Minnesota Renaissance Festival: Journey back in time for cheap

Photo courtesy Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Sure, the Minnesota State Fair is something worth getting excited about. But for those who like their get-togethers a little more on the geeky, quirky, and historical (ish) side, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival is one of the top happenings of the year. This weekend marks the start of Ren Fest, where you'll find jousting, belly dancing, turkey legs the size of your head, and artisans selling things such as beer steins, fairy glitter, pottery, scarves, and yes, real battle axes.

As the summer months come to an end, and school threatens to start up again, some of us may be finding our wallets to be a little tight. But this doesn't mean you have to forgo the fun. Once you pay for admission there are tons of free -- or almost free -- things happening at any give moment, such as theater and music performances, food and alcohol tastings, kids' crafts, and more.

While this list is only a mere sampling of some of the free things to do, it should give you a solid jumping off point on how to enjoy event without putting a major dent in your pocket.

Before you head out to the event:

Ye olde admission tickets:

If you plan your day right, admission will be the most expensive part of the festival. Tickets are $21.95 for grownups ($12.95 for kids) at the gate, which isn't too bad (hey, that's less than most big concerts, and this event entertains all day). However, if you buy passes beforehand, you can save a few bucks. Advance tickets cost $18.95 ($10.50 for kids), and can be found at Walgreens, Whole Foods, Super America, and Menards.

You can also go online and print passes out from the event's website for the same deal.

Subway and Papa Murphy's also have Ren Fest coupons at their stores.

Dealing with your chariot or carriage or commuter dragon:

Shakopee is not a town with a lot of road options, so between traffic heading to Ren Fest, to Canterbury Park, and to Valley Fair, things can get backed up very quickly. Carpooling is ideal, obviously, and getting their really early is even better. However, once you get there, parking is plentiful and completely free.

Photo by Jennifer Arocha
Best dressed?

If you're feeling really lucky, put on your best Renaissance-era getup, bring a crowd to cheer you on, and sign up before the gates open for the costume contest. Whoever gets the loudest cheers from the crowd gets in for free. Kids seem to win this contest more often than adults, so you might want to give yourself an edge by entering the little ones instead. (Daily at 9 a.m.)

Other contests offered on the grounds for prizes:
  • There's a pet costume contest Aug. 24-25 at noon and 4 p.m., or sign you pup up for the Wiener Dog Races. Cute!
  • Got a sweet Medieval tattoo? Aug. 24-25 also boasts tattoo contests daily at 1 p.m. 
  • Ladies and gents who like manly legs will want to check out the kilt competition. Will competitors be fierce on the catwalk? Sep. 7-8 and 28-29.
  • Best Beard Competition: Think your facial hair has what it takes? Enter to win during Oktobefest, Sep. 21-22.
Thumbnail image for TwigCRChelseyDemers.jpg
Photo by Chelsey Demers
Free Entertainment:

The Royal Joust: Suspense is the major draw of this free event. Arrive early to nab a spot on a bench. There will be pageantry, test runs, and arrival announcements as their royals take their seats before the armored knights sprint toward each other with sharp sticks. Thankfully, this isn't Game of Thrones, so the chances of major incidents are low (and family friendly!). Shows are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m.

Parade: Vendors, performers, and other groups walk this parade daily, so take a look, cheer them on, and be entertained as folks march through the grounds every day at 11:30 a.m.

Ye olde barn and zoo: Meet lizards, snakes, elephants, camels, goats, and other animals for free.

More entertainment:

Puke and Snot
are on the Legend Stage throughout each day.

John Khoury's Arabic Ensemble will be offering free belly dance lessons Aug. 31 through Sep. 2.

Tuey, the guy who does balancing tricks on a loose-rope is a popular performer. Why? He's a dude juggling on a rope! Oh, and his grand finale involves setting the rope on fire. He's at the Grove Stage, pretty much on the hour.

Arabian Horses will be on display at the jousting track Aug. 17-18 during Italian Fest.

Highland Fling: Watch feats of strength like log and heavy sack throwing throughout the day September 7-8.

All stage shows are free, but folks work hard at the festival to entertain so if you have a dollar or two to spare, tips are always awesome.

Free food and booze!

There will be free Grain Belt and Schell's beer tastings August 24-25 at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Pavillion during Royal Ale Fest, and Sep. 7-8 during Highland Fling

Wine, Chocolate, and Romance weekend (September 14-15) has tons of free stuff, including:

  • Free wine and chocolate samples: Sign up early to get a buzz and share some sweets with your sweetheart.

  • Free vow renewals: Get married... again!

  • There will be free wine tastings. This usually entails generous sample pours of 5-6 different types of wines with sassy commentary from a costumed wine company rep.


Minnesota Renaissance Festival
9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; also Monday, September 2 and Friday, September 27
12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee; 952.445.7361
Visit www.renaissancefest.com for more info
Through September 29

Location Info


Renaissance Festival Site

12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee, MN

Category: General

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