Find Your Faire
With the weather warming, the festival season is well underway. It seems like every weekend I’m faced with a terrible choice, which one do I want to go to? There are several to choose from just within an hour or so from where I live, including a renaissance fair, a steampunk festival, and a gaming convention. Depending on what you enjoy and where you live will alter what you have access to, but if you do decide to get festive here are 10 tips to help you make the most out of your jaunt through another world.
- Shop online for discounts
Typically there will be discounts for almost every fair, festival, and convention online. Groupon is wildly popular for coupons, but a simple web search will produce plenty of options. The trick is planning ahead, if you decide which festival and when you can get early bird or special days discount. If you wait until the last-minute most of the coupons are either sold out (like on Groupon) or no longer honored.
*Also: be sure to read the fine print, if it says to print out the coupon to give to the ticket office, make sure you do it. Sometimes it will be ok to just show them on a phone, but you don’t want to have to pay more if it isn’t.
- Get into character
I am a huge fan of costumes, cosplay, and role-playing, any excuse to dress up in clothing that would leave “ordinary” people puzzled if I wore it while walking past them on the street. While I am more self-conscience about how I look than I should be, all of these events let me completely let loose. I get to create or become another character; a pirate, a gypsy, a princess, a monster, or anyone from my favorite movies, tv shows, anime, or comic.
You can get super creative and just escape from normal life for a day, and we all need that for a while. Just like the ticket discounts this should be prepared in advance, sure I’ve thrown something together a couple of days if not the day before, but I already had all the different clothing and accessories from previous costumes that I had put together.
Festival and cosplay veterans will also know that props can be your best friends. Instead of bringing a backpack or something that clashes with your character choice you can choose a character that carries around a pouch, a book, or whatever. You can carve out hidden sections, to hold all your keys, phone, cards, or cash without taking away the visual of your costume.
Of course if you don’t like to, don’t want to, or just can’t dress up extravagantly you can still enjoy yourself. There are also plenty of festivals where aren’t particular characters that you have to choose from so you don’t have to wear anything special, for example, a St. Patrick’s Day festival, most people might just wear something green, but it’s awesome when people above and beyond.
- Bring everything you might need
Whatever you end up wearing, or however you carry it all around you definitely want to be prepared for an entire day of fun. Since you never know what will happen in the course of your adventure. One of the most suggested things to bring is cash. Vendors tend to carry around phone/tablet connected card readers, but since those work off Wi-Fi if they’re in an area with no signal or if they just don’t own one you won’t want to give up the thing you want to buy (or maybe you do, I don’t know your life). Chances are good that any fair or festival you go to will have those mobile ATMs, but those charge extra fees to take money out so it’s better to just bring cash before. If there is a reason to get money from the ATMs I would suggest taking out a larger amount, then you can be sure you won’t run out and have to go get more, getting charged multiple times.
Food in fairs tend to taste pretty damn good so I recommend trying some of it, but anyone who has gone to one knows that the food is usually really expensive. That’s why bringing a cooler (and leaving it in the car) in which to hold lunches can be a good idea, save money. Almost every festival has in and out privileges for the day, so lunch is I good chance to take a little break (but I never do this, too enamored with the festivities around me). For adults: you can also bring booze to leave in the car cooler, but PLEASE don’t be a drunken idiot when you go back in (btw this also applies to the patrons drinking inside).
Extra clothes are great if you want to do something afterwards without staying in costume. Jackets, cloaks, or capes can also be great if the weather turns and you want to stay in costume. And even if you stay in costume all day and all night some overnight things (completely innocent stuff) can sneak up on you changing your plans. But before I get to that, imagine you are just walking through the main entrance with flocks of people walking around you in all directions, how will you know where to go? That’s why you…
- Grab a map and schedule
Using either an online or physical piece of paper, there is something so nice about having a map when you are in a large festival. Even if you never end up using it, it’s a lovely, typically free, souvenir. With it, you can find your way to great vendors or restaurants or find your way if you get lost. I love getting lost, though it’s pretty hard to do. Another thing to use the map for is to…
- Go see shows
I have found that whenever a festival has a brochure or a map given or sold at the entrance it will have a list of music or shows that you can go see. The annual Dickens Faire in Daly City, (northern) California, rolled these out as a newspaper, while the smaller Ren fair in Hesperia, (southern) California handed out a regular sheet of paper, and Fanime in San Jose, (northern) California gave out a booklet. Whatever way the information is presented it will have any special events taking place throughout the day, most of which is pretty fun. I can pretty much guarantee that all the shows are free too. Though that might make certain more popular ones pretty crowded, in which case you’d want to get there early (planning ahead is again very helpful).
My favorite shows to see are the raunchier ones, no kids around, booze, and really funny jokes. All the old fashion double entendres are so clever, at least compared to the stuff I normally hear.
In between shows you want to watch or activities you want to take part in take your time while walking around. There are always so many things to see. The shops that line the paths are stocked to the teeth with almost any “ye olde” items you could think of; everything from tea and pastries to medieval weapons and back to flower crowns, elf ears, and all types of period clothing. At beer fests or seasonal festivals there are going to be different activities and different kinds shops, but the ideas that I put forward still hold up.
Plus walking you can also take pictures of the atmosphere and all the other (if you decide to get dressed up) people in costumes. Ask permission first, by the way, chances are they will say yes and be glad and into it, posing in the perfect way for their costume that they’ve practiced making your pictures better. This is also something you can do to get more into your character if you want to wear a costume.
Getting back to the “activities”, it really depends on what kind and how big the fair is. Ren fairs, for instance, could have archery, knife, javelin, or ninja star-throwing, fencing lessons, zip-lines, carousels, and so much more. For kids, of all ages, there are even scavenger hunts, face painting, and other random stuff kids like to do.
As an adult (in pretty much number only) I adore that in most fairs and festivals you can buy booze and then continue to walk around. Though that can lead to some interesting “hold my beer” moments when crossing with the activities.
- Talk to people
I know it can be terrifying to talk to people, especially when you are a solo traveler, but it can be so worth it. I find that the easiest are the bands, mainly because it’s easier to start a conversation with people when you open with a compliment. Obviously, the situation changes depending who you talk to and how, but people working are great to have conversations with. When talking to people around you, you can make new friends and even find things to do later. I started talking to a German Band at Oktoberfest and got invited to dinner with the local festival’s creator and an open invitation for a place to stay if I visit Germany. Talked to a bass player in an Irish band and got invited to their graduation party. You never know what can happen, which is why you should…
- Be willing to go with the flow
- Just enjoy yourself!! 😀
What are festivals that you’ve been too? Which are your favorites? Let me know which I should go to next in the comments below.