Don your suits of armour and dust off your tiaras - the Maryland Renaissance Festival is here! Now in its 41st season, the family-friendly festival celebrates all there is to love about life in 1527 under the reign of Henry VIII.

Situated on 27 acres in Anne Arundel County, just outside Annapolis, hundreds of performers bring to life the story of Henry VIII's kingdom in the Village of Revel Grove. Each year, the story progresses. This season, visitors will see Henry VIII drift away from his first wife as jousters dual, villagers celebrate their summer harvest, entertainers delight curious fans and Henry himself conceals his inner turmoil amid celebrations at his summer home.

Plus, chance meetings with village stilt walkers, beggars, hermits, wenches, pick pockets, rakes and rogues add even more opportunities for merriment, and sometimes tensions, according to the Renaissance Festival's website.

Visitors can feast on plump, one-pound smoked turkey legs, steak on a stake, chicken on a lance, hot apple dumplings and much more from the bountiful summer harvest, all prepared by the king's kitchen in the village. Six eateries will open their doors to serve hungry patrons at the festival.

Meanwhile, performers will take to ten stages across the fairgrounds to show off stunts, illusions and acrobatics that will enchant all ages. Fans will find old favorites - like Johnny Fox, a sword swallower in his 37th year with the festival - as well as novel performers, such as Debracey Productions, a jousting troupe that will do more than duel.

Along the streets, craftsmen will fill their shops with handmade metalwork, jewelry, stained glass and other treasures. These unique trinkets are "among the best in the realm of festivals," says the festival's website.

Opening weekend, August 26 and 27, is also Children's Weekend. With the purchase of an adult ticket, one child ages 7 to 15 will be admitted to the festival for free. Subsequent weekends also feature themes, including a Celtic Weekend on September 16 and 17, as well as a Shakespeare Weekend on September 23 and 24. Families with little ones can't miss Pirate Adventure Weekend on September 30 and October 1, during which visitors are encouraged to dress up in their favorite pirate duds.

The festival also features a costume shop that will be open every weekend for any adult or child hoping to blend in with the villagers. Costumes must be rented and returned on the same day and cannot be reserved in advance.

The festival will run for nine weekends, plus Labor Day, from August 26 to October 22. Tickets will be discounted for the first three weekends of the festival and will range in price from $8 to $18. A two-day pass will cost $38 for the first three weekends. Throughout the remainder of the festival, tickets will range in price from $12 to $25 with a two-day pass for $38. Same-day tickets will go on sale at 9:30 a.m. every morning of the festival and the opening gate ceremony will begin at 9:45 a.m. with the full fair opening at 10 a.m. The festival will close at 7 p.m. each evening.

For more information, including other ticket options, directions to the fairgrounds and a full schedule of events, visit the Maryland Renaissance Festival website at rennfest.com.


Ellie Hartleb is a contributing writer for Washington Parent magazine.