What is a Renaissance Fair? A Comprehensive Introduction

October 18, 2023 4 min read

Women at Renaissance Festivals

So, you’ve just been invited to your first Renaissance fair - or better yet, you’ve already agreed to attend one! There’s just one problem…what actually is a Renaissance Fair? Are there rules? Strict dress codes? Is there food? If you’re asking yourself all of these questions and more, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in.


What is a Renaissance Fair?

So, what is a Renaissance festival? Put simply, a Renaissance Fair is a large outdoor gathering where attendees dress up in Renaissance-themed clothing and enjoy a day of immersive, no-holds-barred cosplay. Traditionally, Renaissance Fairs were inspired by the English and European Renaissance eras (typically the late medieval to early modern period), although these days you can find niche events in almost any fantasy genre, from Steampunk Festivals to Viking themes.

And while costuming is a major element in any Ren fair, the immersive experience doesn’t end with attire; most events will also feature stalls selling historically-themed food or artisan handmade crafts, alongside performers and artists performing everything from jousting to theatrics. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a historical reenactment.


What Do You Do at a Renaissance Fair?

Show at Renaissance Festivals


If there was one rule to live by at the Renaissance Fair, it’d be that there are no rules! Aside from, of course, general unruly or unpleasant behavior. But when it comes down to the specifics of the event, you’re not obliged to attend any particular performances or start talking in Shakespearean English when ordering some mead at a food stall.

And when it comes to costuming, you don’t even necessarily need to always respect the theme rigidly - in fact, many attendees don’t dress up at all! That said, many festival-goers simply prefer dressing up in fantasy costumes when they attend a Ren faire - so there’s no need to feel boxed in if you don’t find the theme inspiring.


What to Expect at a Renaissance Faire

So, what can you expect from a Renaissance festival? Here’s what you might find on the day:


Costumes Galore

Think of a Ren faire as an extravagant, magnificent costume party on steroids, and you’ve got the general idea of what to expect. You’ll see costumes everywhere; beautiful Renaissance-inspired gowns, wizard costumes, pirate costumes, jousting outfits, period pieces and more - but don’t feel bad if you can’t immediately name or recognize every attendee’s costume. You’ll likely also see plenty of people in their regular clothes, so don’t feel pushed to dress up if you don’t want to.

It’s also important to note that Renaissance fairs have been a bastion of inclusivity since the very beginning, so you’ll see bodies of all shapes and sizes in attendance! And if you want to join in the fun, we at Holy Clothing offer ethically-made, vegan plus size Renaissance dress, handmade-to-order by our own team.


Food and Drink Stalls

As we mentioned above, you’ll also likely run into a number of traditional or themed food and drink stalls, and we highly recommend you try out some delicious offerings from local vendors! You can usually find traditional or themed food and drink - such as mead, turkey legs, and roasted corn - but some vendors will also sell regular, 21st-century snacks too. Boring! (Or perhaps a lifesaver, depending on how you feel about turkey legs!).


Fun and Games

A Ren Faire isn’t just about dressing up; part of the immersive experience lies in the theatrics of the performers; the best renaissance festival will feature friends battling each other in a playful jousting tournament, actors performing stand-up comedy or a Shakespeare play, or magicians performing tricks. And aside from being a spectator, you can even join in the fun yourself; from getting tarot and fortune readings to archery, there’ll be plenty for you to do and see.


What to bring to Renaissance festival

Lonely women at Renaissance Festivals



While some vendors will take credit and debit cards, a chip-and-pin machine with Apple Pay does slightly ruin the immersive medieval experience. Always bring cash to the Ren Faire; not only will this ensure you can buy crafts, food and jewelry from any stall, but you also won’t be breaking character if you’re in full Shakespearean cosplay!


Weather-Ready Essentials

Weather can be unpredictable, even in the summer months, so we’d always recommend bringing some weather-proof essentials with you. This includes an umbrella and some sunscreen. And if you’re wearing heels, you might also want to bring a pair of flats in your bag just in case. (Don’t worry, we’ve truly all been there).


An Open Mind

We’re really not trying to be cliché when we say this, but coming to the Renaissance fair with an open mind will enhance the experience! Drink some mead, cheer during a jousting tournament, and if you beat the crowds, you might even head home with some gorgeous handmade soaps and jewelry.



Does the Renaissance Festival travel?

There’s no definitive answer to this, as there are so many Renaissance fairs across the US, and while some fairs travel, others might only attend certain venues. Most festivals will have a website, so you can check those to make sure.


What do they sell at the Renaissance Festival?

Most Renaissance festivals sell everything from handmade crafts and jewelry to art, ceramics, and even weapons! You’ll also find lots of food and drink stalls, offering everything from medieval mead to cheese sticks.


Are Renaissance Fairs Fun?

Yes! If you enjoy self-expression, if you’re a little bit nerdy, if you’re a bit of a history buff, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a great time at the Ren fair. And even if you’re not any of those things, who could say no to a day - or weekend - filled with medieval larping, beautiful dresses and free live Shakespeare reenactments?