12 Secrets to Surviving Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha WI

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The queen's court at Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha Wisconsin.
The queen’s court at Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha Wisconsin. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

From human-powered rides to playing in the mud to surprisingly good food, the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is the place to go if you want to party like it’s 1574. The Bristol Renaissance Faire is regularly voted “Best Renaissance Faire.”

The fun at the Bristol Renaissance Faire is just smutty enough for teens to label it “inappropriate for parents.” At least my kids said that the first time we took them. That means, of course, that they were uncomfortable sitting next to Mom and Dad while giggling at the performers who dish out silly, slightly dirty jokes. That kind of bawdy humor is the mainstay of much of the entertainment at this annual summer festival.

But if you don’t mind a little sexual humor amid period-costumed workers and faire visitors, then there’s plenty to enjoy at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.

Here are 12 secrets to having fun and making the most of a visit to medieval times.

Bristol Renn Faire Details

The faire operates Saturdays and Sundays and Labor Day Monday beginning July 6 and ending on Labor Day, September 2. It’s 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine.

The Faire is located just off I-94 at 12550 120th Ave. in Kenosha, Wisconsin. That’s about an hour north of Chicago.

Admission is $40 for adults and $15 for children ages 5-12. Kids 4 and under are free. Members of the military with valid IDs and seniors age 62+ receive $5 off at the box office, but the deal is not available online. Buying tickets online includes a fee and sales tax, but you’ll have your tickets in hand and be able to skip the admission lines, which can get quite long.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The best deal is to buy discount tickets — $36 for adults and $13 for kids ages 5-12 — at participating Menards home center stores around the Chicagoland area. You’ll save money and time!

Food lines at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
Bring cash–the food vendors don’t take credit cards. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

1. Bring Cash.

Bristol Renaissance Fair food vendors do not take credit cards. And the performers work for tips, so bring plenty of singles and $5 bills.

In fact, bring lots of $5 bills. These people work hard to entertain the audience. And they love those five-dollar bills!

You’ll find ATMs on-site in case you don’t bring enough cash with you, but you’ll get hit with a $4 transaction fee.

The ticket office takes credit cards, as do some of the 200 or so merchants. So, if you really must have that $300 velvet cape, there’s a chance you’ll be able to whip out your VISA card and walk away happy without a visit to the ATM.

Bosoms at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
Be on the lookout for bosoms. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

2. Be on the Lookout for Bosoms. 

Lots of bosoms. Enough to make a 12-year-old boy drool.

Chances are you will happen upon a young wench with her tip jar strategically nestled among her ample… Well, you likely get the picture. And if you don’t, just ask the nearest 12-year-old boy.

And the bosoms aren’t limited to the workers. I’ve been going for many years and every year I notice more and more of the visitors sporting increasingly outrageous costumes. On my last visit, I saw everything from people dressed up as fairies, complete with pointed ears and plastic wings, to one fully outfitted Batman. But the biggest group of costumed visitors were those honoring the time period with corsets and other get-ups that emphasize their chest area. (See #5 below for more on that.)

Mud Show at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
The Mud Show should be your first stop. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

3. Don’t Miss the Mud Show.

Officially called The Sturdy Beggars Mud Show, this ongoing show is silly and smutty and fun. When I posted on Facebook that I was headed to the Faire and asked my friends what I shouldn’t miss, this was the most-often-mentioned feature.

Getting kissed at the Mud Show at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
The writer was the (un)lucky one to get kissed at the Mud Show a few years ago. Photo credit: Evan Fisher

With good reason. The “beggars” keep up a steady banter of off-color jokes interspersed with plenty of time spent wallowing in the mud. Their adage: “The whole world’s a stage, just add water.”

The performers live up to their billing as “beggars.” They spend a significant chunk of time during the show collecting cash from an appreciative audience.

