Only four more glorious week-ends are available to experience the pageantry and revels that are the Arizona Renaissance Festival and it truly takes at a minimum of two full faire days to just see the best. What follows is my suggestions to the inexperienced or overwhelmed newbie who wants to make the most of the humorous entertainment opportunities. Tomorrow I will offer my day 2 itinerary for the more musicale and classic minded, but in creating a “do”-able guide, also know I am forced to mention only a fraction of the faire’s tres amusant performers and many shows that I know and love.
To begin, the evening before your adventure, pop by a Fry’s grocery customer service desk and pick up discount tickets (and new sun block). This little maneuver will save you 2$ per person over purchasing at the box office as well as possible time in line once there (and day after sunburn). Tickets can also be purchased and printed from the website (http://www.royalfaires.com/arizona) at a $1 per person savings. Drink lots of water to pre-hydrate and get a good nights sleep.
A perfect Renaissance day starts early, leave your home to arrive in Gold Canyon about 8:30 AM. Your first stop is the Gecko Espresso Cafe (http://www.geckoespressogc.com/) for a hot dirty chai or another form of delicious caffiene. Just past Apache Junction on the Interstate 60, turn North at Superstition Mountain Drive; The Gecko is located in the same parking lot as Basha’s. Once AM energy is properly bolstered, head another few miles east on Route 60, arriving at the Renaissance Faire Grounds between 9 and 9:15 A.M.
There are many advantages to arriving early; the most prominent are advantageous parking and not sitting too long in traffic. Arriving early also lets you sample some of the flavor of the faire during the formal pre-show and the less formal but equally enjoyable massing of costumed patrons. Grab a Program/Schedule of Events and peruse the plethora of pleasing performance available inside while snapping a few photos of the morning rabble.
The canon goes off at 10 am, plug your ears as soon as you hear “Prepare for canon fire!”, because it is a real canon being fired and therefore makes a real bang! Have your ticket ready and bag open for inspection as you make your way through the gate and into FairHaven. Bear to your left as you enter the gate and say hello to the Motley Fools singing historically funny songs.
Continue to keep the buildings to your left, meander past the food, past the axe toss (here will be your first flushing toilet facilities inside the gate), the Maze and Pirate’s Pub. Feel free to briefly browse the dozens of bright and shiny shops and baubles that twinkle and sparkle and beg your attention. A tiny notebook and pencil noting shop name, item and price can help you persevere in actually finding the places you want to return to later on in the day. May I recommend a a hot bag of candied nuts to nibble while ambling.
Don’t spend too much time shopping, because your goal is the Dancing Pig Pub by 10:50. A Pop Shop and Pub are both conveniently available to purchase a beverage and still be seated by 11 AM. Grab a good seat (I recommend the first two rows on the right, but all seats actually are good seats) and prepare to be enthralled by the Jamila Lotus Belly Dance Carnivale. The seamless blending of ancient dance styles and artsy modern choreography complement the talented musicians and showcase both the dancers’ skills and personalities. I promise you at least one good giggle and a definite “oooooooh!” and “aaaaah!” before they take a bow.
This show alone is worth the admission price, but your day of entertainment has only just begun. Following Jamila Lotus, head on into the Tournament Arena and enjoy the verbal sparring of the feminine royals followed by antics and tricks of talented horses and their skilled riders weilding large pointy sticks. After more than a decade of attending, I still find the Queen’s Joust to be the coolest of the day, for many reasons including the weather.
More water, or perhaps an Arnold Palmer will be well placed now as you head back up the way you came. Stop in Twig’s Shop and say hello to Zinnia, the Mermaid and if you are really lucky maybe even Twig, and take pictures with the most magical friends any adult can make. Now continue back the way you came to just past the Pirates Pub; at the Boat Stage cross over the road and continue to walk towards the front while gandering at a whole new selection of shops (including Lady Chamberlain’s Book Shop, the only place besides Tempe’s Changing Hand’s Book store I ever buy the printed page; her shop is well stocked with period patterns for clothing, books on HT for armaments, period cooking, etc. as well as lovely bits of fiction.)
Next show on the docket is “London Broil” at the FairHaven Theatre starting at 1:45 p.m, so there is plenty of time to shoot a few pictures with the walking history on the streets; or to stop by the Painted Lady on the Green and add a picture to her dress and catch one of her wondrous stories; or (a personal favorite) visit the greyhounds. If you get to FairHaven really early your bonus is catching shade as well as some of “Barely Balanced”, a relatively new awesome addition to AZRF’s lineup.
Time for another drink, and I mean water or something equally hydrating although Tudor Rose Pub can provide both hydration and inebriation from their beverages.
Now take your laughter sore sides out around the corner, again bearing to your left and locate the Middleshire Stage where you won’t want to miss “Hey Nunny Nunny” at 2:45. (Just past their stage and still on the left is a great place to grab lunch before you head over and sit down. My meat eating friends recommend the Chicken and mashed potaotoes; I love the potatoes.)
Pull out your maps while your waiting for the sisters to start and locate the StoryBook Castle by the Merriment Stage. It is your next destination and here is your “map warning”, if you drew a line from Middleshire Stage to the StoryBook Castle, the proportions of everything to the right of the line is heavily distorted, so just get the general direction in mind. When Philomena starts her stuff, put the map away and prepare to laugh, chuckle, and generally guffaw at the silliest sisters evar (no past Catholicism required to get the jokes)!
Spiritual counseling session over, head to the Storybook Castle, you can cut through the middle or go around past the Mud stage, either of them work but Mudd Stage is much longer. There is a small entrance fee to enter but to any one who has ever loved a fairy tale, or like me has an affection for “old-school ” roadside attractions the StoryBook Castle is a magic all its own. My favorite this year is Daphne, I look forward to hearing what was yours.
You have now seen at least four full shows for your 20$(and maybe parts of others), paid a pittance for one attraction and are about to discover the “historical” instead of “hysterical” side of Fairhaven. As you exit the StoryBook Castle turn to your right and follow the road around the corner past the Greentree Weavers (amazing wares!) to the Local Yokel Village and the Croft, both are worth a browse as they present how the working folk of this time lived. (Anyone with a bent for textiles will enjoy a Stick Weaving Set or a Drop Spindle that can be purchased in the Croft for a very reasonable amount). Now a bit further on the left (and across the street from some truly delicious crepes that even a vegetarian can enjoy) is the Palace Theatre where at 4:15 “Don Juan and Miguel” will present their “Weird Show,” where anything can happen and often does. In their 24th year, I believe these two whipper-snappers are truly a “MUST SEE”.
Ahhhhh. Now the day is almost done and its time to review your shopping notes and pick up some souvenirs of this most hilarious and entertaining day in the 16th century. I hope you enjoyed your trip back in time and will return again soon because this was, as they say, only the tip of the iceberg.
If this were Shakespeare this would be his “Much Ado About Nothing”, stay tuned for my next post, an alternate itinerary I would liken to the “sonnet” day at AZRF.