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Northern California: Best Renaissance Festivals and Ren Faires for Family Fun. Sebastopol Renaissance Faire Queen and Sir Frances Drake Step away from the 21st century for a day and relax in an uncomplicated atmosphere with lords and ladies, knights, bards, minstrels, and perhaps a few mythical fairies or a dragon. Share the fun with your kids.
Here’s the scoop. I love Renaissance faire and festivals of the uncomplicated fun and potential for learning offered. The chance to step back in time with a child and share unique moments provides perspective not available in books. No two festivals are the same but each of the ones I have selected offers ways for families to be part of living history spanning the 14th through the 16th centuries in Europe. Most importantly, I believe Renaissance festivals and Ren faires are meant to be shared with children just for the fun of it.
San Jose Renaissance Faire – Joust about town (early August). This full scale, interactive experience offers patrons a chance to return to the time of Queen Elizabeth I and mingle with royalty, ladies of the court, knights, knights, jesters, bards, faeries, and an occasional dragon. More than 800 costumed individuals recreate life in Shakespeare’s England. See parades, pageants, and meet typical Elizabethan townsfolk. Three stages of continuous entertainment add to the energy of the faire. Enjoy Shakespearean vignettes, archery, staged battles, daily jousting, and storytelling for children. Nearly 100 merchants will populate the marketplace with jewelry items, woodcrafts, swords, magical wands, hair ornaments, ceramics, period clothing, historic weapons and leather goods. Details: 494 West Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95110. (408)506- 6499 or

Northern California Renaissance Faire - Go in search of Captin Drake (mid September to mid October) The Elizabethan village of Willingtown is the portal for time travel to the 16th century where peasants, roving minstrels, gregarious washerwomen, and young maidens populate the streets. See Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I and listen to Sir Francis Drake speak of his plans for exploration.northern California renaissance Faire Musicians Seven stages offer non-stop entertainment including music, dancing, the zany antics of Moonie the Magnif’cent and BrooN. Merchants offer pirate gear, gypsy garb, fairy wings, magic wands, hand-crafted clothing, jewelry and accessories. Watch for mystical creatures and perhaps catch a glimpse of Titania - Queen of the Fairies. Bonus Points: It is possible to rent a period costume just inside the gates at Belrose Costumes.  Wait for it! When pirates invade the village of Willingtown, children ages seven and younger are invited to meet the Queen and Captain Drake during the wee pirate costume contest. Here’s the deal! Children ages 12 and younger admitted free. Details: 10031 Pacheco Pass Hwy 152, Gate 6, Hollister, CA 95023-9541. Go to 

Renaissance Harvest Faire - Much Ado About Sebastopol (mid September). The time is 1578 and the place is township of Fenford perhaps in the Midlands of England. The setting is an apple harvest celebration complete with a visit from Queen Elizabeth I and her royal court. Patrons are invited to be part of the celebration by wandering the streets and interacting with its costumed residents. Watch Shakespeare and listen to roving minstrels; make herbal soap or try weaving; practice archery or watch falconers at work. Interactive games include:  Twilziewop pillow fighting, rat-a-pult launching, hair braiding, toss the ring, and castle siege. Bonus Points: The Faire offers “Passport to History” an innovative educational scavenger hunt for school aged children.  Wait for it! Before attending register your family members as citizen of Fenford and receive special status and perks.  Details: Ives Park is located in the heart of Sebastopol at 7400 Willow Ave, in between the fire house and the Sebastopol Center for the Arts (in the Veteran's Memorial Building. Go to 

KVMR Celtic Festival – Go for the music (late September). This annual gathering features jam sessions, and five stages of entertainment plus Scottish games, sheepdog trials, birds of prey exhibitions, stones toss, hammer and weights for distance, sheaf and of course the ever-famous tossing of the caber plus fire-breathing dragons just for the fun of it. See the beautiful Mountain & Moorland Ponies; watch Kennelly School of Irish Dance and the Reel Stepsisters. Locate the labyrinth; visit with pixies and faeries of the wood. Shop in the artisans’ marketplace populated by more than 50 vendors. Where else can you buy fairie wings? Just look for Firebird Faye from Santa Rosa at the festival. Bonus Points: The Celtic Festival's Friday Youth Arts Program offers youngsters an afternoon of music, magic, dance and arts instruction for aspiring artists. Wait for it! Festival headliners offer workshops or jams on the Pine Tree Stage. Location on the planet: Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Planning details:
Blue Lake Medieval Festival of Courage – Time travel to 13th century France (early October). The celebration of the autumn recreates life in a 13th century French village complete with legends, myths and traditions of the season. The atmosphere of this annual event spans the 8th century to 14th century in Europe with knights jousting, dragons dancing, traditional games and competitions, “fyne” entertainment, and tempting finger food. Bonus Points: There are two unique event activities created just for children - the Enchanted Village Tour and Parzival’s Quest both with rewards. Wait for it! The event features the Knights of Mayhem – a full contact jousting tournament troupe dedicated to recreating the thrill of a joust. Details: Christie's Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze 2870 Glendale Drive, Blue Lake in Humboldt County, CA. or

View more great Renaissance festivals and Ren faires in Southern California. 
Content researched and posted with comments by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images courtesy Sebastopol Renaissance Faire; Jim and Samantha Dowdall for Northern California Ren Faire. Copyright updated 2017.