Signs along the way help to direct guests at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. The second day of the season-opening weekend of the annual Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie was held on April 8, 2018.

Signs along the way help to direct guests at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. The second day of the season-opening weekend of the annual Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie was held on April 8, 2018.

Steve Hamm/Special Contributor

Hear ye, hear ye! It's the time of the year when 155 acres of Waxahachie (35 of which make up the "village") are transported back to the 16th century, to a land where jousts happen three times a day. The Scarborough Renaissance Festival has been going strong since 1981, and it shows no signs of stopping.

Scarborough Renaissance Festival

Even if you don't think fantasy or the middle ages are "your thing," there is a lot of fun stuff to keep you occupied at the festival. Sure, you'll get more out of it if you can understand Game of Thrones references or have at least a slight interest in chain mail, but you don't have to be capable of reciting lines from Lord of the Rings to have a good time.

As proof, a bunch of us GuideLive writers -- including several first-timers who are not at all nerdy -- took a field trip back in time and spent a Sunday at the festival. Here are some of the most important bits of information we came away with.

Go when the weather is nice

The festival runs for eight consecutive weekends through April and May, the earlier month of which is more likely to give you cooler temperatures. And if you can go on a day that's just a bit overcast? Even better.

Parking is free

This might come as a nice surprise, but you won't have to pay a dime to park at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival thanks to a sponsorship from Waxahachie Nissan. That said, you might end up needing to make a long walk from your car to the festival itself, which brings us to...

Get there early, and head straight to the back

A better parking spot isn't the only advantage of arriving early. When the cannon goes off and the gates open at 10 a.m., there is a mass of people congregating right at the front. Most of them will be distracted by the sights, sounds and performers just inside, but if you can squeeze your way toward the back of the grounds (in Pecan Grove) before the rest of the crowd, you might get a few quiet moments where you can enjoy a petting zoo or get good seats for the first joust of the day (at 11 a.m.).

The bathrooms aren't bad

You don't have to expect chamber pots. While villagers in the middle ages might not have had indoor plumbing, you'll enjoy the privilege while at the festival.

Take cash

Many of the vendors and food places don't accept credit cards, much less Apple Pay. There are multiple ATMs on the festival grounds, but the lines to use them can get long quickly, and you don't want to have to wait that long to get yourself a turkey leg.

On another note, when shops tell you the price in pounds, don't worry. Your American money is good here (and you don't even have to worry about exchange rates).

Be sure to catch some shows (and consider tipping the performers)

Did you know mermaids exist in Waxahachie? 

The performances at Scarborough -- from fire whip cracking to aerial acrobatics, from comedy to musical acts -- are integral to the experience, and they begin the second you walk through the gate. 

Many of the performers are volunteers. Others make their living by appearing at festivals like this one across the country. Some are there to promote other causes, such as the Last Chance Forever Birds of Prey Conservancy.

The shows are free, but consider tossing some spare shillings to the acts that make your day better.

Dress for success

For the full renaissance festival experience, arrive in costume -- or rent one when you get there. If you find you need to buy some medieval finery to take home with you, all sorts of vendors sell costumes, flower crowns, masquerade masks, sword belts, weaponry and even leather halter tops.

Whether or not you're interested in cosplaying, wear shoes that will be comfortable and that you don't mind getting a little dirty -- especially if it's been raining and there is mud on the ground.

Be aware of cell service (or lack thereof)

Even if it looks like you have bars, your texts are unlikely to send (much less your Instagram posts). So don't do what the GuideLive staff did and split up early, expecting to be able to easily text each other about plans to meet up again. If you're going with a group of people who have different goals, plan ahead about where and when you'll meet up next.

Performer Adam Winrich, from Fall Creek, Wisc., beams to the roar of the crowd after successfully completing a maneuver involving a flaming bullwhip.

Performer Adam Winrich, from Fall Creek, Wisc., beams to the roar of the crowd after successfully completing a maneuver involving a flaming bullwhip.

Steve Hamm/Special Contributor

Plan ahead (or buy a program)

If you need to pencil in your must-see shows, you might want to spend $3 on a program, which is packed with information about showtimes and vendors, as well as a map. Some shows only happen a few times a day so you may not wander past the right stage at the right time. That said, wandering aimlessly is fun, too.

Prep for some innuendo

The Scarborough Renaissance Festival is family friendly (with the exception of a few select performances), but there is a fair amount of adult humor present if you're looking for it, all cleverly hidden behind winks and nudges. One shop, for example, is named Johnson's Wood of the Morning and it sells wooden wands and walking staves.

Some of the actors at the festival will jokingly tell you, "If your kids understand the jokes, it's not our fault." And they have a point.

A few more pieces of wisdom:

  • Unless you have kids (or are a big fan of mermaids), you can skip the Mermaid Lagoon. A group of adults walking through the lagoon to simply stare at young women dressed as mermaids for a minute can be a bit awkward.
  • Need air conditioning? Duck into the Mythical Monster Museum for $3 a person. It's a fun combination of Halloween props, antique tools and info on creatures like the kraken and banshee. Bonus: There are some pop-culture critters, too, including house elves and a Rodent of Unusual Size.
  • While shopping for merch, both the prices and quality can get high. We're not talking about tchotchkes, here. There are some high-class goods made of leather, wood, glass and more.

Sarah Blaskovich, Sara Frederick Burgos, Brentney Hamilton, Tiney Ricciardi, Kim Oglethorpe and Shannon Sutlief contributed to this story.

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