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Enjoying the renaissance festival with a special needs child
My husband and I had always been fans of renaissance festivals. We'd dress up and go to both of the ones in our area (Somerset, NJ and Tuxedo Park, NY) every year when we were dating. While some people may have stopped going when they got married and had a child with special needs, we instead figured out a way to make it work so we could all enjoy it together.
It's normally a long day, and depending on where you live and what festivals you go to, you may be dealing with hot summer days or cold winter ones. Just like any other outing, you may want to prep a backpack w a change or two of clothes, any special food or toys, or anything else to keep you child happy. Call ahead and talk to management if you need to bring special food or drinks for the event for your child. Generally, management is willing to accommodate you if you have evidence of a diagnosis that supports the request, so you may have to bring your paperwork with you. (We have been able to do this at every major venue we’ve gone to with our son.) If you prefer not to deal with the issue at all, you can also pack a picnic lunch and leave to eat at your car; just make sure you can re-enter the festival.
Take a picture
No one wants to think about a child getting lost, but it’s best to be prepared before it happens. To make sure we can provide an exact description and up to date picture for officials in case our son wanders or runs off, we always snap a picture of him with our phones in the parking lot when we arrive. That way, there won’t be any confusion if he gets lost in the crowd and everyone will know exactly what he looks like when they’re looking for him.
Most festivals have parking on grass or gravel, but they also often have handicap parking spots. Call ahead if you’re not sure. If you have a handicap tag for your child, this is a good time to use it; the shorter walk makes life much easier if your child decides he’s had enough and needs to leave NOW. Trying to wrangle an unhappy child through a parking lot that can be chaotic is much harder when you’re parked 14 or 15 rows out instead of only two or three.
Do you enjoy going to the Renaissance Festival with your children?
Bring family and friends
It may take a village to raise a child, and it also helps if you can bring a village with you. Lines can be long and boring. Bathrooms can be big or far away. Being able to share the responsibility can make the trip less stressful for everyone, plus there’s the added bonus of your child seeing correct behavior being modeled by others that he knows.
Know his – and your – limits
Are loud noises a no-no? Do you need to avoid crowds that accidentally touch and brush up against you? Are horses too scary to be anywhere near or perhaps too enticing to stay away from? Is three hours away from familiar “stuff” too long? When do you – or your child – need to rest? Maybe you won’t be able to shop at your favorite stall or go play the games that involve hitting a target with an axe or throwing tomatoes at a jester. It’s okay to test the limits sometimes, but consider the trade-offs. Pushing too many limits can make for a hard day with less fun and enjoyment.
Stay close by
We only live about two hours from the Texas Renaissance Festival, but knowing how long the day is when we get there, we’ve found that it’s worthwhile to find a hotel down the road from the festival. It lets us break up the drive from the rest of the trip, giving us all a break and allowing us to extend our visit. In our case, we can also use the local restaurants as rewards for good behavior, so that adds to the reasons to find a hotel.
Be ready to leave and “waste” money
Tickets aren’t cheap. A family of four could easily spend over $50 just to get in the gates. But sometimes you have to admit it’s a bad day and time to cut your figurative and literal losses. If the day is just going wrong and causing too much stress, it won’t be enjoyable. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to see if you can purchase a weekend pass, especially if you’re getting a hotel in the area. That way you can try again.
And it isn’t just the tickets that can cause wasted money. Food goes uneaten, “toys” are only cool at the festival or while the vendor is holding them, and rides that look like fun are too scary. And that’s okay. Don’t let any of it detract from the enjoyment you are getting. Always consider the overall experience. Is it worth it to “waste” money one year so that you leave with a positive outlook and try again?
Be willing to try new things
Who knew that our son would adore the big swings or the “boat” swing at the festival? We sure didn’t! But he pointed, and we thought, “why not?” Sure enough, he loved them both! We’d never tried either before, so it was a new experience for all of us. It’s best to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. They may become family favorites.