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Hazzah! The NorCal Renaissance Faire is Back

Updated: Sep 21, 2022 10:29
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Thou must go on an adventure! The Northern Californian Renaissance Faire has returned. The festival started last weekend and will be open weekends through September and October. During the opening weekend of The NorCal Ren Faire, my friend Vita and I decided to take the trek down to Hollister and see what mischief you can get into at this year’s Renaissance faire.

Knights ready for battle – photo by Vita Hewitt

The costumes slayeth:

One of my favorite things about The Bay Area is that there are so many subcultures you can dip into at any time. I love seeing people in costumes and getting into character. I hadn’t been to a Ren Faire since 1999 in Kansas City and am happy to report that 20 years later that folks who go to these types of events still go all out. The costumes were amazing all around. You could really tell when someone had likely been to many many Renaissance festivals. Vita wore a cute red and white dress with an integrated corset that she got off Amazon a while back. It was fun that others who had the same dress kept stopping her throughout our time at the faire just to giggle that they were twins.

5 men in costume at the ren faire

These Constables were up to no good – photo by Vita Hewitt

Volunteers and staff at the festival could be spotted by their on-point matching costumes and ability to stay in character while they heckled and entertained festival go-ers throughout the day. At one point, I ended up getting an actual ticket for “Moral turpitude” from The Constables. 

Friendly forest creatures – photo by Vita Hewitt

This faire has theme weekends such as pirate invasion, masquerade and a full weekend dedicated to villains and heroes. According to a few different sites, some Ren Faires ask you not to dress in anything other than something from the Elizabethan era and discourage mixing fantasy themes. However, while walking around the grounds, we saw a ton of different types of costumes. We saw some fairies, pirates, and even a furry.

Ladies who lunch – photo by Vita Hewitt

Activities for f’r ev’ryone including wenches, lords and ladies:

You’ll find tons of activities across the make-shift mediaeval town. You’ll find something you love about this festival whether you want to watch a jousting show, learn how to sword fight, throw an axe, or just wander the grounds shopping the handmade goods.

I saw tons of kids activities including 4-person swings, a may pole ride, a petting zoo, and a full DIY tent where you can make small crafts inspired by mediaeval times.

The petting zoo features very happy goats – photo by Vita Hewitt

I really enjoyed shopping the different artisan booths in throughout the faire. The organizers did a great job of bringing in a lot of different variety and you didn’t see much overlap in types of handmade good as you do in other festivals like it. For instance, you would see a booth where you can buy a hand turned wooden mug across from intricate leather face masks.

There are even sword lessons from Davenriche European Martial Arts School – photo by Vita Hewitt

Some behind the scenes information about the Faire:

Frank Macdonald has been working at both California Renaissance Festivals (northern and southern) almost every year since the mid-90s when he worked at Novato’s beloved and well-missed renaissance festival at Black Point. He gave us some insider information on the inner workings of this particular festival.

Frank Macdonald (center in green) and some of his crew – photo by Vita Hewitt

According to Macdonald, This faire isn’t as large as the Southern California Renaissance Faire but it still takes over a month to build out the small city before the individual artisans come in to deck out their spot.

You’ll find musicians all over the festival throughout the day – photo by Vita Hewitt

Another interesting fact we learned from MacDonald is that the core team members live on the property as the faire is going on. Volunteers and event organizers bring trailers and tents to set up behind the scenes. This creates a family-like environment with everyone living together on the same property. After hours, everyone will come together for their own theme nights and events put on just for those who organize the event.

Every so often you’ll pass a group of lord or ladies feasting – photo by Vita Hewitt

Pro tips for your visit to the NorCal Ren Faire:

  • If traveling from San Francisco, expect delays getting there as it’s pretty far away. 100% worth the trip if you want to go to something unexpected this fall.
  • Bring cash with you. There are only a few ATMs on the property and the lines were long. Some activities, like archery, accept only cash at their booth.
  • Get there early for smaller crowds.
  • There is a 21+ area which has adult-only events and a full beer garden.

Our favorite forest fairy – photo by Vita Hewitt

You can find more information about NorCal Renaissance Faire here:

Instagram: @norcalrenfaire
Facebook: @norcalrenfaire

Tickets are available on their website and there are weekend discounts with checking out, too! This weekend (the 2nd weekend), you can find a $5 discount on tickets purchased from their site.

Full map of the town – from the NorCal Ren Faire website



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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy has lived in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.