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Your Ultimate Guide to the Arizona Renaissance Festival 2023

Huzzah! The Arizona Renaissance Festival is back.
Huzzah! The Arizona Renaissance Festival is back. Arizona Renaissance Festival
Synchronize your flux capacitors and get ready for travel back to the 16th century. The annual Arizona Renaissance Festival is back for its 35th season this year and offering all its usual merriment, revelry, and whimsy.

The 50-acre attraction located east of the Valley in Gold Canyon, which originally debuted in 1989, simulates a Tudor-style English village (albeit with many fanciful touches like fairies and walking trees) populated by artisans, performers, knight, rogues, and various other costumed characters.

Every weekend from Saturday, February 4, to Sunday, April 2, visitors can also feast on a sizable repast of food and drink (including turkey legs the size of your forearm), partake in jousting tournaments, and play thrilling games. There's also a mix of artisans and craftspeople, dozens of musicians and entertainers, and countless characters.

What else is in store for the festival’s 2023 run? See below for a comprehensive guide to everything you’ll need to know, including prices, discounts, and what’s new this year. Huzzah!

When Is This Year's Festival?

The 2023 edition of the Arizona Renaissance Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, rain or shine, from February 4 through April 2. It will also be open on Monday, February 20, in honor of Presidents Day.

Where Is the Festival Located?

The festival grounds are at 12601 East US Highway 60 in Gold Canyon approximately seven miles east of Apache Junction. Depending on what time you arrive, there might be a line of vehicles waiting to get in. Be prepared to deal with traffic and have a modicum of patience.

What's the Parking Situation Like?

There are acres of free parking available at the festival. As is

How Much is Admission?

If you’re buying online, tickets are $33 for adults and $21 for children ages 5 to 12. (Kids aged 5 and younger get in free.) If you're purchasing admission at the onsite box office, though, it's $34 for adults; $32 for active duty or retired military, as well as seniors ages 60 and up (IDs are required); and $22 for kids 5 to 12.

Are Discounts Available?
Yes. General admission and children’s tickets can be purchased at any Food City or Bashas' location in Arizona for the same prices as buying online. You can get a free adult admission ticket with the purchase of another during opening weekend and on Presidents Day if you buy online and use the code "HOFA."

There's also a $5 discount on kids' tickets if you use the code "HOFC," and they'll get in free during the final weekend on April 1 and 2 if you bring three non-perishable food items.
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Spoiler: You'll never get bored at the festival, thanks to all the entertainment.
Courtesy of the Arizona Renaissance Festival.

Are There Age Limits?

Nah. The festival has always been open to all ages and is a family-friendly event.

What Should You Bring?

Any sort of sun protection, including hats, sunglasses, umbrellas, and sunblock. Comfortable shoes are also a must, considering all the walking you’ll be doing. A bag or backpack is a good idea, as is a certain amount of cash (it’s always faster than plastic). It gets a bit dusty at times, so consider bringing a dust mask or bandanna if you have any issues.

What Shouldn't You Bring?

Any sort of real weaponry, drugs or related paraphernalia, dragons, or anything else that might be considered dangerous. Outside food or drink is also forbidden.

What's It Like Getting Inside?

Security will take your ticket at the front gate and you can waltz on through like you’re stepping back in time. Those wearing costume weaponry will need to have it checked out and peace-tied by the security staff. Re-entry is allowed the same day of your visit, provided you get a hand stamp from the front gate staff.
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Just a group of fairies spotted at the Arizona Renaissance Festival.
Melissa Fossum

Can I Wear A Costume?

Absolutely. Medieval, Renaissance-style, or even outfits inspired by Game of Thrones are more than appropriate. Frankly, you can wear any sort of costume you'd like, as long as it's not too revealing. (Heck, we've encountered people dressed as Darth Vader or wearing Imperial Stormtrooper armor.) You can also come as Doctor Who, Marty McFly, or even Bill and Ted during the festival's annual "Time Travelers Weekend" on Saturday, February 25, and Sunday, February 26. There will also be a TARDIS parked out front.

What Are the Other Themed Weekends?

Here’s a rundown of each of the festival’s various themed weekends during this year’s run. (More details are available here.)

  • February 4 and 5: Opening weekend
  • February 11 and 12: “Renaissance & Romance”
  • February 18, 19, and 20: “Royalty Weekend”
  • February 25 and 26: “Time Travelers”
  • March 4 and 5: “Pirates & BrewFest”
  • March 11 and 12: “Wizards & Wonder”
  • March 18 and 19: “Artisan Appreciation & Celtic Celebration”
  • March 25 and 26: “Commedia Dell’Arte’ & Celebrate Theatre”
  • April 1 and 2: “Fool’s Masquerade!”
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Did we mention the turkey legs?
Benjamin Leatherman

What Sort of Food and Drinks Is Available?

