With more than 200,000 people expected to pass into the enchanted gates of the Ohio Renaissance Festival this year, there’s an enormous appetite for entertainment as well as food.
The 30-acre 16th century English village of Willy-Nilly is open on weekends through Oct. 30 to play host to massive throngs of guests hungry for a captivating experience. Food is a major part of that experience.
With more than 30 locations to find sustenance on the grounds, there is truly something to satisfy every palate and preference.
The turkey legs alone tell the story. Over the course of this season they will sell nearly 35,000 turkey legs which equates to almost 80,000 pounds. And that’s just one featured item.
New this year are five grab and go locations to help those looking for food to skip the line and get something to nosh on faster. The Aleing Knight gazebo near the joust arena will serve chicken sandwiches ready to go, the Revelers Stage gazebo will serve corn dogs and hot dogs, the New World Knoll gazebo will sell pulled beef sandwiches, the Rose and Crown gazebo will sell brats and Italian sausages, and the 1572 gazebo will offer pulled pork sandwiches. All will help those who are more interested in soaking up entertainment get back to it faster.
For those who want to sit and enjoy there are many ways to find something more formal and comfortable. Here are my favorites when I’m looking to sit a spell.
1572 Roadhouse Bar-B-Q: Located in Bard’s Lane, this popular spot with plenty of covered seating nearby features a pulled pork sandwich or platter, smoked turkey breast sandwich or platter, Texas hot link sausage sandwich, baked beans, mac ‘n’ cheese and peach or blackberry cobbler.
Aleing Knight Pub: Located in Upson Downs this is the spot to sit and enjoy a Scotch egg if you’ve never had the pleasure or if you have. This boiled egg wrapped in ground sausage is baked or deep fried. It’s easy to eat with your hands and is my favorite way to start the day at the Renaissance Festival if I get there when it opens. It makes for a satisfying breakfast. They also have the “King’s Weinie,” a 1/2 pound hot dog with tater tots that can be smothered for an additional charge, as well as spicy cheese curds, wedge fries, spicy corn nuggets, chicken sandwiches, fried mushrooms, strawberry cheesecake and cheesecake on a stick.
Rose and Crown: Located in Wanderer’s Way this is where you can find those massive turkey legs as well as chicken fingers and fries, a pork chop sandwich, loaded fries, a bratwurst sandwich, Ruben tots, apple dumplings, Belgian waffle sundaes and brownie sundaes.
If you want to go really formal, opt for the Royal Feast. Each day at 3 p.m. in the Feast Hall, tickets are available for a cozy five-course meal served up alongside live entertainment that will take you through a hero’s journey. Limited to 100 seats, it is intimate, engaging and worthwhile. Far and wide this is the best ticket out there for a Renaissance Festival experience where you beat the crowds, get great seating for live entertainment, access to a nice bathroom, and five courses of food plus an exclusive Royal Feast mug.
Credit: CONTRIBUTED/ALEXIS LARSEN
Credit: CONTRIBUTED/ALEXIS LARSEN
The feast begins with a little fruit and cheese and an onion and mushroom bisque. The feast itself is a meat lover’s dream with plenty of beef, chicken and pork to fill you up past where you should probably be. Honey carrots and herb roasted potatoes are served to accompany the piles of protein. Dessert will cap it off. This year they have added vegetarian options for those who want to skip the beef,
Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s and Woodchuck cider are all available on draft. Red and rose wine and Pepsi products are also available.
It’s a great ticket for those who want to experience some of the festival without the crowds and long lines. It’s also a great value for $75 per person based on the amount of food, drink and access to entertainment in comfort. It’s a hot ticket with just one seating per festival day from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
For those who want less focus on food and more on beverage, there is a Whiskey Witches of Willy Nilly tasting at the Tipsy Cauldron at 1 p.m. each day featuring six pours of spiritous beverages that rotate throughout the season. Tickets are $35.
There’s also an interactive pub crawl at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day. All tickets must be purchased in advance, so plan accordingly.
For those who enjoy a pint of beer, there is a brew exclusive to the festival this year from Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati.
“One pale ale to rule them all… Chain Mail Pale Ale sports a glimmering panoply of hops over nimble Pilsner and wheat malts for a profile that is as balanced as a trebuchet and delivers a siege of flavor. If you’re searching for the Holy Grail of pale ales, Chain Mail is a quaffable delight fit for a queen! Chain Mail Pale Ale was specially brewed for the Ohio Renaissance Festival, and is a limited, draft only release,” according to the festival press release.
It’s an impressive operation when it comes to food prep not only considering the volume of food produced over the course of 18 total days let alone to consider the diversity of food options across the festival.
I personally love this event. It’s always so entertaining with great people-watching in a terrifically curated environment that is transformative and fun, but I love it even more because of the food. They could serve whatever they want to a captive audience, but they have found ways to be thoughtful, creative and please the chicken tender crowd while they make an effort to wow those looking for something a little more in keeping with the 16th century times.
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How to go
What: Ohio Renaissance Festival
When: Saturdays and Sundays through October 30
Where: Renaissance Park in Harveysburg. Located just minutes off I-71, exit 45 or I-75, exit 38 on State Route 73 in Warren County.
Cost: Tickets: $28 (adults), $10 (kids aged 5-12), $80 (adult season pass). Children 5 and younger get in free.
Themed weekends: Pirates weekend, Sept. 18; Highland weekend, Sept. 24-25; Time Travel weekend, Oct. 1-2; Viking weekend, Oct. 8-9; Romance weekend, Oct. 15-16; Feast of Fools, Oct. 22-23; Tricks or Treats, Oct. 29-30
More info: www.renfestival.com