crowded…because you can’t sit on the ground near the stage due to the fire whips.
Mr. Bonk, who claims this is his real name, has a charmingly low-key sense of humor for a Ren Faire performer. His most common punchline is, “That’s….not a joke.” Or he might ask the audience if they like Game of Thrones and when they agree, he’ll pretend to be shocked to find GoT fans at a Ren Faire.
But you didn’t come for the jokes! You came to watch a Guinness Book of World Records veteran balance a bunch of swords on his head, juggle four whips (which no one else can do), and crack whips that have been coated in flame!
And you will surely get what you came for. Look at my photo above! That’s a real flaming torch he’s balancing on his head! BONK!
4) Meat on a Stick!
After all those acrobatics and fire whips, we’re going to want some lunch! There are a ton of options at the New York Renaissance Faire, but there’s just something so appropriate about sinking your teeth into a hunk of meat when you’re pretending to live in medieval times.
Why are there so many medieval references at a Renaissance Faire? Don’t ask questions; just go with it.
I often stop at the Willow’s Fare or Little John’s Feast for their treats to tempt any carnivore. The go-to move would be the turkey leg, but something this is just too much meat and sodium for one princess.
However, they are extremely popular and there’s a dedicated line just for turkey legs, so if you want to indulge, step right up to the counter and go!
If I’m feeling a lighter snack, I go for a Steak on a Stake from Willow’s Fare. The meat is moist and flavorful, there’s just the right amount of food, and the name is very fun to say. Got to love a clean, meat-related pun! HUZZAH!
But the BBQ Chicken from Little John’s Feast is also satisfying, especially the crispy skin. Just be sure to take lots of napkins. The plastic knives don’t always do the job, so you might need to use your digits.
Things to do at the New York Renaissance Faire
Afternoon: Even More Ren Faire Fun!
The afternoon at the New York Renaissance Faire always brings the main event: the joust! Now, the Ren Faire has its own storyline involving Robin Hood, Maid Marion, and…Queen Elizabeth I, which is totally historically inaccurate. They really should call this the New York State Anachronism Faire.
And perhaps someday I will devote a post to leading you around the different Robin Hood scenes that take place all around the Faire throughout the day. But for this post, join me for an afternoon of lances, bananas, and other things that are super phallic. Let’s get ready for faire fune with…
Approximately Top 5: Ren Faire Afternoon!
1) Fruit Ice
After our Steak on a Stick (or turkey leg or falafel—there’s plenty of veggie options at the Ren Faire), it’s time for dessert! And at the Ren Faire, the best option for dessert is something frozen, since it’s usually hot as fire from the Spanish Armada in New York in August.
If you want something traditional, go for a fruit ice from the Queen’s Treats served inside a frozen orange peel. They’ve been serving this at the Ren Faire since at least the 90s! HUZZAH!
Yes, this is actually me, my childhood best friend, and my Mom at the Ren Faire a jillion years ago. And the fruit ices still taste as good today! Last time I went to the Ren Faire, I got a special peach ice served in a frozen peach half. So summery!
But I sometimes prefer the chocolate-covered bananas from King Arthur’s Round Table & Lady Guinevere’s Goodies. Simple, decadent, and satisfying.
Just be sure to let them thaw a little because they are truly deep frozen when you buy them. Arthur and Guinevere don’t mess around when it comes to high quality fridges. (Also, does it confuse Arthur and Guinevere that Queen Elizabeth I is around at the same time they are? This is what happens when you try to make the Ren Faire make sense.)
2) To the Death! No, to the Pain!
The main event in any Ren Faire guest’s life has got to be attending the joust. This joust has everything: real men and women jabbing giant spears at each other whilst on horseback, elaborate tricks involving catching rings on said spears, and Queen Elizabeth making yet another anachronistic appearance.
There are a few jousts per day, but the last one is sometimes too late for us to make our bus back to New York if we see it. Let’s catch the earlier show instead. (It’s usually around 2:30.)
Technically speaking the joust is free, but since it’s so popular, you need to get there insanely early if you want a decent seat.
Or for just a few extra dollars, you can reserve a seat for the joust in the nearby booth and get a comfy place to sit, a non-alcoholic beverage of your choice, a delicious fresh giant pickle, and an assigned seat cheering on one of the four jousters. HUZZAH! (I always choose to pay a little extra.)
Please feel free to cheer on your champion, but don’t start screeching, “BOOOO! I HAAAATE YOU!” at the others, as one little boy I sat near at the Ren Faire did. They’re all just actors; no need to act like one of them is Tom Brady and deserves all your loathing.
3) Imbibe Mead
Many drinks are present at the Ren Faire, from standard Coca-Colas to slushy and frosted coffee contraptions. But there is only one drink you simply MUST partake of at the Ren Faire, and that is the honey wine known as mead. (Providing you are at least 21 years of age; please don’t sue me for encouraging minors to drink!)
At the Ren Faire, you can drink mead neat or as part of a mead cocktail–I recommend it mixed with hard cider. Or do as I do and get both in one day. At the Ren Faire, no one will judge you.
This year they even had a slightly tart berry mead, which tasted even better than the original. HUZZAH! In fact, it was so popular that they seemed to have run out by the end of the day, so try this drink early.
Just be sure to have ID with you at all times. The Ren Faire reserves the right to card literally everyone on policy, so even if you are 1000 years old and covered with grey hair and wrinkles, please bring your driver’s license or passport.
