Our all-new insider’s guide for Scarborough Renaissance Festival, updated for the 2023 season.
Are you going to Scarborough Fair? We’ve got tips, discount information and more to make the most of your trip to North Texas’ most popular Renaissance-ish experience.
Sooner or later, almost everyone within a 40-mile radius of Waxahachie, Texas takes in the springtime event commonly known as Scarborough Fair. Now officially called Scarborough Renaissance Festival, the Renaissance-themed event has drawn fair goers to its shows, food, crafts and the spectacle of its always-in-character staff for more than four decades.
The festival is open for only eight weekends each year, so to help you get the most out of your trip, we spoke to Scarborough Renaissance Festival’s Director of Marketing & Communications, Helaine Thompson to share with you the insider’s scoop.
Set in the rural area between Waxahachie and Maypearl, the festival grounds consist of more than 35 acres of castles, shops, eateries, stages and sights to be seen, with more than 200 buildings designed to replicate the feel of an English village.
“Having said that, it is a very easy site to navigate because of your setup like a figure eight. So it is very easy to get from one end of the festival and back again, because of the way it’s laid out,” says Helaine.
As you work your way around the park, you’ll see plenty of jugglers, belly dancers, vaudeville-esque comedians, and courtly dancers performing on various stages and at times walking within the crowds. What you won’t see are loudspeakers, electronics or anything else that distracts from the suspension-of-disbelief of this modern fantasy loosely based on the time of King Henry VIII.
“The thing that makes us unique from an entertainment side, we actually have two different types of entertainment that go on at the festival. One is our stage and lane entertainers. And these are primarily very specific shows that take place throughout the festival — we have 20 different stages that all this takes place on. The other part of that is we have a 95-member performing company that is a part of Scarborough and they’re the ones who make up the villagers and our royal court,” Helaine says.
Another popular attraction at Scarborough Renaissance Festival is the Birds of Prey exhibit conducted by Last Chance Forever Birds of Prey Conservancy. During the show, the fair’s royal falconer interacts with a variety of birds of prey and presents a conservation message about the need to protect hawks, owls, vultures and eagles from loss of habitat and other threats.
For 2023, the festival’s main theatrical theme is the wedding of King Henry the Eighth and Catherine Parr. Parr was the British Monarch’s sixth wife.
“Our second weekend of the festival, they will be getting married,” Helaine says. “That’s the big thing that we’re introducing — that’s the whole premise of the festival is that it’s a festival thrown to celebrate King Henry’s visit, and this year, they’re celebrating not only his visit, but his marriage to Queen Catherine Parr.”
The festival unites 16th Century historical allusions with modern fantasy as magical creatures, mermaids and Renaissance Rock singers entertain the crowds.
“We’ve got about a half a dozen new performers coming into the season that we’re very excited about. We have one that is a Shakespeare-geared comedy act; we also have magical creatures that you that perform, and people get to interact with, and it’s really neat. And then we have a historical musician and wordsmith. And for the first time, we’ve done an Irish folk punk style band be really interesting and kind of a take from our traditional Celtic entertainment and taking it to a little more updated — really rocking the realm is what they’re going to bring to the table,” Helaine says.
Also new for the 2023 season is a reason to arrive right as the gates open for the day to take in Good Morning Scarborough, which is “going to be a renaissance style talk show every morning to kick off the day,” Helaine says. “It’s a place where people can get a feel for what’s happening today, and what’s going on in the village and things of that nature?”
Almost all the entertainers interact heavily with the crowds, and some ask audience members to join them on stage, Helaine says. “All of our entertainers are always accessible and interactive with our audience, and that does make it very, very different.”
Food and Drink
For many festival goers, the whole attraction is the chance to walk around for a day eating a turkey leg or some other edible item skewered on a stick. Most of the food offerings keep with the mood of the Renaissance, though some fair favorites have worked their way in.
“We have a huge variety of food and the vast majority of it is not fair food,” Helaine says. “So, you’re not going to find your traditional burgers and hot dogs. We do have funnel cake — that is one of the things that we you will find. But outside of that, we have our signature giant roasted turkey legs. We sell over two tons of turkey legs every festival season. But in addition to that, we have really unique items such as our Scottish egg, which is a traditional European favorite, and it is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and then coated in batter, and then it’s deep fried. And it’s a really hearty meal.
“We also have our own bakery, and they’re all handmade items. They start at four o’clock every morning making these items every festival day. So, they’re fresh, homemade recipes that our bakery produces every day.
“We also have a pasta shop that has different pasta specials every day of the festival. So again, it’s a very different type of food than you normally encounter at a festival or an outdoor event like we are.”
