Everything You Need To Know About SoCal's Renaissance Pleasure Faire

I'm just going to say it: if you think Renaissance Faires are only for horny middle schoolers or pathetic adults, you’re not a fun person. Get off your high horse and grab a turkey leg, because it’s time to marinate yourself in the upper echelons of observation-based culture. We here at LAist want to shed light on Ren Faire (as it’s called in the biz), so we’ve broken down the basics of what to expect when you head out to bask in the glory days of 1500s Europe.

You might be thinking: what does an archaic, Old World way of life have to do with the forward-thinking American city of Los Angeles? As noted by the good people at Renfaire.com, Renaissance Faires have a deep connection with Southern California, as the first one ever was held in Agoura Hills in 1963. Since then, the Faires have expanded across the U.S. and Canada.

As for Faires that take place in Southern California, there's the Renaissance Pleasure Faire that's happening right now in Irwindale (until May 21). Every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. you can prance through the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area and take in a sensory experience for the ages.

“Hawkers in the streets, ribbons and flags waving in the wind, the sound of bells, lutes, and ocarinas in the air,” writes RenFaire.com on the quintessential Ren Faire atmosphere. “The lilt of foreign accents, the smell of cooking foods and flowers, the warmth of sun on your face, and the wind in your hair.” Now you might be thinking, “What a chill way to spend the day. But I’m just a 21st century plebeian and don’t know what to wear!” No worries, we got you. Bust into your closet, burn all your denim and contemporary fashions, salvaging only the following:

  • Natural leather shoes, boots, and sandals
  • Blousy shirts in natural colors
  • Natural leather vests
  • Blousy dresses in natural colors
  • Snug fitting pants (generally without pockets)
  • Straw hats

And if for some reason you’re the type of person who doesn’t own a leather vest (re: a massive loser), fret not—Ren Faires are filled with vendors selling you the hottest middle-age fashion. You can even rent a costume if you would rather not commit to a lifelong Renaissance aesthetic. In addition to sartorial purveyors, you’ll find shop-keeps yelling in Elizabethan, selling crafts and spices that they promise an explorer found in a far-off, exotic land. The heart of Ren Faire, however, is its games. Adrenaline junkies, I’m talking to you. Throw a javelin, watch a joust, be merry!

But just because Ren Faire is a place where anything can happen, doesn’t mean there aren’t some rules to follow. It’s all fairly straight-forward: no firearms, no pets, and keep ye olde blades sheathed and peace-tied. Now brush up on your Shakespearen slang — anon!

Once you've physically and emotionally transported yourself into a Renaissance mindset, how exactly should you spend the day? Games include face painting, braiding, a dragon ride, and zip lining. Soothsayers have booths for peeking into your psychic future and the Queen offers two chances for afternoon tea (reservations required, of course). Live entertainment occurs throughout the day, with the official schedule and stage guide here. If you need a recommendation, though, L.A. Weekly has stated that "if you go to Faire and you don't see Moonie and Broon, then you lost the game of life."

The Faire also offers a pub crawl twice a day. For $50, you and 24 other Faire participants can visit each pub on the grounds and get a pour of anything they have on tap ("Including cider!," says the website).

Every weekend has a special theme, and this weekend is "Time Traveler Weekend." The Faire has no stipulations on the era people can represent, but Saturday is specifically a Steampunk Costume Contest, so save your ancient Greek costumes for Sunday. To enter the contest, submit your name before 3:15 p.m. Saturday. You'll then meet and greet with the other contestants as a group of anonymous judges observe, with the winners announced at 5 p.m.

Adult tickets are $29.95, child tickets (ages 5-12) are $15, and children 4 & younger are free. Tickets are available at the Faire and online. The line can get very long at the Faire, so we recommend buying them ahead of time.

As always, keep in mind precautions for day-long outdoor festivities: sunscreen, water, hat and/or umbrella, and an early arrival to avoid parking fiascos. Once all that's in place, take to the Faire and enjoy the pure joy of magic, mimes, and adults earnestly living their best lives.

The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire is located at 15501 E. Arrow Highway, Irwindale, CA. It runs through May 21 every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets and pricing available on their website.

Additional reporting by Annie Lloyd