Location: 21778 FM 1774, Todd Mission, TX 77363
Price: $30/adult, $15/kid as of 2018 season
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes it’s in the gift shop by main entrance near guest services
Texas Renaissance Festival takes place every Fall for several weekends in September and October. Each weekend has a unique theme. I’d suggest checking out their website as the themes tend to rotate and change each year (https://www.texrenfest.com/).
A couple things to note about Ren Fest before you go:
- Price – This is not going to be a budget stop. You have to buy entrance tickets and then nearly everything inside costs extra. The various shows are free but the performers make their money off of tips and selling their DVD’s/CD’s, so expect someone to be collecting money as you exit the show. All food, drinks, games, and rides cost extra.
- Mature Audiences – Some shows are for mature audiences only. If you are there with your kids and the performers announce that it is not a kid friendly show; they really mean that. Most of the mature shows would be rated R or NC-17 for language and subject content if it was a movie.
- Costumes – LOTS and LOTS of people show up in costume. I only mention this because some costumes can be a little revealing.
- Download the App – Ren Fest grounds are very big (over 15 acres). Having a map handy is a must, unless you like walking in circle’s all day. The App also will give you show times and a brief description of the show.
- You can bring in strollers or wagons (rentals available as well) but the paths are not paved. We were able to push our umbrella style stroller through the property without any problems but if there has been rain it could get difficult.
- Get there early – Crowds can be very large. I recommend coming early to beat the worst of the crowds. Lines, especially for parking, can get very long. Coming early will also help beat the heat. If you aren’t from Texas, please understand that September and October are basically still Summer months. Expect afternoon temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s.
- Avoid the people asking you to fill out the form as you enter to win a free “whatever.” Unless you like junk mail and SPAM then by all means fill it out.
- Arrive at shows early – Several of the stages are outside without much cover. If you want a shady spot (especially for jousting) arrive early.
There are a few ways to save a little cash
- Come on a Sunday. As of the 2018 season kids are free with an adult ticket on Sundays. Sundays are also less crowded.
- Bring a water bottle. Each member of your group is allowed to bring in one unopened bottle of water. Once you drink this water, refill your water bottles at one of the many water fountains (normally found near the restrooms).
- Price shop – Many of the stores sell similar styles of items. You might be able to find a better deal at another vendor.
- Window Shop – Just enjoy browsing the unique offerings.
- Share food – There are many different styles of food (Italian, German, Polish, Greek, etc). To save money and allow us to try different things, we shared whatever items we bought.
We drove up to Ren Fest from the far west Houston suburbs. It was about an hour and a half drive across a lot of Texas cattle lands. Once you get closer to Todd Mission follow the signs about Ren Fest parking. Don’t listen to your GPS at this point. Follow the signs and directions of the local law enforcement directing traffic. We arrived to the grounds about 9:30 in the morning. After parking we changed my older daughter into her fairy costume because it was Enchanted Forest weekend and she had randomly picked being a fairy for Halloween that year (always awesome when you can get multiple uses out of costume).
After we were in the park, we stopped by a face painting booth to complete her fairy look. She choose a full face paint design which cost us $12 but it looked very nice and it lasted the whole day with minimal smudging even though it was HOT. We browsed several shops and bought a few souvenirs including a hand carved wizard’s wand and some hand knitted finger puppets.
We caught several shows including a whip show (Adam Crack) which was very neat but a little loud for baby (she and I left our seats and stood in the very back to watch it). We also caught the mid-day joust, which wasn’t a full joust it was games of skill. It was still very impressive to see the knights and their horses. Each section of the arena is assigned to cheer for a different knight. We really got into learning our cheer and jeering the other fans. My daughter bought a pendant from one of the vendors. After the show the knights met at the stables just a few yards from the arena and they all signed her pendant for her. The knights had a few sharpies but if you want to do this I would suggest bringing your own sharpie to help save time. We also paid a dollar for a carrot to feed the horses and we got to pet the “unicorn.” We also stumbled upon a Punch and Judy puppet skit in the Sherwood Forest. I think this was my daughter’s favorite show. The performer did a great job interacting with the kids through the puppets and lots of slapstick humor. The biggest drawback for this show was there was no seating.
I did limit my daughter to only one ride or game. Each ride/game were between $3-$10 dollars. She chose the spinning dragon eggs which I rode with her. It’s almost exactly like a spinning teacup ride only the ride operators actually manually spin your egg. They did manage to spin it with plenty of force that the ride was enjoyable. The ride lasted probably 5 minutes or so. While we were riding the Grand Marche Parade started by, so after we were able to regain our equilibrium we waved at the performers and shop keepers as they came by. My daughter was awestruck when the queen complimented her on her fairy costume and the royal court walked by.
Around two in the afternoon, we had enough of the heat and decided to call it quits a little early so we could make it to our hotel in Texarkana early enough to swim.
Overall impression: I enjoy Ren Fest. I love looking at all the various costumes people dress up in and I love the overall hustle and bustle atmosphere. It is a very popular but the only area that felt crowded was around the main entrance. All the vendors, performers and staff were very friendly and excited to answer questions about their craft. Although it is not a cheap stop I would splurge and take my family again.