Festival goers can also stop in at 12 different pubs and taverns to slake their thirst.
“For those that are wanting a more in-depth experience, we actually offer twice daily beer tastings that are conducted by a certified cicerone.,” Helaine says. “The gentleman who conducts our beer tasting has been certified and he just does an excellent one-hour tasting event. In addition to that we also offer twice daily wine tastings as well. These are just outstanding ways to get a little bit more in-depth and have a really unique experience.”
To register for special beer and wine tasting and other food events, visit the Scarborough Renaissance Festival Ticket Information web page.
Arts and Crafts
Throughout Scarborough Renaissance Festival, more than 200 shops offer handmade, period-specific or offbeat items that range from clothing and jewelry to home decor and even musical instruments.
“One of the things that people need to understand when they come out to the festival, this is an artisan marketplace,” Helaine says. “We do not have imported goods at the festival — 99% of what you will find at our festival is handmade and most of the artisans are in the shops; they can tell you how their crafts are made, how they came about making them — they’re also going to be very unique. These are not crafts you’re going to see at any other event in the in the North Texas region.
“We’ve got over 200 shops throughout the festival. So, it definitely is extensive on what people can find and explore. You can come into the festival and do nothing but explore our shops. The other part of it is we have over a dozen artisans that demonstrate their craft every day, and that includes our glass blowers, our glass sculptors, our stone sculptors, metal work, our forge, our jewelers — they will actually make those all throughout the day at the festival. And you can watch them create these one-of-a-kind pieces.”
“We’ve got quite a few new artisans and shops coming into the festival this year that we’re very, very excited about,” Helaine adds. “We have everything from 2D art prints to new honey and mead making supplies. We have actually a for the first time at the festival a men’s care product artisan who makes handmade care products that are specifically geared toward men. We also have a chocolatier who’s coming in and does hand-painted chocolates and chocolate treats. And we have a heralding artisan who makes these terrific flags and banners and things of that nature. We also have one that does these really cool three dimensional decorated art bottles. So, she takes bottles and then creates the whole art piece on and all over the bottle itself. And they’re really unique looking.”
The 2023 season will also feature a wooden utensil artisan, a maker of juggling items and toys, and an artist who crochets sculpted dragons.
Rides and Games
Scarborough Renaissance festival has just under a dozen human-powered rides, from the popular Crow’s Nest and jousting ride to a carousel and barrel ride. For game seekers, there’s a knife, axe or star throwing game, along with darts, archery, longbow and crossbow sports among the 21 total games of chance and tests of strength and skill.
“The games and rides are additional fee, but they’re very minimal. They range from $2 to $5. So it’s not a terribly expensive price. I will also tell you that most of the games and rides are cash only. So people need to be aware of that. We do have six A.T.M.s onsite if they need cash, but we highly recommend that you bring cash with you,” Helaine says.
2023 Themed Weekends
Each of the eight weekends of Scarborough Renaissance Festival features a unique theme, with special events that are planned around each weekend’s theme. Some special events require pre-registration and fees.
April 8 – 9: The festival’s opening weekend and Easter
- Free Children’s Admission – Children 12 years old and younger get in free all weekend. Up to three children are admitted with each paid adult. Children four years old and under are always free.
- Senior Discount – Seniors 65 years old and older receive $10 off opening weekend tickets at the festival’s ticket office each day.
- Children’s Easter Scavenger Hunt – Hunt throughout the festival site to win a free ice cream cup.
- Children’s Easter Egg Roll – Children 12 years old and younger are invited to participate in a traditional Easter egg roll to win prizes.
- Renaissance Easter Service – 12:00 noon at the Crown Meadow Stage on Easter Sunday.
April 15 – 16: Artisan Showcase and Royal Wedding
- Artisan Showcase and Gallery – Vote for your favorite shop and get the chance to win a handmade basket filled with treasures.
- Shop and Win – Spend $350 at the festival shops and receive two complimentary tickets valid any day of the Scarborough Renaissance Festival 2023 season.
- The Royal Wedding – Scarborough Renaissance Festival celebrates the union of King Henry VIII and Catherine Parr in grand fashion with royal courts, villagers, and peasants.
April 22-23: Viking and Ale Weekend
- Viking Costume Contest for Adults and Children – Vikings and other barbarians are invited to join in the fun each day.
- Stein Holding Competition – Festival goers battle each other to see who can hold a beer stein the longest.
- Tug o’ War – The festival will host a Tug O’ War competition for children and adults each day at the Maypole.
April 29 – 30: Live the Fantasy Spring Celebration Weekend
The festival hosts a weekend suited for fantasy enthusiasts and cosplay fans.
- Fantasy Themed Costume Contest – Costume contests for adults and children.
