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Best Great Lakes Renaissance Festivals and Medieval Faires Offer Interactive Games, Jousting Knights, and an Occasional Dragon. Planning a summer road trip to the 16th century is easy in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota where faires and festivals are populated by knights, maidens, and royalty and the atmosphere is punctuated by entertainment and living history moments creating a carefree experience difficult to duplicate on your own.Bristol Renaissance Fair Jousting Fun in Wisconsin

Here's the scoop.
Attending a faire or festival is about letting go for a bit and pretending with your kids. I have selected five of the best places in the Great Lakes area to step away to another time and enjoy laughter and screen free entertainment. 

Bristol Renaissance Fair – Elephant rides, jousts, and adventure quests in Wisconsin 
(weekends July to early September). Bristol Renaissance Fair Huzzah! in WisconsinTake your kids and travel to a time to the year 1574 when knights were noble, maids were merry and faerie folk cast spells to create magical moments. A time when bards and jesters provided entertainment and everyone paid homage to Queen Elizabeth I. The Bristol Faire is set amid a 30-acres and features open-air stages, live entertainment, tasty food plus more than 200 artisans including one of my favorites, Pendragon Costumes. See Suitcase Shakespeare and enjoy Tartanic, or Circa Paleo, and ever popular Sirena on stage. Bonus Points: Within the grounds a Kids Kingdom offers plenty of games and activities including catapulting frogs, archery with Robin Hood's men, a crow's nest ride, the very popular Da Vinci's Flying Machine, elephant rides, a dueling horse slide, and a castle climbing wall. Wait for it! In addition to the ever popular RenQuest – the live, fantasy game play for fair goers older than age 11,  there is a daily special KidQuest adventure for ages five to 11. Details: The time portal is south of Kenosha near the Illinois state line. (847) 395-7773 or Bristol Ren Fair.
 
Great Lakes Medieval Faire – Jousting tournaments, storytelling, and merriment in Ohio (weekends July to mid-August). The shire of Avaloch is the landing base for a creative day of time travel in England’s Sherwood Forest where knights, fair damsels, bards and minstrels populate the shire with merriment. The Field of Honor provides the setting for jousting and games of honor. Young children love the magic of the hand-powered rides and almost everyone enjoys the games of skill which include archery and axe-throwing. Stroll the village and watch artisans demonstrating their crafts or take a seat and listen to musicians and entertainers performing on 12 stages nestled under the trees. Food is plentiful and includes festival favorites – turkey legs, scrumptious baked potatoes, sugar-coated roasted almonds, frozen custards, and most tempting pastries. Great lakes Medieval Faire Blue KnightBonus Points: From pirates with seafaring songs and Celts with Highland Games to Vikings and warriors, each of the themed weekends augments the fun of a day away.  Details: Great lakes Medieval Faire 3033 State Route 534, Rock Creek, OH 44084, US. seven miles south of I-90 on St. Rt. 534, near Geneva, Ohio. (440) 474-4283, toll-free 1-855-FAIRE-4-U (1-855-324-7348) or www.medievalfaire.com.

Michigan Renaissance Festival – Knights, maidens, and magical creatures 
(weekends mid-August to the end of September). Step back in time and walk among knights, jesters, troubadours, and members of the royal court. Hear Hob the Singing Troll and listen to the Celtic music of Stone Clover or tap your toes to the Crannog. Marvel at the rope-walking and learn about the art and sport of falconry. See interactive children's shows with handmade puppets and look for fantasy face painting and vintage hair braiding.  The artisans and shopkeepers span the gamut of fair offerings including Land of Merrimen - costumes for children, fairy wings from Fairy Winks, and the most magical shoulder puppets from Midsummer Knight’s Dream. Bonus Points: To make the fair experience even quirkier unique contest are held each weekend and include Scotch egg eating, and pickle pie eating.  Details: Michigan Renaissance Festival 12600 Dixie Highway, Holly, MI 48442. Toll-free 1-800-601-4848 or www.michrenfest.com.

Minnesota Renaissance Festival – Royal parades, face painting, and pony rides (weekends mid-August to the end of September). Step into village life as it may have been during the 16th with King Henry and his Queen. More than 50 free children's activities make a day at the festival loads of fun for tykes. Fancy hair braiding, festive face painting and hand castings add to the atmosphere. Family-friendly entertainment is staged through the festival. Enjoy moments with Zilch the Tory Steller and laugh at the antics of the Wacky Chickens. Watch Pizpor the Magician or see the popular Robin Hood Show. In addition to jousting, royal parades, the antics of jesters and music of bards, children are often thrilled by the petting zoo, sheep herding and pony rides. The Secret Garden and the Fairy Wing Forest add a magical dimension to the festival. Bonus Points: Look for the festival’s Princess Court where young children are invited to play princess for a day while learning graceful behavior, proper etiquette and manners. Details: Two miles after the intersection of 169 & Highway 41 near Shakopee, MN. (952) 445-7361 or Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

Ohio Renaissance Festival - Comedy, adventure, and an interactive village map
 (weekends late August to mid-October). Ohio Renaissance Festival Magical SwingQueen Elizabeth I and more than 150 costumed actors populate the 30-acre 16th century English village which is the scene for a day of immersion in Elizabethan culture. Attend one of the many jousting tournaments or watch the antics of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Eleven stages provide music and entertainment adding to the excitement of the festival. More than 100 artisans display and demonstrate their crafts in a lively marketplace. Children enjoy human-powered rides including the enchanting Sea Dragon and ship swings and assorted games of skill including archery, and star throwing. Expect to find tempting finger foods including bread bowls, curried chips, Scottish eggs, and apple dumplings. Bonus Points: It is possible to ride one of the knight's horses or sit atop a camel and amble through the forest. Wait for it! To enhance the enjoyment of the day festival goers may download a free app from the festival’s website. Details: The Ohio Renaissance Festival is easily accessible, just minutes off I-71 or I-75 at 10542 E State Route 73 Harveysburg, Ohio. (513) 897-7000 or www.renfestival.com.

Content researched and posted with comments by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images courtesy Bristol Renaissance Festival, Great lakes Medieval Faire, and Ohio Renaissance Faire. Copyright updated 2015.

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