A lot of both. And, yes, there’s more to feast on than the requisite turkey legs. More than a dozen different food and drink stands are set up throughout the event and offer a wide variety of options, from appetizers to desserts and everything in between.

The biggest stands (both in size and offerings) are the King’s, Queen’s, and Joust kitchens, as well as the Pirate's Kitchen & Pub. Each features an enormous menu of items like sandwiches, bread bowls, fish and chips, chicken strips, pizza, and calzones.

There’s plenty of heartier fare, including a variety of roasted meats and sides, not to mention various items served on a skewer of some sort (such as sausage, chicken, and steak). Smaller stands and booths like The Mediterranean Fare, The Cottage Crepe Shoppe, and Ye Olde World Sausage Maker offer more specific menus and items.

When it comes to beverages, drinks both soft (soda, lemonade, iced tea) and hard (beer, wine, cider, mead) are available for purchase.

Where Can I Get Water?

Patrons can bring in a 16- or 24-ounce bottle of water as long as it's factory-sealed. You can also purchase bottled water from food and drink booths. A total of eight drinking fountains are located at various points around the festival (usually close to privies). You’ll need to drink lots of water while traipsing about the festival. Lots. Dehydration has been known to afflict plenty of festival patrons over the years.
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The always popular Ded Bob.
Benjamin Leatherman

What's the Entertainment Like?

A cornucopia of live entertainment takes place across 16 different stages each day of the festival. That includes a variety show-like mix of music, comedy, dancing, and other performance artistry.

There are perennial favorites, of course, like Don Juan and Miguel, Ded Bob, The Tortuga Twins, and Hey Nunnie Nunnie, all of whom have been around since the festival’s earliest years.

Other popular acts include the "Ancient Art of Falconry” shows (which are held throughout the day and feature birds of prey and other noble feathered creatures), as well as the mud-caked buffoonery of The Wyld Men and the attention-grabbing spectacle of Adam Crack’s “Fire Whip Show.”

Elsewhere, you'll encounter musicians and minstrels (Bathos the Muse, Lady Prudence), comedy acts (Mother Redempta and Sister Philomenia), daredevils performing feats of skill (Gypsy Geoff, Barely Balanced), and dance troupes (Jamila Lotus, Fairhaven Morris Dancers).

There’s also Cirque du Sewer, a troupe of acrobatic rats and cats, which appeared on The Gong Show last summer, and a living sculpture known as Statue Comedius de Marbleous.

Various street characters roam the grounds and interact with patrons, including sword-fighting bandit Daniel the Fox, the curious beast Fireflicker the Dragon, and a ginormous walking tree known as Green Man.

What’s New This Year?

There are a few new shows like the comedic “ Fool’s Medicine,” which stars the time-traveling Professor Wrench, and the hilarious and thrilling sword-fighting act “The Renaissance Men.” Debuting characters at this year’s festival include the fantastical Primrose the Fairy.
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An ax-throwing game at the festival.
Blake Benard

Are There Games and Rides?

Contests of skill and fun distractions are found in abundance. If you'd like to make like Robin Hood, for instance, there’s an expansive archery booth on the premises. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, the festival offers the chance to hurl battle axes at targets or tomatoes at insult-spewing vulgarians. You can also storm the castle (in a sense) via the climbing town.

And there’s a collection of people-powered rides at the Ren Fest that young and old alike can enjoy, including longtime favorites like Da Vinci's Flying Machine and Voyage to the New World.

Other rides include the Slider Joust, the gigantic Piccolo Pony rocking horse, Castle Walls Climbing Tower, and the always popular Archery Range.

What's the Shopping Like At the Festival?

One of the many draws of the Arizona Renaissance Festival is the sheer number of shops and artisans selling handmade items and wares at the event, much of it created on-site.

More than 200 different artisans ring the festival grounds, offering such expertly made goods as garb and costuming items, soaps and exotic oils, period weaponry, pottery, glassware, jewelry, sculpture, artwork, tapestries, leatherwork, headwear, furniture, and much more.
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A jousting run at the festival.
Blake Benard

What's the Jousting Like?

Arguably the most action-packed attraction at the festival is this thrice-daily spectacle of knights engaging in chivalrous combat and competition inside a jousting arena. The events take place daily at noon, 2:15 p.m., and 5 p.m., and follow an ongoing plot that builds throughout the day and culminates with the showstopping Joust to the Death. A word to the wise: Seating tends to fill up quickly at each event, so try arriving as early as possible to stake out your spot.

What Are the Closing Festivities Like?

One of the highlights of the Ren Fest (in our opinion) is the uproarious drum circle that develops during the last hour of each day. Starting at about 5 p.m., musicians will gather toward the entrance of the festival grounds and launch into a free-form and improvisational drum circle that keeps going until the final cannon goes off at 6 p.m. All manner of drums, ranging from tablas to congas to timpanis, are banged upon during the jam-session-like affair, which typically features patrons and cast members dancing like nobody’s watching.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.

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