Come ye lads, lasses, and children of all ages to take a trip back in time to see the tried and true tradition and specter that is the Michigan Renaissance Festival.
The festival is one of the oldest Renaissance events in the United States and is frequented by thousands of visitors each year. For those who attend every year, it’s one of their favorite parts of fall. For those who have never been, it’s quite the festival to see and experience up close.
With more than 250,000 annual visitors, seven themed weekends, and 17 stages of entertainment, there’s something that every visitor — young or old — can enjoy in this recreation of a 16th-century English village, located in Metro Detroit.
The festival runs on weekends from mid-August through the beginning of October, as well as Labor Day and Friday of the last weekend of the festival, so it makes the perfect weekend activity for groups of friends and families.
A Michigan Tradition Since 1979
The Michigan Renaissance Festival began in 1979 in Clarkston Michigan. In 1985, the festival settled into its permanent home in Holly, just 12 miles south of Dixie Highway and 1 mile north of the Mount Holly Ski Resort.
More than 250,000 visitors from Michigan, surrounding states, and Canada attend the festival each year. With activities ranging from sword fighting to jousting to royal feasts, there’s plenty of exciting entertainment.
For those who have never been to the festival, it is an immersive experience with a full village setup. When you enter the 17-acre spread, you feel like you are actually being transported back into a 16th-century European village.
Building reproductions of shops, taverns, and a magnificent castle line the streets. Seventeen stages provide themed comedy shows, live music, interactive games, and more.
Interact With a Variety of Colorful Characters
The festival grounds, known as Hollygrove, and members of the village are all about creating an authentic experience.
That authenticity is reflected in the recreation of the caste system of the time — when the cast members are divided based on the social class of their characters. The highest-ranking members of the cast include Queen Elizabeth I and her royal court.
Also, visitors can expect to see memorable characters, such as royal dignitaries, tradesmen, merchants, actors, pirates, farmers, and many more.
Feast on Food Fit for Royalty
You won’t find mutton or stews at any of the Ren Fest food spots, but you can get just about anything your mind (and stomach) craves. That means you can treat yourself to a feast fit for a king (or queen) and have your own awesome culinary adventure!
Chow down on meaty turkey legs, enjoy classic apps like tots and jalapeno poppers, grab a walking taco for a meal on the go, or treat yourself to something sweet like cookies, donut holes, or deep-fried Oreos.
If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, consider digging into deep-fried pickle spears, bacon on a stick, or vegan ice cream. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options available so all attendees can satisfy their appetites.
Visit a Whole Host of Artisans
If you’re looking for souvenirs, there are a host of artisans in the festival marketplace eagerly displaying their wares at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.
Dozens of these talented craftmakers offer everything from pottery to paintings to perfumes to candles to toys, and so much more.
Not only does this give visitors an excuse to have an endless shopping experience as they explore all of the shops, but it’s also a great way for attendees to find the perfect souvenirs to take home at the end of their visit.
Enjoy One of the Festival’s Themed Weekends
One of the most exciting parts of the festival, especially for returning festival-goers, is the themed weekends. During these weekends, festival-goers can really enjoy the festivities and celebrate the event’s charm. Different themed weekends include:
- Pirates & Pups — dog owners are encouraged to bring their four-legged friends for a fun adventure
- Vikings Invasion — bearded warriors face off during an epic weekend of competition, and prizes are given for the best tattoos and facial hair
- Shamrocks & Shenanigans — billed as the biggest Irish party in Michigan, festival-goers are encouraged to dress in their best Irish garb
Have a Brush With Festival Royalty
There are so many great things to do at the festival, but if you really want to treat yourself, you can participate in a royal event and be the envy of the entire kingdom. The various royal events include:
- Brunch at the Joust — attendees get a front-row, VIP experience at the joust while enjoying a meal fit for royalty
- Pub Crawl — visitors quench their thirst with some of the choicest brews in the village at four different watering holes
- The Quest — a family-friendly activity that invites teams to try their hand at saving the realm and breaking Cobweb’s Curse
These special events require separate tickets from the regular admission but offer a chance to feel like royalty without having to marry into the royal family.
