Lucky for residents of the DMV, there is a large-scale modern-day event that has built upon a select moment in history and entertained families and guests for 46 successful years so far. The 2023 Maryland Renaissance Festival marks the 47th year in which 200 actors in period costumes and theatrical British accents will recite speeches with flair, clink their cups of ale, playfully shout and convincingly joust in front of large audiences across 10 stages and through ample outdoor courtyards in Crownsville, Maryland.
About the Maryland Renaissance Festival
This family-friendly event that weaves together a creative modern fantasy based on 16th century history dazzles audiences with comedy, dramedy, adventure, historic relic shopping and good eats for nine glorious weeks. It is a staple on many local families’ calendars as well as a draw for family fun-seekers from outside our area.
Operating each year from late August through the end of October, the festival serves nearly 300,000 seasonal guests on grounds spanning 27 acres. Its diverse entertainment ranges from full theatrical scenes to dancing to juggling to tightwire acts with groups of close-knit performers — many whom have known each other for many years.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival features outdoor theater shows, opportunities to connect with hand-crafted goods reminiscent of medieval times, interesting foods that were eaten during the 16th century (their huge smoked turkey legs are iconic) and scores of opportunities to interact with characters sporting colorful costumes. There is also a charming children’s area where even the youngest lords and damsels can have good-old fashioned fun climbing a sunken ship or sliding down swirly snake-like slides.
It is truly a fan favorite for history buffs, cosplay-hungry guests and even small children who are as amazed with the performers’ death-defying trapeze walking as they are with those who stay in character the entire time.
The historical backdrop
The Maryland Renaissance Festival is believed to be the largest historic festival of its kind in the United States, and has become well known for incorporating history in a fun, fictional setting. The festival takes guests back to 1509, when Henry VIII reigned as the king of England. This king was perhaps best known for having six wives, but the festival planners love adding on to history with elaborate scripts depicting fictional scenes that could have happened after the controversial king married his third wife. Take a look at the festival website before you go for more history you can share about the storyline (which changes each year) to give context to the kids beyond the wonderland experience!
Visiting the festival
Costumed characters enjoy fancifully roaming hand-in-hand in elegant parades among the crowds of fairgoers who are delighted to stop and take pictures and admire the intricate costumes and period props. The characters also make appearances at many of the festival’s eateries and artisan shops.
Festival goers get into the act, too. Some people go all out and arrive at the festival grounds dressed from head to toe in period costumes, for an immersive experience. Others may be inspired by people who arrive dressed and want to achieve the same looks. That is where onsite costume rentals and YouTube videos and thrifting come in!
Another important touch in the atmosphere of the festival is the music. Harpists, revelers, pipers, drummers, singers and more perform through the festival, and medieval tunes play on loudspeakers throughout different areas. Add to that the smells of the kettle corn cooking in outdoor ovens, other savory foods and entertaining visuals of all the festival has to offer, all the senses will come together for one big, happy medieval party. Take your little jesters for failproof family fun!
Families can still buy tickets to the festival for October 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22. Please see the website for the entertainment schedule and more information: rennfest.com. Note: festival organizers strongly encourage visitors to bring cash.