4) Cirque du Sewer
Cirque du Sewer has got to be one of the oddest shows at the New York Renaissance Faire, but that just makes it all the more fun! The main performer is a woman named Melissa, and she has an assistant named Vitaly.
But the real stars of the show are her cats Pad Kee Meow, Sputnik, and Schrodinger, and her rats, who were all brand new this year. What…happened to the old rats? I suspect death, hopefully not at the hand of the cats.
Melissa’s humor seemed generally of the self-deprecating kind. (Sample joke: “I didn’t get into show business because I have GOOD self esteem.”) But I think you need to have a sense of humor about yourself if you’re going to be a proper Ren Faire performer.
Highlights of the show include Melissa doing a split while a rat runs over her legs and then jumps through a flaming hoop of fire, cats jumping through flaming hoops, and a grand finale where Melissa does a flaming hula hoop while balancing on a slack rope.
All of these cuties are rescue animals, and Melissa assured us that the tricks were very safe.
Things to Do at the New York Renaissance Faire
Evening: Start Wrapping it Up!
We can’t really claim to be spending a whole evening at the New York Renaissance Faire because our bus back home usually leaves around 6:30 in the PM. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have plenty of time for fun! There’ll be as much eating, shopping, and exploring as we can cram into a couple of hours. But first—ART!
Approximately Top 5: New York Renaissance Faire Evening
You might be thinking to yourself, glassblowing? Isn’t that like watching paint dry? But actually the glassblowing demonstrations, held throughout the day, are some of the most interesting things to see at the New York Renaissance Faire.
You’ll be able to watch an actual glassblowing master create a beautiful work of art like a mug or a vase right before your eyes. He said that most of the pieces he does for demonstration are commissions, so you might be able to watch him give the finished piece to a member of the audience after the show is done.
Other things you could learn about during the demonstration include: why glass isn’t sand, how to stay clean and sober, and where the term “glory hole” comes from. See! Fun for the whole family!
2) Shoppe Til Ye Droppe!
I’m not posting the same photo of myself twice in one post because I am an egomaniac, Internet Stranger. It’s to teach you about my third favorite activity at the Ren Faire: shopping! And in this photo, I am showing off some of my favorite stores.
First, you’re going to want a costume at the Ren Faire, and the easiest costume to get is a hat or other headpiece like my circlet. I purchased both the topper I am wearing here and the one from my childhood photo at Madd Hatter.
Yes, they’ve been around since before I was born, and they are the best Ren Faire haberdashers, in this humble opinion. Their slogan is “It’s all about the hat” and truer words were ne’er spoken.
Next you might want to pick up some jewelry, and I suggest grabbing some lovely baubles at Rozelisa’s, who makes all her pieces by hand. You can see my fab purple earrings in the photo, right? Well, I got them from her, of course! Isn’t it amazing how they match my face paint?
She has a new collection every year, so I buy a piece from her every time I come to the Ren Faire. I guarantee you’ll love what you buy from her too. She also does interesting tarot card readings at the faire, if you want to try that.
If you want an outfit complete with dress and corset, stop at Hearts Delight, where I got my lavender robe and my dark purple/gray reversible corset.
The helpful staff will be delighted to fit you out with the perfect size, so don’t be shy about asking. My corset salesgirl wouldn’t rest until she had cinched me in to within an inch of my life.
3) Wander About!
The New York Renaissance Faire is located in stunning Tuxedo, NY, and for city dwellers, it’s a bucolic escape from hectic urban life. Take some time to just stroll about and enjoy the trees and water.
It’s like nature but better because there are clean Porto-Potties everywhere! You can even rent a boat if you have a friend with you and go for a spin around the lake.
Or you can take the kids to play on some of the rides!
Keep a weather eye out for Easter eggs hidden around the Ren Faire, like little troll statues planted in the woods or people dressed as fairies who will try to start conversations with you like they just stepped out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a dude wandering about with an accordion playing the Game of Thrones theme. And definitely don’t miss the stocks!
Are you more of a guttersnipe or a spiteful gossip, Internet Stranger? You can confide in me. I’ll never tell!
4) A Snack for the Road!
There are a few things a visitor to the New York Renaissance Faire simply must consume on every trip: a glass of mead, meat you eat with your fingers, a frozen dessert…and of course a pickle from a cart. For just a few dollars, you can enjoy the meatiest, briniest, saltiest pickle this side of the Renaissance.
Before #metoo, you could expect a salty joke to go with a salty pickle, but the vendors seem to have toned that action down.
Once you’ve nabbed your Ren Faire Pickle, it’ll be time to head back home on the bus. Huzzah and kudos to you for making it through a perfect 24 hours at the New York Renaissance Faire!
24 Hour Tip
Please remember that the pickle carts and some other vendors are cash only, so bring plenty of cash with you to the Ren Faire. There are ATMs all around, but sometimes they run out by the end of the day.
Things to Do in the New York Renaissance Faire
What to Pack?
- A cell charger so you can take photos of the New York Renaissance Faire all day
- The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds
- These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.
- If you’re interested in learning more about Renaissance Faires, I suggest this wonderful book Well Met, which tells the history of how Ren Faires became so popular
- I bought my costume at the New York Renaissance Faire, piece by piece, year after year. But if you want to buy your own costume to bring to the Renaissance Faire, Amazon has some great options here.
That’s The Best Things at the New York Renaissance Faire!
What do you think are the best things to do at the New York Renaissance Faire? Is sexual innuendo about pickles OK or hopelessly patriarchal? Huzzah???? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the best things to do at the New York Renaissance Faire.
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