The first one is one that my husband has been going to his whole life. The Carolina Renaissance Festival actually takes place every fall in Huntersville, NC which is just north of Charlotte, but it was definitely worth the drive for us. It actually looked like they built up a whole village devoted to the festival. It's size felt similar to the State Fair! We headed down there when my oldest son was about 18 months, and I can't wait to take both boys back again. There was something new for him to see around every corner. He loved listening to the music, watching the jousts and the jugglers, trying out some of the games for kids, eating the food, and just looking around at everyone in their costumes. I can imagine that the older he gets and the more he understands about what he's watching, the more fun it will get.
The second one is the one that precipitated this post. Last weekend we headed out to Knightdale to check out the NC Renaissance Faire (which is still running through April 17). It wasn't as far as the Charlotte festival, and it also wasn't nearly on the same scale. When we first drove by, by husband and I actually contemplated not stopping because we didn't know if there was enough there to entertain our family. However, we had driven the 45 minutes to get to Knightdale so we decided to stop. We were definitely glad we did. Even though there wasn't as much to see, there was certainly plenty to inspire the imagination of my son, and since it was much smaller, it felt like we could get more personally involved in what was happening and interact more with the performers and other entertainers. We watched knights duel and joust from the front row, we watched jugglers and clowns from a similar distance, we sampled food that wasn't particularly authentic to the period but was delicious none-the-less (donuts!), sampled some homemade mead, and even learned to fence. The whole day taught us a lesson about family outings: we definitely shouldn't skip an event just because it isn't huge and showy. Toddlers and young children's imagination can be fired by anything if presented with the right enthusiasm.
What we liked: We loved how both festivals could inspire the imagination of young kids. The larger one had so much to see and do while the smaller one gave the opportunity for meaningful interactions.
What we would change: Both of the festivals are a bit further from Durham that we would have liked, but the one in Knightdale is definitely suitable for a day or half day trip. (We went in the morning and managed to be back by afternoon nap.) In addition, both festivals have somewhat expensive entry fees which make them a special treat. We felt the Carolina Renaissance Festival was a bit too big with long car lines for parking. However, we felt the NC Renaissance Faire was a bit too small with few vendors and a somewhat disorganized appearance.
Website and other important information:
Carolina Renaissance Festival:
*Address: 16445 Poplar Tent Road, Huntersville, NC 28078
*Dates: October 8-November 20, 2011
*Admission: $19 for adults, $9 for children ages 5-12, discounted tickets available at Harris Teeter
NC Renaissance Faire:
*Address: 7633 Poole Road, Poplar Creek Village, Knightdale, NC
*Dates: April 2-3, 9-10, and 16-17, 2011
*Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12
1. The Carolina Renaissance Festival royalty parading through town
2. The crowds at the Carolina Renaissance Festival
3. Knights duel at the NC Renaissance Faire
4. A jouster at the NC Renaissance Faire