One of the Best Parts of a Michigan Fall
For Creator Team member, Becky Harris, the Michigan Renaissance Festival is one of her favorite parts of fall. If you’ve already made plans to attend this year’s festival or you’re thinking about it, here are some of her picks for the best things to do at the festival.
Mow Down Some Turkey Legs
I’m not going to say that it’s all about the food, but I’m not going to say it isn’t. Of all the splendid eats provided at this festival, the turkey legs at the Ren Fest are some of the best you’ll ever try, and the fact that you’re enjoying them in a medieval atmosphere will only add to your experience.
Booths are scattered across the grounds where you can pick up a steaming turkey leg, so take advantage.
Watch the Washing Well Wenches
This is a comedy show offered at the festival every year that you won’t want to miss. The Wenches are an interactive experience, selecting from people in the crowd to be included in their sketch.
I don’t want to say too much else so as not to ruin the fun of the show, so you’ll just have to watch the show to find out!
Flare Your Medieval Style
Shops are all over the village, and you can try on corsets and dresses and all matters of garb from the olden times. You’ll notice as you traverse the festival that many people are season pass holders and have entire outfits put together specifically for the festival.
Even if you’re just going for one weekend, it’s still fun to play dress up. Don’t have the clothes? You can buy some there.
Join the Joust
Jousting tournaments are held every weekend at the Michigan Renaissance Festival near the Queen’s castle. What’s better — all of the jousts are free for the public to enjoy!
The knights are dressed in full armor, and the winner gets a kiss from the Queen, so competitors take the event very seriously. Anyone of any age can enjoy this timeless performance, and it’s something I go back to enjoy every year.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
There’s a variety of other shops at the festival that offer handmade items, some of which are crafted in the Mitten State. Items you can shop for include candles, musical instruments, paintings, textiles, blown glass art, tools, pottery, toys, clay sculptures, perfumes, and more!
Feast, Feast, Feast
For $75 (including festival admission), you can attend the “Feast of Fantasy” in the Blackstone Castle. This daily festivity features a six-course gourmet meal, beer, wine, and live entertainment!
BONUS TIP: Just a hint, if the Queen passes you on the street during the festival, yell “off with her head!” This gets you arrested by her guards and paraded around the festival as a royal traitor.
FAQs About the Michigan Renaissance Festival
When is the Michigan Renaissance Festival?
The festival occurs on weekends and Labor Day from mid-August through the beginning of October, as well as Festival Friday on the last Friday of the event period.
Where is the Michigan Renaissance Festival?
The festival grounds — known as Hollygrove — recreate a 16th-century village and are located in Holly Michigan at 12600 Dixie Hwy.
What are the admission costs for the Michigan Renaissance Festival?
The festival offers several different admission options, including single-day general admission passes for adults, discounted senior passes, season passes, royal passes, and tickets for various special events.
Where can I park at the Michigan Renaissance Festival?
On-site parking is available, but the system is run by a professional parking company and parking passes are required to park on the grounds.
Daily passes can be purchased separately, while season passes include parking passes.
What is there to do at the Michigan Renaissance Festival?
A better question is what isn’t there to do at the festival? Attendees can visit a variety of shops, snack on a variety of food options, wander around the village, interact with different characters, and so much more.
Make Plans to Attend the Michigan Renaissance Festival
Are you ready to travel back in time to watch thrilling jousting, visit authentic artisan shops, and feast to your heart’s desire? Well, you don’t have to travel way back to 16th-century England to do all of that — all you have to do is travel to the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly.
It’s easy to lose track of time at the festival and difficult to do it all in one day, but that’s as good a reason as any to return on consecutive days or consecutive weekends to see all the great things that the festival has to offer.