I think it’s a shame that Colorado does not have a Medieval Times. We’re fast becoming a tourism magnet, and it seems we should boast turkey legs, sword fights, and jousts year-round. I mean, Dallas has one - and I think we’re way cooler than Dallas (just saying). Although we don’t have a year-round option, we do have a great summer fill-in that’s been going strong for 40 years: the Colorado Renaissance Festival. Holding court for three months every summer in Larkspur, Colorado, it's what is thought to be the fourth oldest permanent renaissance festival in the country. You may think that figuring out the cost of it is fairly straightforward, but, alas, the “ren faire” is said to be surprisingly more expensive than one might think. If you want a few tips on how to save, read on to learn how to preserve your precious shillings - and still have fun, too.
Larkspur, Colorado is located roughly halfway between Colorado Springs and Denver on the 25 corridor. Coloradans in either surrounding metro area can get to Larkspur and back on a tank of gas within 45 minutes to one-hour-and-a-half with no problem. Folks in Cortez, Colorado are just about the furthest away, with a 6-hour drive to get them to Larkspur. For those traveling from these kinds of long distances, a fuel budget of roughly $75 should suffice.
For those doing the four-hour plus trip, staying in Larkspur for the night is probably a good idea especially after several rounds of mead and helpings of turkey legs. There aren’t many places to lodge in Larkspur itself, but about 10-minutes away south in Monument or 15 minutes away north in Castle Rock, you can find rooms for a Saturday night from as low as $59 up to around $150. If you are dead set on staying in Larkspur you can stay at the Jellystone Camp – Resort. Weekend rates for RV hookups start at $65, tent sites start at $50, and yurts can be rented for $84. Make sure to book well in advance or you probably won’t find space during the busy festival weekends.
Entering the Courts
The first true money saving tip for going to the Renaissance Festival is DON’T buy your tickets at the gate. Admission at the box office is $22 for adults and $10 for children 5-12. Online tickets are a bit cheaper at $20.50 for adults and $9 for children.
There are several ways to shave this price down if you plan ahead. The first option is to buy your tickets from a King Soopers location and save $3 on adult tickets and $1 on children’s tickets. Participating Wendy’s and Corner Store locations are also offering discount coupons. All of this information can be found here on the Colorado Renaissance Festival general information page.
Another way to save on tickets is to check with your employer. Colorado Springs School District 11 employees and CU Denver students, staff and faculty for instance, are eligible $5 off admission from their organizations. Check with your employer to see if they are offering a similar discount.
Picking the right weekend to visit can also be a saver. July 2nd and 3rd are free for children 12 and under for instance.
Finally, deal websites like Groupon and Living Social often run specials for the festival. Typically the deals run for a week and must be redeemed at that week’s festival. It’s best to set up an alert for these kinds of deals since there is no telling when they will pop up.
Eating with your hands
The festival does not allow you to bring in food or drinks with the one exception of non-opened bottles of water. A day at the festival is often a hot affair, so packing as many bottles as you can is worth considering. Pro-tip: Freeze several bottles a day before and they’ll be cold most of the day.
As for food, you’ll have to bite the bullet here as you have no other options than to purchase what they have on offer. Consider sticking with food of the handheld variety, as these are typically more on the inexpensive side, i.e. turkey legs, steak on a stick, giant pickles, or fruit on a skewer. Online reviews generally say you should expect to spend about $5 for most food items and about that same amount for a cup of beer or cider.
When in Rome?
The icing on the cake for enjoying the renaissance festival could perhaps be the opportunity to dress up and play along with all the costumed actors. For folks that want to be part of the show, they have you covered with costume rentals at The Belrose costume shop. Belrose is located near the front gate and starting at $18 for adults or $8 for children, you can rent a costume for the day!
Want a costume on a more permanent basis? Check out Pinterest for homemade ideas that are thrifty.
Merlin has no magic in the market
What ends up perhaps being the game changer between a budget outing and one that racks up dollars can be put into ye olde question form: To buy stuff or not to buy stuff? If your goal is to purchase a sweet Viking sword from the black smith shoppe, it’s gonna cost you a pretty six-pence. Reviews suggest that items for sale at that festival can be quite expensive and that cash is often the only payment option. In short, budget out what you feel is reasonable to spend on that one of a kind item and if someone does have a Square card reader to take your credit card for an unplanned purchase, resist!
Travel: cars already gassed up and I only have an hour drive - $20
Staying there: headed back to my castle on the same day - $0
Entering the courts : taking advantage of the King Soopers deal for 2 adults and we’re going during the children’s weekend (12 and under free entry) - $38
Eating with your hands: It’s a must that I have a turkey leg and I’m sure the rest of my family won’t be content with sharing. I will pack water bottles though and only one beer for me. - $25
When in Rome: The adults are skipping the costumes (I know, we’re lame). My youngest princess can wear the princess dress she already has from Halloween and the oldest daughter is probably “too cool” for costumes these days -$0
Take home’s from the market: I’m not one to splurge at these kinds of places but I’ll budget a little just in case - $40
Total - $123
Do you have a way to cut costs even more? Throw your tips in the comments!