Renaissance Festival 2014: How to enjoy ye olde Shakopee on a budget
These fair maidens know how to get a good deal
Why does it seem like some of the most expensive happenings of summer come at the very end when we're broke? After weekends where concert tickets, drink purchases, and barbecue budgets ate away our bank account, now we must worry about making it through the Minnesota State Fair, back-to-school shopping, and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival without breaking the bank.
But fear not: There are plenty of ways to enjoy Ren Fest on the cheap, whether you are totally broke or are planning on making a big purchase (hello, authentic Vikings hat) and need to be frugal elsewhere.
This weekend kicks off the beloved festival, in which freaks and geeks convene in a field in Shakopee to watch old-school sports, play chess, drink beer, and more. There are many free and cheap things to do, the following is merely a suggestion of things to check out. (But who wouldn't want to drink some free wine after taking in some jousting?)
Learn to bellydance, or just watch the show
Before you head out on your horse-powered carriage:
Ye olde admission tickets:
If you plan your day right, admission will be the most expensive part of the festival. Tickets are $22.95 for grownups ($13.95 for kids) at the gate, which isn't too bad (hey, that's less than most big concerts, and this event entertains all day). However, if you buy passes beforehand, you can save a few bucks. Advance tickets cost $19.95 ($11.50 for kids), and can be found at Walgreens, Whole Foods, Super America, and Menards.
You can also go online and print passes out from the event's website for the same deal.
Subway, Bruegger's Bagels, Ace Hardware, and Papa Murphy's also have Ren Fest coupons at their stores.
Looking for bigger admission discounts?
- Folks who donate blood during the Ren Fest drive on August 16-17 get in for free (check online to schedule your appointment).
- Bring five canned foodshelf items August 16 through September 1 to get $5 off admission.
- If you're a motorcyclist, show your motor ID August 23-24 for $5 off admission.
- August 30 through September 1 veterans, firefighters, EMS, and police get in free when someone in your group purchases a regular ticket.
- Did you spend $250 or more at the Ren Fest? Turn in your receipts at the info booth the first three weekends of the festival to receive a free ticket.
- Tickets are only $14.95 on Festival Friday (September 26).
Dealing with your chariot or carriage or commuter dragon:
As many folks who have taken a trip out to Shakopee know, traffic is inevitable, as it's not a town with a lot of road options. Between traffic heading to Ren Fest, to Canterbury Park, and to Valley Fair, things can get backed up very quickly. You're going to want to carpool if you can, obviously, and getting there really early is even better. However, once you do make it there, parking is plentiful and free.
Contests offered on the grounds for prizes:
- There's a pet costume contest September 6-7, or watch the pet talent contest and the Wiener Dog Races. Cute!
- Got a sweet Medieval tattoo? August 23-24 boasts tattoo contests daily at 3 p.m. at the Pavilion.
Best Beard Competition: Think your facial hair has what it takes? Enter to win during Oktobefest, September 20-21. (Or just stop by and watch the show.)
The Royal Joust: Suspense is the major draw of this free event. Arrive early to nab a spot on a bench. There will be pageantry, test runs, and arrival announcements as royals take their seats, all to create high drama before the armored knights sprint toward each other with sharp sticks. Thankfully, this isn't Game of Thrones, so the chances of major incidents are low (and family friendly!). Shows are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m.
Cooking demonstrations: Stop by the Irish Cottage between 9 a.m. to noon for a bit of fun with food, including history, sampling, and more.
Fairy wands and pirate hats: Regardless of whether your kid is a fair princess or a rowdy pirate, both of these activities are pretty fun and involve free souvenirs.
Parade: Vendors, performers, and other groups walk this parade daily, so take a look, cheer them on, and be entertained as folks march through the grounds every day at 11:30 a.m.
Petting zoos: Choose from the more traditional sheep, chicken, and bunny rabbits, or go for the herpetological with lizards, snakes, and other animals for free.
Photo Op at the Throne of Swords: No one said anything about that TV show with that throne everyone wants to sit on, all right? This chair also happens to be made of swords, and it's pretty bad-ass.
Tuey, doing his thing on a lit rope
The ever-popular Puke and Snot are on the Legend Stage throughout each day.
Over on the Bakery Stage is the Danger Committee, a group of guys who enjoy knife throwing, juggling, and comedy.
Dr. Thora Pandora at Como Cottage is a good show to check out if you want to see a watermelon explode.
Tuey, the guy who does balancing tricks on a loose-rope is a popular performer. Why? He's a dude juggling on a rope! Oh, and his grand finale involves setting the rope on fire. He's at the Grove Stage, pretty much on the hour.
There will be free belly dance lessons during Silk Road Weekend, August 30-31 and September 1.
Highland Fling: Watch feats of strength like log and heavy sack throwing throughout the day August 16-17.
Renaissance Festival might be one of the few times where revelers can enter a bar and not find it to be a downer that there's a live Irish band playing. Buying a pint then taking a break on a bench while a band jams is highly recommended.
All stage shows are free, but folks work hard at the festival to entertain, so if you have a dollar or two to spare at the end of the show, tips are always awesome.
Free food and booze!
There will be free Schell's beer tastings during Buccaneer Beer Fest August 23-24 at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. at the Pavillion, and during Oktoberfest September 13-14.
Oktoberfest on Sept. 20-21 offers free "Bier Pong."
Guinness will be hosting free sampling during Shamrocks and Shenanigans weekend on September 27-28. Yum!
Wine, Chocolate, and Romance weekend (September 13-14) has tons of free stuff, including:
- Free vow renewals: Get married... again!
- There will be free wine tastings from Sutter Homes. This usually entails generous sample pours of 5-6 different types of wines with sassy/delightfully raunchy commentary from a costumed wine company rep. Added bonus: The line usually starts up around the time that the jousting events are happening, making for some good entertainment while you wait.
IF YOU GO:
Minnesota Renaissance Festival
9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; also Friday, September 26
12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee; 952.445.7361
Visit www.renaissancefest.com for more info
Through September 28
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