Friday, August 18, 2017

Long Live the Queen: Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha WI

Disclaimer: I received complimentary passes to attend the Bristol Renaissance Faire to facilitate this honest review. All opinions expressed below are 100% mine and mine alone unless otherwise stated. Please do your own research when looking into a product or service as your results may vary.

Who needs a Tardis to travel back in time when you can attend a Renaissance faire, complete with costumes, old timey entertainment inclusive of 16th century man-powered games and rides, weapon throwing, and music, delicious time period inspired foods, and so much more!

I mean, if you have access to The Doctor and the Tardis I'd very much love you forever and always but I digress...

Open every Saturday and Sunday (and Labor Day) from July 8th through September 4th, Bristol Renaissance Faire, located in Kenosha, Wisconsin and voted the number one Renaissance faire in the nation, takes you back in time to the 1500's when Queen Elizabeth ruled England, when people were still allowed to throw tomatoes at an insult comedian, and where jousting to the death was still a pretty big thing.

This year was a very special milestone for Bristol; all Summer they're celebrating their 30th anniversary! In celebration of this momentous milestone, they added a little twist to their normal festivities: Theme weekends.

RennCon weekend, Steampunk Invasion weekend, Celtic weekend, Fantasy weekend, and Swashbuckler weekend, oh my! As you can see from above my friends and I were able to go on Steampunk Invasion weekend and I had so much fun putting together my costume for the affair it was downright ridiculous.

Town of Bristol

Ever since I heard of this particular ren fair, and with it being SO close, I've wanted to go and experience a honest-to-goodness Renaissance faire. I've heard snippets from one person or another, media outlets, movies, books and it has always sounded like such a fun thing to experience in person.

I've been dying to go to this ren faire for the last several years but due to health issues it sadly kept having to be rescheduled. Last year I came pretty close but alas, close is only acceptable in horseshoes and hand grenades.

This year though I finally, finally, make it to the town of Bristol and it absolutely did not disappoint! In fact it exceeded my expectations one hundred fold. I had no idea just how BIG this place actually was, not to mention everything they offered. They have 21 stages and areas where things are happening at any given time throughout the day, rows and rows of little food vendors, quaint little shops, fun games, and more all located within their gorgeous 30-acre lot. 

Seriously, you physically and literally cannot catch everything in a single day there. Trust me, I tried!

Ye Olde Sustenance

Once inside the town of Bristol, you walk straight ahead for a little while and you'll happen upon something beautiful: Food. Glorious, wondrous food of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. One member of our group chose to nosh on a giant turkey leg (and I do mean giant) while another went to hunt down a portabella  mushroom burger. Another friend wasn't too hungry so she just got a slice of pizza and I chose to get a chicken pastie.

There's no outside food or drinks allowed in so you'll most likely be searching down something that tickles your fancy if you get hungry but worry not, there's plenty to choose from!

Bristol also has quite a few alcohol options for the adults throughout the grounds alongside the food. One of the events you can take part in is their Bristol Pub Crawl, those tickets just cost extra on top of regular admission. Another first for me was getting to finally try absinthe for the first time in my life. I've always been curious to try it and now I can finally say I did.

That stuff packs a wallop!

While they did offer some vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options I do wish there was a bit more to choose from for people that have to watch what they eat like myself.

Venture Forth & Shop

Food stands aside, everywhere you look is another one of the 200 small shops and independent vendors selling anything you could possibly need or want. If you're in the 1500's (and possibly a bit later) that is! Costume and clothing shops, some of which do daily rentals, jewelry everywhere, leather journals, scented candles and soap, weapons galore...If you have a budget this is where it will be tested.

I had seen Pendragon Jewelry ads weeks prior to the faire and had a strict mission to find them once there. Having a sparkling, jewel encrusted soul, they did not disappoint either.

I literally walked into their shop and almost cried. No joke.

Sadly the pieces I really wanted were out of my price range so I opted to splurge on myself since I had been waiting for this opportunity for so long and purchase a large Viking throwing knife from Sabersmith who do some absolutely stunning sword, knife, and weapon crafting.

I'll be saving my pennies for next year and Pendragon Jewelry, I'm coming for you...

