The Bristol Renaissance Faire is an entertaining, immersive event that is open on weekends from early July through Labor Day Monday. The beautiful 30-acre site of land is just over the Illinois/Wisconsin border in Kenosha, Wisconsin, making it a great day trip at about an hour away from much of the Chicagoland area. My family and I visited with friends for the first time this summer, and it lived up to the hype.
As a Faire newbie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m happy to share what I learned during our adventure back to Elizabethan England and hope that it will help you if you choose to travel back in time for a day. Huzzah!
A Day Trip to the Bristol Renaissance Faire
To celebrate Queen Elizabeth I visiting Bristol in 1574, a spectacular cast of characters (who dress in period costumes and speak with accents) welcome Faire-goers through the portal gates. Once you’re inside, you’ll find that the entertainment at the Faire is amazing. There are 16 open-air stages across the property; shows range from dancing to singing to acrobatics to comedians to demonstrations to magicians to a mud show to live jousts… the list goes on and on! While some shows happen at scheduled times, other performers wander the property and are happy to interact with guests.
For my kids, the 16th century games and rides were the highlight of the day. They loved the Giant Dueling Horse Slide, Butterfly Swings, Voyage to the New World boats, and pony rides. The coolest thing about these rides is that they are all muscle-powered, with staff or guests operating the pulleys or levers!
The Climbing Tower, set up on the side of the castle, drew my kids in. It has 18′, 24′, and 40′ sections; when climbers successfully reach the top, everyone nearby yells “huzzah!” in celebration. The spirit is contagious, and I found myself “huzzah-ing” over the smallest victories as our day continued.
Kids’ Kingdom is an acre of land within the Faire that has playground activities, different thrones for your littles to try out, and more traditional “kid-approved” food like pizza and chicken nuggets. On Sundays, Queen Elizabeth and her court visit the Faire and hold a Knighting Ceremony, where she dubs the children Lords and Ladies.
Another fun, interactive activity was the “Dig for Buried Treasure.” For $6, kids claim a stake in a small sand pit, where they use sand tools to dig up a wide array of treasures. Once they’ve unearthed jewelry, trinkets, and animal toys (among other things), they choose two treasures they get to keep. My 6-year-old unburied a large candlestick, which she proudly carried around for the remainder of our day.
The marketplace at the Faire features over 125 artisans. We saw amazing costumes and accessories for sale, as well as jewelry, candles, swords, hand-thrown pottery, and home items. Our friends’ kids had their faces painted, and I saw many other people walking around with henna body art or braided hair.
While we didn’t personally make it there, the Queen’s College has activities for kids, along with an activity book with free things to do in Bristol. The College has classes and demonstrations throughout the day, too.
The scenery is gorgeous. My family loved walking on Queen’s Bridge over Lake Elizabeth, which is covered in lily pads; my kids were so excited as they spotted fish and turtles. For an additional fee, you can zip-line over the pond as onlookers wave and cheer.
My personal favorite feature of the Faire was the people-watching. It was often hard for me to tell who worked there versus who was simply fully immersed in the revelry of the day. Guest are happy to be there and the spirit is contagious (more “huzzahs!” from me).
Kidlist Tip: While the entertainment is included with the cost of admission, all the rides are an additional fee. Most cost $4/person and only accept cash. There are ATMs if you need them, but they do charge a convenience fee.
Food at the Bristol Renaissance Faire
There’s no shortage of food at the Faire! There are options that appeal to all kinds of tastes. Some food stands offer a larger variety of foods, and there are also smaller stands that feature a few signature dishes (think garlic mushrooms, pickles, and the infamous giant turkey leg). There are many tables and open grass areas to eat. Note that food and drinks are also cash-only.
With the exception of food for babies or for medical reasons, outside food can not be brought into the Faire. However, they do allow water bottles, which I highly encourage guests to bring. There are also water fountains, in case you need to refill your bottle.
Kidlist Tip: I have picky eaters, so my family snacked on our way to the Faire. We bought food from some of the smaller stands; when we were ready for lunch, the lines at some of the larger stands were long and the sun was intense. To avoid my rookie mistake, don’t wait to eat until your kids (or you!) are becoming hangry; that’s a recipe for disaster! As we left the Faire, I saw some groups who had packed food and were eating near their cars. You can exit and re-enter the Faire by asking for a hand stamp at the exit, if that is a better option for your family.
There are “privies” located throughout the Faire. Many are portable toilets, but there are some air-conditioned bathrooms with flushable toilets, as well as an infant feeding area.
Kidlist Tip: When you enter the Faire, be sure to grab a copy of a map. This will show you where to find the bathrooms; the back of the map has a schedule of events for each of the stages. Cast members are also happy to point you in the right direction.
The Faire is open for nine weekends in the summer, from early July through Labor Day Monday. Each Saturday and Sunday, it is open from 10:00am – 7:00pm. Check their website for holiday hours and schedule changes.
The price of admission is $40 for each adult ticket. Kids ages 5–12 are $15 each; kids 4 and under are free. There are also senior and military rates of $38 each. Even though the rides, food, and drink are all cash-only, you can pay with a credit card for tickets at the gate.
Parking ranges from $5–20. When we arrived, we parked in the first lot we could enter, which cost $10 (cash only).
Updated in August 2023; subject to change.
For the 2023 season, you can purchase discounted tickets at some Menards locations. These tickets save you $4/adult or $2/child.
The Bristol Ren Faire is an event that all ages can enjoy! We visited with kids who ranged in age from 1–7, and they all had a great time. Looking around the Faire, I saw newborns through grandparents, with every age in between.
Best Days/Times To Go
The Faire opens at 10:00am, and I highly advise arriving early. Not only is it less crowded then, but it’s also likely to be a bit cooler! We arrived right after 10 o’clock, and it took awhile to get into the parking lot, which isn’t ideal if you have impatient little ones with you.
The Faire has several themed weekends. If you’re up for an extra adventure, check out their schedule to see if there’s a particular theme that appeals to you. We happened to go during RENNCON, which encourages all sorts of cosplay costumes; seeing genies, ghostbusters, and superheroes mixed in with the traditional costumes left my kids in awe.
The Faire is ADA-accessible, but note that it is an outdoor event space and that there is natural terrain. We brought a stroller for our one-year-old and didn’t have much trouble pushing it around, but there were definitely some areas that were more challenging than others to get around. There are a small amount of wheelchairs available for rent for $15 each.
If you or your little ones are feeling overstimulated, there are some quieter areas within the Faire. I spotted guests (or maybe cast members? I’m still not sure!) relaxing near the lake with sketchbooks and notepads.
Bristol Renaissance Faire
12550 120th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53142
I am so glad that my family chose to go to the Bristol Renaissance Faire this year! It was unlike anything else I’ve experienced, and seeing the wonder in my kids’ faces as they explored this exciting village was so fun. We were only able to stay for a few hours, so I’m definitely looking forward to returning next year and exploring more of this beautiful event. Check out the Bristol Renaissance Faire’s website for additional information you help you plan your visit.