by Amy Suski
Our family has been visiting Medieval Times pretty regularly since 2006 when our oldest son developed an intense interest in all-things-knights. And for a little boy who loves all-things-knights, there is no better place than a ringside seat at a Medieval Times banquet. But it's an experience that grown-ups will enjoy too, with plenty of action, good food, fine displays of horsemanship, pageantry, and falconry. The new show has returned to its roots, focusing more on the horsemanship and less on Hollywood lighting and smoke. We also found it to be even more kid-friendly than previous shows, with a lighter story line that was more about the tournament between the knights than the punishment of a dark villan.
The Hall of Arms
From start to finish, the entire staff seeks to give you a medieval experience complete with courtly manners, period costumes, and a sense of fun. Upon arrival, you'll be crowned with a paper crown and ushered into the vast Hall of Arms displaying suits of armor, weapons, and plenty of souvieners including glowing swords, princess tiaras, shields, and colorful flags. Over the years we've come home with more than our fair share of it all -- but what the kids seemed to enjoy the most were the flags that they used to cheer on the knights and brought home to cheer on backyard exploits as well.
The Hall of Arms Display
In addition to shopping, while in the Hall of Arms you may also get a drink, see the master falconer up close, participate in knighting ceremonies, view the medieval torture museum, and have your picture taken with a costumed royal character from the show (prints available for purchase). The Hall of Arms opens 90 minutes before the show, but if you are bringing young children 45-60 minutes should be plenty of time to take it all in and get into the show in time.
Once inside the arena, the show lasts about two hours and starts with the six mounted knights and their pages heralding King Don Carlos and Princess Catalina. Each section of the audience is encouraged to cheer for a specific knight and this time we were team "Yellow Knight of Navarre." Following a storyline set in the 11th century, the knights compete in royal tournaments, jousting contests, and dramatic duels for honor and favor of the King. In addition to the knights' contests, there is a really cool fly-around by a falcon and demonstrations by the Andalusian Horses. The beautiful horses are raised at the Medieval Times Chapel Creek Ranch in Texas and are one of the highlights of the show for me.
For our boys, however, its mostly all about the knights. They thrill at the clash of metal swords (which actually produce sparks), shattering of wooden lances, and really get into cheering on their knight. If you are bringing small children, be warned that the arena gets very loud with all the cheering and music, but I think most three year olds would be able to handle it. You should also be prepared for some serious swordplay and weaponry, including Swords, Lances, Alabarada, Bola, and Mace. (My son could tell you more about these, but let's just say they are pretty impressive and scary looking.) Although the "fatal" blows and stabs are pretty dramatic, there is no blood and everyone gets up and walks away in the end.
Cheering on the Yellow Knight
Adding to the fun, at the conclusion of a contest the victorious knights throw flowers to the girls in the audience and at the end one luckly little lady is granted title of "Queen of Love and Beauty". [Tip: for the best chance of having your daughter favored by a knight, get into the spirit of the contest by cheering loudly and waving your flag wildly. Sitting in the royalty upgraded section won't hurt either!] I think it would be great if there were a little more in the show specifically for girls like a ride around the arena on horseback by the Princess or a Joan d'Arc figure, but my daughter has always been happy enough with the horses and pagentry of it all.
As for the food, in the spirit of a true 11th century banquet there is no cutlery. Instead you'll be tearing meat off the bone and drinking your soup out of a pewter bowl. This just adds to the fun and our usually picky eaters got right into the spirit of eating with their hands and ended up eating more than usual. The food is quite tasty and more than I could eat (tomato bisque, garlic bread, 1/2 roasted chicken, spare rib, potato wedges, and an apple pastry). We were served by our own kitchen wench, who assured us that we could call her "Wench" if we needed anything. The beverage choices are simple: Pepsi or unsweetened iced tea with coffee available on request. Alcoholic beverages are extra and vegetarian meals available on request. Hand wipes are provided after the meal, but I'd recommend bringing your own to make sure little hands are clean BEFORE eating as well.
Visiting The Castle
The Castle is located in the Arundel Mills mall at 7000 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover, Maryland, 21076, a short distance from BWI Airport. Parking is free, but crowded, so arrive with a little extra time to find a space. Valet parking is available at Entry 1 next to Burlington Coat Factory for $2.
2008 Visit - Our Daughter Claiming the "Queen of Love and Beauty" banner
I'm glad we purchased the Royalty Package at least once because the kids really enjoyed being in the front row and the "Behind the Scenes" video. I'm also pretty sure it helped our daughter get recognized as the "Queen of Love and Beauty" one time too. However, all the seats in the hall are really very good. There are only four rows, so you are never far from the action.
Special Offers: Be sure to check the Medieval Times WEBSITE for the latest special offers. At the moment there is a special introductory rate for adults ($44.95) and children ($29.95) using the code NEWSHOW and a free royalty upgrade offer with the code FRWEB. You can also sign up for the King's Court email update and free Birthday Fellowship admission coupon through this LINK.
Disclosures: Although my family has independently visited Medieval Times on numerous occassions, tickets for our latest visit were generously provided by Medieval Times. The opinions expressed within this review are entirely my own. Please see Medieval Times website for current information about rates, special deals, and any restrictions that may apply.
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