Insider Tips for the Carolina Renaissance Festival
Enjoy a day at Fairhaven with the family.
A day of fun for all ages awaits in the village of Fairhaven at the Carolina Renaissance Festival.
Carolina Renaissance Festival
The Carolina Renaissance Festival opens Saturday, Sept. 30, and is open every Saturday and Sunday until Nov. 19. This event in Huntersville attracts masses who enjoy the sights, sounds and acts of the village of Fairhaven. We spoke with Matt Siegel, the director of marketing and entertainment for the festival, who offers these tips for families on how best plan for and to navigate the event.
Before the Event
Tickets. Tickets purchased in advance at Harris Teeter stores cost $14 for children ages 5 to 12 and $24 for ages 13 and older. Entry is free for kids under the age of 5. Tickets at the gate cost $1 more.
What to bring. The festival takes place on a 25-acre site. Comfortable shoes are a must, and strollers or carriages are recommended for toddlers and little ones. Be sure to bring cash since many of the games and concessionaires don’t accept credit cards (and the various performers always appreciate tips).
Come early. Gates open every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., but there is a pre-opening show at 9:30 a.m. to keep early-birds entertained. Even though Siegel says that the walk from the free car lot to the village grounds “feels as if you are taking an autumn stroll through Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest,” arriving early ensures a better parking spot and less of a trek to the festival.
Food and drink. No outside food or beverage is allowed at the festival with the exception of baby-food products, medical dietary foods and one plastic water bottle with a sealed lid per person.
During the Festival
Must-see events: "Definitely don’t miss the Joust and the Ancient Art of Falconry," says Siegel. "And be sure to chomp a giant roasted turkey leg." Wander the streets and gawk at the villagers’ performances, go to the Artisan Marketplace to watch glass-blowing and candle-making demonstrations, and bring extra money for games, rides, shopping and food.
“While it is impossible to see and do everything in one visit,” Siegel says, “a five-and-a-half hour visit is ample enough time to experience a quality sampling of the festival’s overall offering.”
When you get hungry. Food stands with menu items from pizza to wraps to desserts and smoothies are scattered throughout the event property. Even picky eaters shouldn’t have a problem finding a delicious feast. Parents can enjoy coffee and alcohol as well, including craft beers.
On stage acts. With stage shows offered every 30 to 45 minutes, there is never a lull in Fairhaven. When looking over the schedule to see which events are best for your family, be sure to check out the rating system. Events with a (LC) rating are called Loose Cannon shows and are deemed inappropriate for little ones. However, there are more than enough family-friendly acts to fill your day.
Arrive five to 10 minutes early for guaranteed seating at one of the shows. Siegel says that the “intimate nature of each performance setting means that there is rarely a bad seat but those with strollers should consider seats located on the outside aisles.” He also notes that the jousting events are the most popular and arriving 20 minutes before the scheduled start time is best.
Here are the acts that Siegel suggested for each age group:
Entertainment for Toddlers:
- The Ancient Art of Falconry
- Twig the Fairy’s Woodland Friends
- Roses of the Realm Belly Dance
- Faewyn Songs and Stories
- Lady Prudence Court Composer
- The Fairhaven Petting Farm
- Pony and/or Camel Rides
- The Royal Hounds of Fairhaven
- Ride the World’s Tallest Rocking Horse, the Swan Swing, and travel to the high seas on the Voyage to the New World.
Entertainment for Elementary-Age Children:
- Any of the above and also The Joust
- Barely Balanced Acrobats
- Gypsy Geoff
- The Children’s Knighting Ceremony
- Any of the dance and musical performances
- Ride the Pirate’s Assault Catapult
- The Slider Joust ride
- Shatter the Platter
- Climb-a-Lot Tower
- Da Vinci’s Flying Machine
- Jacob’s Ladder
- Assault Catapult bungee jump ride
Entertainment for Middle-Schoolers
- Any of the above and The London Broil Show
- Don Juan and Miguel
- Hey Nunnie! Nunnie!
- The Dungeon Museum
- Siege the Castle and test your strength with the High Stryker
Entertainment for Teens and Adults (note the LC for Loose Cannon performances that may not be appropriate for all ages).
- Any of the above and The Tortuga Twins (LC),
- Rick the Hypnotist
- The Ded Bob Show (LC)
- The Washing Well Wenches (LC)
- Zilch the Torystellar (LC)
- The Angels (LC)
- Pirate Shantyman & Bonnie Lass (LC)
After the Event
TRAFFIC! Try to leave by 3:30 p.m. to avoid the mass of exiting traffic. Some traffic is inevitable though, so bring snacks and entertainment for the ride back to keep children distracted from waits in the car.
The festival features the same schedule each weekend but special event weekends are scheduled throughout the festival, including Halloween Daze and Spooky Knights, Oct. 28 and 29. During Halloween Daze and Spooky Knights, children 12 and under are admitted free to the festival. There is free trick-or-treating throughout the village, a special Zombie Joust performance, costume contests and a treasure hunt.
If pirate-speak is common in your household, make plans to attend the festival Nov. 4 and 5 for Pirates Weekend. Expect appearances by performers like a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator.
Fantasy lovers will want to come to Time Travelers Weekend, Nov. 11 and 12, to see appearances by characters from "Lord of the Rings," "Game of Thrones," "Harry Potter," "Star Wars" and more.
Visit the festival's website for more details and upcoming events.