- Children’s Fairy Initiation Ceremony – Children can become a part of the fairy court at this fanciful ceremony and receive their own fairy wand.
- Spring Celebration – Join in the fun with the villagers of Scarborough as they celebrate May Day and the beginning of spring by adorning themselves with beautiful flowers throughout the weekend.
- Deaf Day – Saturday, April 29th only, special signed performances throughout the festival site compliments of Hired Hands, Inc.
May 6 – 7: Celtic Weekend
- Children’s Highland Games – Children 12 years old and younger are invited to participate in these age-old games of skill at the Royal Pavilion.
- Scottish Egg Eating Contest – Bring your appetite to the Sea Hag Stage to participate.
- Tug o’ War – Children and adults may compete in tug o’ war contests.
- Bonnie Knees Contest – Men invited to show off who’s got the bonniest knees in Scarborough.
- Celtic Entertainment – Traditional Irish step and ceili dancing; weapons demonstrations.
- Bagpipes, Bards and Drums – all-Celtic style entertainment throughout the day.
May 13 – 14: Celebration of Chivalry
- Children’s Admission Free on Mother’s Day – Up to 3 children are admitted for free with each paid adult on Mother’s Day, May 14.
- Vow Renewal Ceremony – Couples are invited to renew their wedding vows and commitments to each other each day at the Royal Marquee.
- Scarborough Knights Chivalry Lessons – Join the Knights of the Noble Cause to learn how to treat others in a chivalrous manner.
- Chocolate Sensations – An event that will take you on a journey of discovering luscious chocolates and how they pair with your favorite beer and wine. For adults 21 years old and older, for an added fee.
May 20 – 21: Legends of the Seas
- Legends of the Seas Costume Contest – Pirates, mermaids, and all other manner of sea creatures among the children and adults are invited to join in the fun each day.
- Naval Enlistment Ceremony – Festival goers may see if they have what it takes to become a member of the Royal Navy in this interactive ceremony.
May 27 – 29: The Last Huzzah
- Topsy Turvy Day – Queens become beggars and villagers become kings on this day of Topsy Turvy Sunday, May 28.
- Memorial Day Tribute and Parade for Veterans and Fallen Heroes – Monday, May 29th only. All active and retired military members are invited to receive a yellow sash to commemorate their service and are invited to march in the Grand Parade. At the conclusion of the parade, everyone is invited to join in at the Royal Pavilion for the presentation of colors and a special Fallen Heroes tribute.
Note: for registration and tickets to special events, visit the Scarborough Renaissance Festival Themed Weekends web page.
Admission, Discounts and Additional Fees
Adult ticket price is $37 (For all 13 years old and older).
Tickets for children 5 -12 years of age cost $17.
Children 4 years old and under are admitted for free.
A season’s pass $150 for adults and $34 for children.
Group tickets are also available for groups of 15 or more.
Tickets are available at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival ticket website or at the gate. Discount tickets are also available at Tom Thumb and Albertsons stores.
Additional fees: Admission prices do not include ride fees, game fees or admission to wine or beer tastings, or other special features and events.
How to Get the Most of Your Day
The festival begins each day at 10:00 a.m., and to take in all that Scarborough Renaissance Festival has to offer, you’ll want to arrive early. Get there by 9:45 a.m. for a pre-opening show that occurs at the gates.
Helaine says that many people grab a schedule and try to create an itinerary for their stay. She says a better approach may me to just arrive with an open mind and take in the flow of the day.
“Scarborough can be a different experience based on who you come with,” she says. “If you have children, you’re going to experience things very differently than if you come with a group of adults or as a couple, because kids want to do things like our knighting ceremony each day. They love the games of skill and the Renaissance rides. We have a petting zoo, we have a walk through aviary — the kids tend to really gravitate toward those things where the adults might want to do a beer or a wine tasting. They will enjoy the shopping in a very different way than kids will. We do have some shops that are geared toward children and we have toys — we have costumes and things like that. But, the shops that adults will enjoy tend to be a little different than that. So again, there’s a little something for everyone. So, regardless what your ages, you can have a very fun experience just in different ways based on who you’re here with.
“One of the things that first-timers make the mistake of doing they come in and they get a schedule, because our programs are available at the gate as well as in our souvenir shops. People try to say, okay, I want to see this, this, this and this. And they spend their day running from one end of the festival to the other in one shot, and they miss a lot of what’s in between. I think the best way to experience Scarborough is to just wander because what happens is you kind of just come upon certain entertainment, you come upon different crafts, or an artisan demonstration. And that’s when you get the full experience of Scarborough — when you just discover things naturally as you go through the festival site. And that’s one thing that I think a lot of people miss.”