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How to get through the day at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

A top 10 list and beyond

By Tinka Boudit She/HerPublished 3 years ago Updated 9 months ago 9 min read
Tinka Boudit August 2019 at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Before adopting the moniker/pen name of Tinka Boudit, I was a ten year attendee of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I go in costume. I shop, see shows, I made friends with cast members, vendors, and other attendees. I go every weekend for seven weekends. Even after attending the festival since 2006, I still find new things to experience every year. Those of us who do this are known as 'playtrons'. As in we play along, but we are patrons who pay the ticket fee to be there; we do not work there. I've also volunteered my time in a booth for three seasons starting in 2016. I officially joined the cast in 2019.

After polling many Minnesota Renaissance Festival cast, vendors, and patrons, here are the Top 10 things to remember when going to the fest, many for first time fest goers:

1. Stay hydrated - Bring water bottles. If you hide them on your person or in a stroller or in your purse when you go in, you will not be forced to throw it away or check it when you go inside. If the gate staff see your bottle they have to tell you to throw it. Pickles and pickle juice are the renaissance era Gatorade. Ask a pickle vendor nicely for a little pickle juice or ice, they will be glad to give you some if you have a container to put it in. Buy a button from them to thank them if you aren't buying a pickle. The water at the privy sinks is cold and *drinkable, a little mineral-ly because it's well water. Consider bringing Mio or Crystal light or something to add to it to help with the taste. It beats paying $3 per bottle of water inside the gate. If you haven't peed by noon drink more hydrating beverages; just water is not enough and can dehydrate you.

*I have heard mixed things about drinking the sink water. My experience has been fine every time.

Don't forget to eat either. There is a big difference in the questions 'are you hungry?' versus 'Have you eaten?' You will get wildly varying opinions on the food inside the gate. I am a big fan of the Asian and Polish food booths, the crepe shop, along with the row of food booths near the area known as 'Cartwheel Cove' near the exit of the Mermaid Cove. If you have food sensitivities or concerns, it's the same thing as the water bottles: discreetly hide it on your person, in your stroller, in your purse, etc. You cannot bring in coolers.

2. Wear comfortable shoes - The site is hard, uneven ground. Skip the high heels and flip flops. I'm a big fan of compression socks, good insoles, and regular doses of Ibuprofen to get through the day. Test your shoes before you go so you don't end up with blisters or regrets. It was Socrates who said, "When our feet hurt, we hurt all over."

3. Sunscreen and shade - I am a fan of bringing an umbrella or parasol or big hat and bring extra sun screen . The festival takes place from mid-August to the end of September and sometimes the first weekend of October depending on the year. (The season is based on Labor Day weekend always being the third weekend of the festival). We have seen 100 degree days and no clouds. For a long time I carried a big umbrella. In more recent years, I switched to a large brimmed straw hat like in the picture; less to carry around.

4. Boots then bodice- This is more for you veteran attendees who have these types of garments. Put on your footwear before putting on a steel boned garment that keeps you from bending over . This also applies to kilts. When it comes to these garments, do yourself and others a favor: wear undergarments. It may feel sexy to wear nothing under your bodice or kilt, but you know what's not sexy? Chafing!

5. Bring cash- Few, if any, food booths take cards. TIPPING performers and bartenders. Vendors can loose card signal for credit card transactions sometimes. The ATMs are on the same cell phone network as everyone else. They CAN run out of money or not get a signal or get super long lines. You want to spend the day enjoying the festival, not waiting in line for cash. Have options ready.

6. Be prepared to get dirty - There WILL BE mud, dust, rain, sweat, glitter. Layers and maybe a change of socks . There are some vendors that sell some super cool socks.

7. Be aware of people - Say 'thank you' when you leave shops if you didn't buy anything. Say 'excuse me' when you pass people or bump into people - It's going to get crowded. Ask people about their costumes if you're curious; costumers LOVE that. Ask to take pictures: some may want to be, some may NOT want to be photographed. Be cool with everyone. Everyone is there to have a good time . Leave your judgement at the gate.

With that, enjoy street performers: The Minnesota Renaissance Festival has one of the most immersive street casts in the country. In comparison, the Arizona Renaissance Fair has a street cast, depending on the year, 60-350; Minnesota's Entertainment Stage plus Street Cast is 500-600. **They are here for the absolute passion of making you smile. They are NOT here to embarrass or harass or humiliate; that's how one gets fired. Cast is here for your entertainment, for your memories. Believe it or not, it's one of our greatest joys to do this show. We get just as much out of entertaining you as you do by being entertained.

