For 40 years, the Colorado Renaissance Festival has lured both an entourage of devoted fans and curious first-timers to the rolling hills of Larkspur. Whether you’re interested in theatrical performances, authentic medieval wares, or just a good ol’ turkey leg, the festival promises a fun and light-hearted experience. We talked to the Renaissance Festival’s director of marketing, Jim Paradise, to find out what you need to know before entering the Kingdom.
1. Find a good crew.
Though some people might dismiss the Renaissance Festival as a niche interest, many attendees aren’t hardcore fans. “People sometimes think oh, I’m not into that, but you don’t have to be in costume. There’s so much more going on beyond reenactment,” says Paradise. Another myth is that the fest is just for families with young kids, but the entertainment caters to patrons of all ages and includes knife-throwing and test-your-strength competitions. Even the kid-friendly shows are loaded with innuendo to keep parents tuned in. “It’s cliché, but we do have something for everyone,” notes Paradise.
2. Get there—and pack well.
Larkspur is conveniently located just a few miles west of I-25, but it can get crowded on Renaissance weekends. Paradise suggests taking the scenic highway 105 if the interstate is packed, offerings that it’s “maybe 15 minutes longer, but it is beautiful.” If you want to beat the rush, get there early, and don’t forget the holy trinity: sunscreen, bottled water, and good shoes. The jaunt back to your car—the parking lot is unpaved and sits atop a hill—might have you wishing you’d worn hiking boots.
3. Plan, but don’t rush.
Paradise has seen a lot of people come and go from the Festival, and his biggest advice to beginners is to slow it down and structure your trip. “People come in and kind of wander; they follow the crowds through the front gate. Make sure you get a program, look at the map, and see the entertainment that we have,” he says. Friendly festival staffers are waiting just inside the entrance with pamphlets listing all of the available shows and events, which run on a carefully timed schedule. Try to arrive at the stage 15 minutes early to find a spot in the shade (seriously, the sun is brutal).
4. Don’t be afraid to splurge a little.
It’s unlikely you’ll escape a day at the Renaissance Festival without a slight dent in the contents of your wallet. Between the 200 artisans selling everything from beeswax candles to battle axes, it’s hard to resist at least one impulse buy. And then there’s the food: pretzels, beer, and the classic turkey leg await you all over the grounds. Luckily, a dollar goes a long way at the Festival. “We pride ourselves on being affordable. There aren’t many places you’ll get a bottle of water for $2.50,” Paradise says.
5. Enjoy all that Colorado has to offer.
Colorado’s Renaissance Festival is one of the top five in the country, according to Paradise. “There’s no one else that has a grounds or a kingdom like we have here,” Paradise says. Between the scenery of Larkspur and the enthusiasm of the hundreds of devoted employees who turn out every weekend, your experience is sure to be unlike any other, especially during an anniversary year. As Paradise puts it, “40 years is a great landmark, and we’re just glad to be back and be part of the Colorado experience.”
The festival takes place from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm the following weekends: June 18-19, 25-26; July 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30-31; August 6-7. Address: 650 W. Perry Park Ave., Larkspur, CO 80118.