A Bristol Renaissance Faire schedule
Pick up a schedule, like this one from the 2021 faire, at the entrance so you don’t miss any of the shows. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

4. Enjoy the Entertainment.

The faire schedule reads like a day planner on a cruise ship. This year, there are 16 stages, ranging from the Mud Pit to the Joust Arena, plus Queen Elizabeth and her Court parading through the ground and entertainers wandering the paths all day long. Every show we have seen over the years was worth at least a few minutes spent watching. Plus, I learned what a hurdy-gurdy is!

Like the Mud Show, the Barely Balanced trio of comedian acrobats is not to be missed. This talented crew tells jokes, juggles and entertains while climbing atop one another, twisting themselves into impossible shapes and holding some Olympic Gold Medal-worthy gymnastics poses.

Several of the shows include some funny jokes that younger kids won’t get but will make adults chuckle. Several of the performers announced at their early shows that they would be doing a later show that would be decidedly adults-only. So if you’re visiting with kids, go early for the family friendlier stuff.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you plan to watch the jousting tournament, arrive early if you want a seat in the small stands. We didn’t and ended up sitting on the grass, where we ate a lot of dust stirred up by the charging horses.

Chain mail is appropriate period costume wear at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
Chain mail is appropriate period costume wear at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

5. Feel Free to Dress the Part.

Dressing up is a feature of this faire. And more revelers take part each year. In 2023, I felt odd NOT being in a costume. Cos-play is encouraged by weekend-specific themes, including Steampunk Weekend, Pirate Weekend and RennCon. All weekends include contests to find and reward the best hand-made costumes.

Each year, the costumes get more elaborate and more extreme. A few are downright scary-looking. Just be prepared if you’re bringing little ones.

turkey leg at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
What’s a Renaissance faire without a turkey leg for lunch? Photo credit: Cindy Richards

6.  Be Adventurous with the Food.

The food at the faire overall is pretty darn good. The beef stew in a bread bowl was tasty, but I couldn’t understand why hubby chose stew the year we visited on a 90+ degree day. Every year we see lots of people eating the traditional food of 1574: huge BBQ turkey legs.

On our last visit, we tried the Scotch egg — a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and bread crumbs then deep fried. Yum.

7.  Take a Spin on the Human-Powered Rides.

The faire might call them thrill rides, but they’re more kitschy fun. The teens enjoyed hopping on a ride and having a couple of able-bodied, period-costumed workers push them around.

Most of the rides require an additional per-person fee, generally a couple of bucks. There are some activities for younger kids that are free, including the chance to be made a Knight or Lady of the Realm by Queen Elizabeth.

A child digging for treasure at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha Wisconsin
There are several free ways for children to play and some that cost extra, like this one that lets kids dig for treasure at $5 for two treasures. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

8. Bring a Water Bottle.

It gets hot and dusty at the faire and bottles of water are pricey. So bring your own bottle and fill it up at the water fountains located outside the “flush privies.”

SheBuysTravel Tip: Because of the dustiness, it makes sense to wear comfortable closed-toe shoes such as sneakers to walk along the dirt and stone paths.

!9-year-old Evan thinks he's tough wielding that ax at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
19-year-old Evan thinks he’s tough wielding that ax. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

9. Test the Weapons.

This was the big draw for the males in our group — one teen and two guys 50+. This is another pay-to-play activity, but they thought it was well worth the money for the chance to throw axes, shoot arrows and toss Ninja-style metal throwing stars.

The queen's court at Bristol Renaissance Faire.
The queen’s court at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

10. Don’t Expect a History Lesson.

Despite the parades, period costumes and non-electrified fun, my 17-year-old daughter, a history buff, was disappointed that the faire was more Disney than historically accurate. However, if you want more history, spend time at Queen’s College. The costumed courtiers are happy to tell you how things used to be. And they’ll give you a free activity booklet for the kids to keep them engaged and learning a little history.

11. Choose the Cheap Parking Lot

There are three parking options:

VIP parking lot that gets you really close and costs $20. That must be purchased online before you head to the Fair.

