Renaissance Fairs (or Faires?) the World Round
Huzzah! Thou art findeth the map you seek!
All around the world, though particularly in the United States, thousands gather to pretend they have none of the comforts of modern life. They trade their iPhones for eye patches and other 16th century garb. They wear baggy, colorful clothes and often get into character with others at Renaissance Fairs (though many choose the more traditional “Faire”).
These events, often simply abbreviated RenFaire, encouraged cosplay before that was even a term. The stories of the setting, and the characters, are often elaborate. The map below shows 76 RenFaires, along with the year established, season, attendance, and more.
View Renaissance Fairs in a full screen map
Though clearly a US phenomenon, RenFaires are also seen throughout Europe, as well as in Canada and Australia. There is only one RenFaire in England, which serves as the fictional setting for most fairs throughout the world. England’s fair, which takes place in York, is not exactly renaissance (the period between 1300 and 1700). York’s fair is called the Viking Festival, set in the town of “Jorvik” in 948 A.D.
Accuracy vs Entertainment
Most RenFaires choose England of the 1500s or 1600s as their setting. A dozen specifically call out the Elizabethan era of 1558-1603. The backstories, official and otherwise, can become highly involved, of course. Some choose real towns and settings, while others fictionalize the details, including monarchs who never reigned.
Whether to stay true to the history is one of the biggest questions in the renaissance fair community. Some take accuracy very seriously in terms of costume, setting, and events. Others see the fair as collaborative entertainment, with authenticity taking a back seat to fun. Still others go deep into the fictional nature, adding fantasy elements to the festivities. One third of the fairs mapped above describe some fantasy element, some even calling their events “immersive fantasy" experiences.
Often a fair’s accuracy is built into the theme created by the organizers. Four separate fairs are specifically set in the folkloric times of King Arthur, while another is focused on the Three Musketeers. Yet, to the outside observer, there’s probably more in common between RenFaires than differences.
Where Can I Find a Renaissance Fair?
Most RenFaires (over 75% of the map above) take place in the United States. However, those fairs are spread throughout 30 states. They are based as far west as Alaska and all the way to Massachusetts to the east. The state with the most RenFaires is Florida, home to seven fairs. You could entertain yourself at five RenFaires from January through April in Florida, then come back for the two that take place in November.
California and Texas each have five fairs each. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Michigan all have three fairs. Another eight states have two fairs. You can find many of these by using the grouping feature of the map. Select Region from the dropdown in the lower left of the map, then choose the state(s) you’d like to filter.
You can do the same thing with countries. Select Country from the dropdown in the lower left, then choose the countries to filter. As mentioned before, the United States has by far the most (58). Next comes Canada and Italy, both with three. Australia is next with two, and all other countries have at most one on this map.
Some fairs are small and some are large, both in terms of space and attendance. The fair that claims the most number of people is the Texas Renaissance Festival in Todd Mission, Texas. Over nine weekends in October and November, the fair claims 678,500 participants. Norman, Oklahoma, is home to the next-largest, which sees 350,000 people across a single weekend in April. Minnesota Renaissance Festival comes in next at 320,000 attendees. Another eight fairs see 200,000+ attendees.
One of those eight is the largest in another way—acreage. The Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur takes place on 338 acres, most of which is dedicated to camping. The fair itself is 60 acres, which still may make it the largest. A big area does not always mean many attendees. The Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival (in West Newton, outside Pittsburgh) has a modest 55,000 people, but maintains 300 acres.
You can find your nearest RenFaire using the location search in the map above, or filling out this form:
Just enter your city or postal code and the closest RenFaire will display, along with its details. Every BatchGeo map comes with a location finder like this one.
History of RenFaires
RenFaires started in early 1960s Southern California with the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. The event is still happening every April and May in Irwindale. Two others have joined it at different time of years in the south of the Golden State, with another two further north.
The midwest is home to some other early RenFaires: Minnesota Renaissance Festival started in 1971 and Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin came a year later. The latter is interesting in that it is set in 1574 in the English city of the same name–Bristol, England.
At least a dozen RenFaires opened in the 1970s, with another 10 on the map coming in the 1980s. There were 21 in the 1990s and 20 in the 2000s, though it’s hard to really claim that as the heyday. Since the map includes fairs currently operating, there could have been fairs that started earlier that no longer operate. Still, it clearly continues to be popular, with 10 already added in the 2010s.
Almost half of RenFaires have permanent locations, often with structures that remain year-round. This is especially true of the larger venues in less populous areas. Yet, for as little as one weekend to as much as two months, these places bring to life a time from the past.