Location: Dallas, TX
Price: General Admission $60.95/adult; $36.95/child, kids under 3 are free but they have to sit on your lap
Smashed Penny Machine: No
Medieval Times is a dinner theater themed around a medieval style joust. The kids did an amazing job the whole week with minimal whining about hiking (and we hiked a lot) that this was a special treat for them at the end of our trip.
I would suggest you buy your tickets online beforehand for a number of reasons. First the show could sell out. Second the atmosphere at the castle prior to show time is semi organized chaos, having your tickets purchased before you arrive will help eliminate some of that chaos. Third there are a lot of add-on options. Buying online beforehand allows you to review what the up charges get you and if that fee is worth it for your situation. Beyond the general admission, there are three other tiers of packages: Queen’s Royalty, Celebration, and Royalty Package. We opted to add on the Royalty Package to our tickets. This Package comes with the following perks: Priority Castle Access, VIP Seating, Priority Seating Access, Cheering Banner, VIP lanyard. The perks we actually got to enjoy: VIP Seating, Cheering Banner, VIP lanyard. I think I would still spend the money on the higher package IF you have younger kids with you. The actual arena has stadium seating so I don’t think the higher up tables really have any worse of a view than the lower tables. The real perk of the VIP seating is being close enough to the floor to be able to interact with the knights. During the first part of the play, each knight will have about a dozen flowers that he will pass out to members of his cheering section. Since you can only throw a carnation so far seating in the first three rows gives your kid a better shot of receiving a flower but that’s not a guarantee. I don’t think you are going to miss any part of the show by going with the lower priced ticket. Finally buying online gives you the chance to look for discount codes. We found a discount code that gave us 10% off. Depending on the time of year you are going you can get tickets much cheaper.
You’ll want to arrive at the castle at least 45 minutes before show time. The castle doors will open 75 minutes prior to the show starting. We arrived about 90 minutes before our show time (we got to Dallas a little earlier than we thought) and there was already a line in front of the castle. Once the castle doors open, you will go to a cashier who will check your tickets and confirm the number in your party (if you did not go for an add on package I’m sure they’ll try to up sale you here). At this point you will be assigned to your seating section. Each section is color coordinated to a knight you will be cheering for. Seating is first come, first serve so early arrival is more likely to give you better seating (center vs a corner). After you are given you seating, you’ll be given a crown that matches your section and you’ll be ushered into the next room to take a group photo with a costume character. This picture is taken in front of a green screen so if you plan on buying the picture try not to wear green (my niece has some stone works in the middle of her shirt in our picture because of the green lettering on her t-shirt).
Once you have had your picture taken you are released into the main hall to await the start of the show. There are several activities in the main hall and several sets of restrooms. I would highly encourage everyone to use the restroom prior to the show so you don’t miss any of the action. There are also several gift shops with various medieval themed items ranging from kids toys to complete replication suits of armor. Expect to pay theme park prices for just about everything. Two full service bars on either end of the hall are available for additional costs. If you are celebrating something special there is a guest service kiosk where you can pay to have the king/queen announce your party/birthday/etc during the show. You can also pay to have a member of your party knighted by the king/queen (if you are noticing the word PAY a lot there is a reason). Each castle has its own museum of medieval torture you can tour for an additional charge. I did visit the museum at the Chicago castle once; the museum is not for young kids or people who are squeamish. The castle has an additional photo booth where your party can dress up in costume for another picture. You can also visit the kiosk to purchase the picture they took as you came in. Since it was a green screen backdrop, they had about twenty or so various backgrounds you could have applied to your picture. We did end up purchasing the photo (how often do you managed to get all four kids looking into the camera at the same time!). The cost was about $20 for an 8×10 photo and a cardboard photo frame. If you are trying to not spend additional money, you can look at the horses in their stables for free (the toddlers loved it). There are also lots of fun spots for your own photo-ops. Keep a close hand on your kids during this time as the hall is packed full of people and chaotic.
About thirty minutes to show time, they will start seating people in the stadium. You have to listen for the door that your section needs to enter. In theory, the VIP groups get to go to their seats first. In our experience that does not really happen unless, you magically end up close to your door. We were on the opposite end of the hall from our door and by the time we had worked our way against the flow of people to our entry they had already called for general admission to enter the stadium. This doesn’t really matter because your table was assigned at check in. Once you are seated, your serf (aka waiter or waitress) will come around and ask for your drink order. Included in your meal is your drink choice of lemonade, tea or regular soda. The serfs will come back through about mid-way through dinner to refill your drink. Bar staff will also come around and you can order additional drinks through them for the same price as the bars in the main hall but this time it gets delivered to your table so you don’t have to try to carry it through a sea of people. If you want to purchase a drink, you can save money by asking for your drink in a plain glass. You are not required to buy one of the special souvenir cups. Our drinks came in a basic plastic cup that was printed with the logo and I still got to keep it.
About ten minutes before the show, the serfs will come around and beginning serving your meal. The meal consists of tomato soup, garlic bread, rotisserie chicken, corn on the cob, baked potato and a desert (ours was pound cake). The entire meal is eaten with your fingers (you drink the soup). The soup is served warm so you probably want to let it cool for the kids before letting them drink it. While you are eating, the show will begin. The show is about two hours and consists of horses doing tricks, a falconer and a falcon demonstration and the main event of the jousting. The story line of the play changes every few years and each castle is doing a different story at any point. The story always ends up with something dramatic happening that leads to hand-to-hand combat between the knights so you will see other weapons than just basic jousting. The show can be loud and a little intense but nothing too dramatic but young ones might not like the loud noise from time to time.
Overall: I think Medieval Times is a lot of fun. I think it is worth the cost of admission. You do need to go into the experience realizing it is a lot like a theme park. The cast is trying to get you to buy the extras but you can still have a great time even if you turn all of those down.