Theater, Bards, & Joust to the Death

The entertainment throughout the day at Bristol is second to none! With over 20 stages, areas, and arenas hosting some sort of show or special event you have plenty of things to choose from between your eating and shopping.

Minus the people playing music sporadically throughout the grounds and a few things I passed while they were happening, by the time I realized how many shows I could have been going to it was too late and I was only able to attend one or two towards the latter half of the day but they were both beyond worth it!

My favorite of all was accidentally being in the right spot at the right time for Lauren Murray's (also known as @silkelephant Instagram) aerial silks show. Talk about fangirling HARD.

If you didn't know this about me already being good enough at things like this so I can join a circus and perform is one of my biggest dreams and seeing how Lauren mastered her craft just inspired me that much more to work towards my dream!

A post shared by Kayla Potega (@adaptablekay) on

We can't forget the ending to our day! Alisa of and I were able to catch the very last jousting show of the day ominously deemed 'Joust to the Death.' Another first, I had never been able to see one of these shows before so I was quite excited we made it in time!

Our knight in shining green armor, Sir Vinchenzo, apparently was the underdog of the show and hadn't won a tournament all weekend so obviously I was rooting extra hard for him.

I tend to always go for the underdogs.

And wouldn't you know it, he won! But was viciously attacked soon after by another unhappy knight which lead to a sword battle to the death...

Worry not fair gents and maidens, he won that, too!

A post shared by Kayla Potega (@adaptablekay) on

Play and Be Merry

Any self respecting fair, whether it be a current 2017 state fair (tis the season after all) or a renaissance faire set in the 1500's has games and rides for all who want to play, children and kids-at-heart alike!

Of course back in the 16th century there was no electricity to power games or rides so all throughout Bristol are "muscle powered"; getting a wooden ball through a wooden maze by maneuvering ropes and pulleys, strong man mallet and bell competition, a forty foot castle rock climbing course, digging for buried treasure...Not to mention the purely badass thrones you can sit on and pose with inclusive of a larger-than-life unicorn, a fierce looking kraken, an industrial steampunk throne, and a few others.

My eye was immediately caught by all the weapon type games; knife throwing, archery, and even learning how to fence. One of the gentleman of our group wanted to do knife throwing so I was definitely down and even hit the bullseye on one of my throws!

All in all, if I have my way this is going to be a highly anticipated yearly occurrence because I loved this faire that much. Heck, if I could I'd work there myself! I had been waiting for quite a long time to get to experience it and not only am I finally happy I got to go, nothing has exceeded my initial expectations this much before.

I also have to give a shout out to the wonderful people who work at Bristol as well both on the front lines and behind the scenes; I had seen several instances during my stay there where they really went above and beyond to show their audience and faire goers it's all about us and their enjoyment, especially when it came to handicap accessibility which, even though I was well enough to walk around this time, I highly appreciate.

My Top 5 Things to Knoweth:

5. Dress up! There's nothing more fun than hitting up thrift stores or your own closet on your own or with a friend and putting together an outfit fit for the time period you're traveling to. Not only that but most ren faires that I know of highly encourage dressing up and speaking the language! Bristol does have costume rentals through several of their merchants if you just don't have the time to create your own.

4. Don't feel bad about splurging. Yes, even though I got complimentary tickets it was an expensive day for me between the travel, food and drink, games, and souvenir. Just know ahead of time you're more than likely going to be spending a good chunk of money. If that's a problem set yourself a budget and try to stick with it!

3.  Immerse yourself. Dress up. Brush up on ye olde English. Throw those tomatoes at the insult comic. Dance around the maypole. Go pet the unicorn. This is what you're going there to be apart of!

2. Have a game plan. I knew that there were several different stages with different shows and things going on but little did I know the plethora I was actually walking in to! You would probably have to go at least 3 to 4 weekends if you wanted to catch everything, a day just didn't cut it.

1. Wear comfortable shoes. As stated above I had no idea how large Bristol was; you could be there all day and spend a majority of it walking around from one end to the other (or in circles) either looking for a specific place or each other. And we did. My puppies were barking by the end of the day!

Connect with Bristol Renaissance Faire:

Have you ever been to a Renaissance faire before? What would your tip(s) be?