**I am going back and forth from 'they/one' to 'our/we' because as of writing this, I am not currently contracted as a cast member for the 2021 season. (Revision 8/2021: I am a cast member for the 2021 season)

8. Get there early - The parking lot can be a zoo late in the day. You are parking in a hay field/quarry. You are going to walk quite a bit before you walk in the gate, uphill, both ways, in the dirt! (Sorry, I turned into a grump for a second, but I am serious about it.) Be prepared to take an hour to get out at the end of the day. I have heard of waiting up to 3 hours to get out . It is not always long times like this early in the season: the first three weekends. I am often able to get from gate-to-highway in 30 minutes. If the weather switches to a downpour or a car crashes near the exit, that is when you can anticipate the long exit times.*

*See honorable mentions for Take The Shuttle

9. Enjoy the performances - Both stage and street performances. See the popular ones with large audience seating. Gone to the festival before? See at least one you have never seen before. The stage shows are usually less than 30 minutes. If you miss the beginning, sit down and enjoy anyways, you're probably not going to miss the plot. Street characters are improvisers, as I mentioned in #7, they are here to entertain you, and they love it.

10. Pace yourself - If you can, go more than once so you can see everything, try different foods, see different acts, buy from different shops, theme weekends, etc . If you see something that gets your attention: a shop, an act, whatever it may be, stop and do it, and put that into your pacing. Don't say, "Oh, we'll come back to it later." I can't tell you how many times I have gone places and missed out on stuff because my group has said that. Stop! Do the thing!

Honorable mentions:

Take the Shuttle. (Rev. 7/2023) From 2014-2019 there was a free shuttle bus from Mystic Lake Casino. That was cancelled for 2021.

In 2023; starting opening weekend, there are a $5 shuttles from transit stations in Shakopee; more will be added over additional weekends. Save your legs an uphill-both-ways walk at the beginning and the end of the day as this bus will drop you 100 steps from The King's Gate.

***If you park onsite, it will cost $10 in advance,


*****$30 UPON ARRIVAL DRIVING IN!!!!!****

Let your freak flag fly . You want to dress in a T-rex costume, Waldo, Khal Drogo, Star Trek, Assassin's Creed, Disney, DRAG, period accurate, Halloween Store, thrift store, home made, et cetera costume? DO IT! As long as you are comfortable with who you are, how you feel, and you're not hurting anyone, GO FOR IT!

A few years back I was dressed as Daeneryes Targaryen and a classmate from elementary school recognized me. I was wearing a white wig and I had not seen him in 20 years. It was an epic reunion. No shame.

Put your phone away . Sure, take some pictures, but try to enjoy the moment and stay off your phone. You can post about it later. You are about to see magic before you that exists no where else. Penn and Teller started out at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Jason Mraz was a pickle boy. The Danger Committee was on America's Got Talent. You are going to see children discover the magic of dragons, merfolk, and fae. You could see marriage proposals. Master artists, seamsters, crafts people: people who have forgotten more about their given niche than we will ever learn. Watch. Listen. Loose yourself in it. There is a magic there that moves me like nothing else in this world. You just have to find it for yourself.

Clothing/costumes are not consent. Those belly dancers, those people in the kilts, that person in the full-body animal don't get to touch them. It seems insane we still have to say it at this day in age, but it still needs to be said. If you are young or old, drunk or sober, man or woman or other identifying, CONSENT IS MANDATORY!

For more tips, tricks, and hacks to the MNRF, click here.

This, by no means, is a definitive list of tips on how to get through the day at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. For more information, check out their website or their Facebook.

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Your clicks on my other articles, tips, and subscriptions help support me as a writer and performer. Thank you.

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About the Creator

Tinka Boudit She/Her

contact on FB & IG

The Soundtrack BOI: WA


Bette On It: Puddle, Desks, Door, Gym, Condoms, Couch, Dancers, Graduate.

Purveyor of Metaphorical Hyperbole, Boundless, Ridiculous, Amazing...and Humble.

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydredabout a year ago

    Extremely interesting and thank you for sharing Tinka Boudit

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