(credit: Minnesota Renaissance Festival)

Hear ye, hear ye, it’s time for that hallowed annual tradition, the transition from summer to fall, from vacation to school! No, it’s not the Minnesota State Fair (fun as that is). I’m talking about the Renaissance Festival, which starts before the Fair and runs for almost a month after it. In fact, it’s a great way to ease your kids back into the school routine: get them through a week or two, then promise them a trip back in time, full of knightly jousting, splendid costumes and giant turkey drumsticks. It’s the perfect way to spend an autumn weekend.

The Renaissance Festival, which opens Aug. 20 and runs weekends through Oct. 2 (along with Labor Day and Friday, Sept. 30), has a wide range of activities and events, some of which are great for kids, but some is not. Here are the things to look for when planning your trip with impressionable minors.

Every weekend has a different theme and there are kid-friendly events tied to those themes:

8/20-21, Italian Carnivale:
• What kid would pass up the chance to enter a spaghetti-eating contest?
• Join in the bocce ball tournament!
• Horse lovers will want to attend the Arabian Horse Show
8/27-28, Royal Ale Fest:
• The 5th Annual Pet Fest is the offset to the other, more-adult-oriented activities. You can bring the family dog, provided you download the permit application and follow the rules here. A doggie costume contest and a disc dog demos are highlights
9/3-5, Silk Road, Discover the Riches:
• Lots of special events to watch, including a longbow competition and a belly dance completion
9/10-11, Highland Fling:
• Learn how to dance with highland dancers
• Sign up for the children’s caber toss
• Watch the highland games competitions

(credit: Minnesota Renaissance Festival)

9/17-18, Wine, Chocolate and Romance:
• No, the kids can’t drink wine, but they can eat chocolate—and try to win the chocolate pie eating contest
• Grape stomp (Bring spare clothes!)
9/24-25, High Seas Adventure:
• Pirates rule! And there will be pirate games galore
9/30, Festival Friday:
• This is a day specifically designed for visiting schools, but it’s open to the public. There will be many kid-friendly (even educational!) events and classes
10/1-2, Shamrocks and Shenanigans:
• Irish music
• Irish dancers
• Harvest market

There are also several acts and events that occur every weekend. Who doesn’t love a good knightly jousting match? The Renaissance Festival offers them three times each day. Or maybe you’ve got a budding Anglophile on your hands, in which case make reservations in advance for the daily Queen’s Tea.

(credit: Minnesota Renaissance Festival)

Franko the Hypnotist will get people to do his (sometimes hilarious) bidding. The Fandazzi Fire Circus will dazzle and amaze your kids with their daring. Robin Hood and his merry band will entertain and amuse. Zilch the Tory Steller (think about it) will teach your kids how to leak in a spifferent danguage—or in some kind of language.

The brave at heart can try riding an elephant or a camel, or get some quality time in on the trampolines—or enjoy a great round of Tomato Justice.

Very young children will love visiting the Children’s Realm, an area with gentle but fun activities and entertainment, including free wand making, shepherding demos, a parade, and a children’s knighting ceremony.

Food choices are abundant, and there should be something for everyone, everything from the ever-popular turkey drumstick to fried pickles to fish & chips to scones to elephant ears to Scotch eggs to the Queen’s caramel apple.

There’s so much to see, do, and eat that your kids — and you — will easily forget about that pesky school week to come.

Amy C. Rea lives with her family in the Twin Cities. She’s the author of Backroads & Byways of Minnesota and Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes: an Explorer’s Guide. She can also be found chatting about Minnesota travel topics at http://www.flyover-land.com.