Preferred parking near the front gate. It costs $10 (cash only).

General parking lot on the far north side of the faire (entrance off the frontage road only) for $5. The $5 lot isn’t that much farther away. Save the $5 on parking and spend it buying another turkey leg.

12. Pay Attention to the Rules

This feels like a pretty laissez-faire operation, but there are some rules that you won’t want to break. For example, if you bring a weapon to accompany your costume, it “cannot be carried in hand and must be peace-tied to your person.” That means zip-tying your sword into a sheath. And leave your guns and your pets at home. Neither are allowed at the faire.

32 responses

  1. by the way, the turkey legs in 2022 were $14. beer is now $9. they upped admission to $35 the final Labor Day weekend. no free parking with any season pass or Friends of Faire membership. parking all went up last year.

    if you attend, bring your banker with.

  2. Wow. I can’t imagine having to tip each performance on top of the entrance fee plus paying for parking! Our Faire in Maryland is about the same ticket price as this, but they pay the performers (no begging for tips) and all the parking is free. Come to MD late August thru late October!

    1. Unfortunately, many fairs often pay minimal stipends for performers and they are dependent on tips as the main source of their livelihood.

    2. Why should we be on the lookout for bosoms? It seems rude to be counting them

  3. Are dogs allowed

    1. Only service animals are allowed.

  4. WE love the RennFaire and have been going for decades. We began when it was called “KingRichardsFaire” and it’s improved over the years as well as a name change. ❤️ it.

  5. I’ll slightly disagree on 12. After hours of walking around, it’s worth the extra $5 to have parked somewhere close, especially if you get there early. You’ll get a spot near the entrance. Think about it if you’re trying to get some tired children to walk back to the minivan while carrying all the wonderful things you bought. (Also I think the price went up to $15 last year.)

  6. The history lesson was at the “college” near the entrance. Many informative classes available. I especially enjoyed the “surviving in the renaissance” presented by a barber/surgeon

  7. This place has severely fallen in quality and in energy it is an absolute drag and I have been coming for 15 years and I will never be going again I brought eight people with me and who had never experienced before and they all left feeling like they were robbed don’t waste your money

    1. I hate you’re right on that.

  8. Mooney is by far my families favorite! Especially the last show of the weekend! *Thus us more adult humor but still fairly clean rate it M if it was on TV*

  9. Hey, hey, hey. The Bristol Ren Faire is one of the most historically accurate I’ve been to! Of course, no ren faire can be totally historically accurate – but from someone who studied this exact time period, the clothes of the Queen’s Court and the activities they do in their sectioned off area are pretty up to speed with that time period.

    To compare, I went to the Shakopee Faire, where it centers on who I think is supposed to be Henry VIII, and I asked a costumed worker and they had no idea who the king or queen were! Bristol I think gives speech classes and minor history lessons to those who work in the Queen’s Court.

    1. For new performers to Bristol, there is the 4-5 week Bristol Academy of Performing Arts, where all learn history, dialect, vernacular, dance, etc!

  10. Also there are many historically close to accurate things to do and learn. Visit Queen’s College to learn handy crafts and manners. Visit the Noble’s Glad for a lesson on dressing in the period. Visit the Military Encampment (Guilde of St. Michael) for lessons on “how not to die” and see the Joust and the falconer – both period past times.

  11. The Bristol Renaissance Faire portrays (roughly) 1574 – the year that Queen Elizabeth ACTUALLY visited Bristol England. FYI.

  12. Even from reading the guide itself I get some medieval vibes, I imagine what it is like to put on an actual 1599 outfit and party with people who look the same. Great article and some great tips, Cindy, you did an outstanding job.

  13. Get a daily admission at Friends of Faire for $5 per person. They have water and Gatorade that you can drink for free, and we bring water bottles to fill up. It’s also a nice place to sit and eat lunch that you buy elsewhere on a busy day where there is not other seating to be had. We also love the fairy garden. It was out daughters’ favorite place when they were 7 and under, and they also loved Kids Quest. Have fun!

