The Middle Ages was a time of exhilarating excitement, bloody battles, and awesome action that is, no doubt, one of the greatest periods in history. Though this era is now a thing of the past, its legacy and impact is still preserved through historical reenactments. Reenactments surface in a wide variety ranging from entertaining to educational. There are those seen at Renaissance fairs, and the like that blend history with fantasy with its aim of delighting its audience. Then there are those that are more than just a group of nerds in medieval leather armor playing with foam weapons, known as living history reenactments. The goal of this type is to accurately portray civilian life as it was in an authentic manner and its focus is not on public spectacle, but on ensuring the participants have a realistic experience. Both reenactment genres have their place and offer enlightenment, but let’s go back to the medieval leather armor and foam weapons for a moment to look at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, a reenactment experience fitting for the whole family.
Picture this – a replica 11th century castle in grand splendor. A cast of 75 dressed in medieval leather armor, steel armor, and other fashionable apparel of the Middle Ages. 20 horses doing tricks right in front of your eyes. A tasty period-style meal that’s guaranteed to beat anything you could get at McDonald’s. And an evening of medieval games, sword fights, and jousting matches keeping you on the edge of your seat all night. These are the elements that contribute to make Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament a popular attraction, with nine current locations throughout the United States and Canada, and a memorable evening of fun.
The evolution of Medieval Times is simple, yet interesting. The idea was sparked when a guy named Joe Montener started a medieval reenactment dinner theater on his own estate on the island of Majorca in the 1960s. This led to the formation of a private company, which eventually made its way to the United States and opened the first Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament establishment in Orlando in 1983. From there, its appeal spread and more locations were gradually put into place. While the general composition of the show remains intact, changes are made every 5 years.
Now that you have a bit of background on Medieval Times, you may be wondering about the show it’s self. To begin, you can expect to be greeted by jovial knights, serfs, wenches, and other animated characters upon arrival. It is also not uncommon for guests to come in costume, so feel free to sport that medieval leather armor and bring those LARP weapons and you’ll feel right at home. As guests are escorted into the arena, they are served bread and soup while they wait for the action to begin. As the show begins, the Lord Chancellor, who serves as the master of ceremonies, is introduced. Guests also get acquainted with the king, the princess, and the knights, as back stories for these characters are revealed. Next comes the part of the show where the horses get to show off their skills with the Trot in Place, the Passage, and the Capriot. After this is finished, dinner is served which consists of chicken, corn, and potatoes.
After the meal is served, the competition starts to heat up. Guests behold knights on horseback playing games such as flag passing and throwing lances through rings. Knights also try to knock each other off their steeds. These games are thus followed by the jousting matches. Play continues until the last knight falls and he is declared the winner. The night ends with a celebration and guests are then ushered out with hearty farewells by the cast.
While Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament may not be the most historically accurate reenactment, it will give you a taste of what the Middle Ages may have been like to some degree. Think of it as a highlights version of the medieval period, encompassing the most thrilling aspects of the time. So, gather your medieval leather armor, weapons, and game face and check out Medieval Times at some point. It will remind you why the Middle Ages is such an endearing part of our history!