  14. Doubt I should strut around in the chain mail, but the idea of costuming is so fun. Loved my elegant dress in Quebec City at historic festivals — so this faire sounds good to me. Thanks for the details.

  15. It is English. Queen Elizabeth; Sir Leicester. Period costume. there a lot more individuals fairies and such aaround. but, the faire is based on what would be the Queen taking a trip around to villages. the ousters can be greusome. but the audience does not know. a jouster fell from his horse a and was knocked out. when he hit the ground, he woke up. they are very hot. Under their metal is a thick piece of costume to protect called a gambison. they are great horse handlers. Moonie is not to be missed at the Queen’s stage. Remember, the mud judge just got calibrated. Go there to laugh, get grossed out and to listen to tunes on a bugle. It is hot work. all this because her Royal Majesty passed thru the neighborhood. Look for the queen’s Fool with a set of teeth around her neck and wearing the most drop-dead costume at the Faire. Miss Eddy may be the opposite, but is cordial none the less, check out the posterior of Dirk and Guido. All seems Faire at the faire, do remember there are children and jus t plain ole folks there. Yes, at home stuff food wherever you can. Sit and rest when you are there. enjoy what you paid for. take your time. there is first aid if you need it. If it rains get under something to wait it out. I never thought of going on a kids’ ride. god save the Queen. Hazah! I like the faire a lot. Very nice site.

  16. I’ve been a season pass holder the past three years and this year I’m actually working in one of the shops. I can honestly say, this article is the real deal.

    1. Which shop, I want to stop by and buy your wares.

  17. Barely Balanced and other acts may be seen on youtube. But, you must really be there to enjoy the shows.

    There are a number of places to purchase period costumes there. My guess is people buy them, wear them and come back many weekends to be part of the environment.

    The roasted turkey leg was great. The ribs were to die for.

    Coming up 294 from IL, go past the fair a mile or so to a state rest stop. Better than a porta potty. Take care of your needs and get instructions on how to take the back roads to the fair (about 2 miles away) to avoid traffic.

  18. While Bristol is a pretty nice fair (and very professional with regard to the acts) I highly recommend the Michiana Ren Fair. It’s only 2 days, it’s more of a labor of love, and there aren’t really great acts in general. But the participants are all really into it, there’s real life sword armored sword fighting, and it’s very walkable on a little island on Mishewaka Indiana. It’s clear that it’s a labor of love, and for that I prefer it to the more commercial Bristol Faire (which is great for what it is)

  19. You’re right, MJ! The ticket prices went up this year. I updated the post to reflect 2016 prices.

  20. RENAISSANCE has nothing to do With England…its was more in Italy/France.

    And if anyone knows of a more historical ones around the IL/WI area please let me know. I could not find any in US

    1. Oh, really? Ever heard af a guy named William Shakespeare? Or how about Geoffrey Chaucer? The Renaissance era may have begun in Italy, but all of Europe was included in this time of great change.

  21. Hi, I like your site. Stick some fruit in your bag. You can refill your water by the flushables in no time.
    Go see Moonie on the Queen’s stage. See the Queen. The Mud Show is still funny. the may-pole is very neat. Wear a hat. It can get hot. Stay all day. Rest. Don’t miss anything. If it rains go in a shop or duck in anywhere. Don’t spendmoney. Free all day!

    1. Bristol Ren Fair does not allow food carry-ins. If you have fruit in your bag do not be surprised if security at the gate makes you take it back to your car or throw it away. If you park in the free lot that is a trip.

  22. Status changed from Complete to Abandoned

  23. There ARE historically accurate (as possible) aspects. The main group of players (Queen and court) are in character and dressed in period attire. If you follow the Queens activities throughout the day you will find history lessons and can get “schooled” by most any cast member.

  24. Great Article! Spot on!

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