Mermaids and fairies and unicorns, oh my!

We took the kids to the Renaissance Festival last Sunday, and what a grand time they had! We try to head out every fall, and this trip was our best one yet.

(FYI: Parents, you have one more weekend to hit it up. It runs through Sunday, Sept. 30. Kids 4 and under are free.) 

It warmed my heart to see Archie in our trusty Peter Pan costume, which doubles as Robin Hood at the RenFest.

He is our third consecutive kid to wear it -- ever since Maria became enamored with Peter Pan as a toddler. Oh the memories! 

The folks at the RenFest are so friendly, quick to compliment any kid in a costume -- however makeshift or nebulous it may be. It put extra pep in their step. 

We had (loosely): a fairy princess, a mermaid and Peter Pan. Fairy crowns for both girls and a feathered hat for Archie! 

Here we are in the mermaid cove, which has been the biggest draw for our girls over the years. There's something magical about the speckled sunlight in that beautiful little cove.

 This year, for the first time (to my recollection) there was a mer-man in the mix. You can kind of see him, popping out with a friendly wave between the girls. 

My favorite part is the mermaid at the end, in the water. As I've blogged before, there's something about seeing a costumed mermaid in water that really boosts its credibility. (That's partly what made Maria's mermaid-themed birthday party so incredible!) 


She gives a special souvenir -- a mermaid gemstone -- to each young visitor. These are prized possessions in our house! 

Next we strolled through the nearby Fairy Wing Forest. Somehow, this has eluded us in years past.

It was perfect for our imaginative, fairy-believing girls: a vast and understated grove where attentive kids could spot plenty of little fairy clues tucked along the way. Sometimes the hint of a fairy is just as exciting as the real deal. My girls revel in the possibility! 

We took our time in the forest, playing a memory game, snacking on complimentary apples and making a little yarn art project. 

Toward the end, we encountered a few fairies. This fairy princess, who explained that she was normally tiny but had just been enlarged, enchanted the girls. 

Maria recited our address to her in hopes she will pay us a visit. 

At 5, Maria enjoyed the people watching more than ever before. There are SO many interesting costumes to take in, many involving a mix of her favorite dress-up elements: crowns and capes, wings and gowns. There's no wrong way to style yourself at the RenFest; creativity counts! 

We happened to go on Pet Fest weekend, which meant there were oodles of pooches in tutus, much to the girls' delight. And the dog of choice, among RenFest goers, appears to be the husky. Archie pointed out every single one. 

Our final stop was the Children's Realm. Located on other site of the grounds, we'd never visited it before, but I was in search of the unicorn, which debuted last year.  

The Children's Realm includes an animal-balloon booth for $2-$4 (we passed) and free fairy wands where you can pick out the color of your curling ribbon. 

There's also a play space near the unicorn, which the kids enjoyed.

Magic the Unicorn was a hit. Maria asked if the spotted miniature pony was real and seemed to accept the owner's answer: "Yes, everything here is real." 

She certainly believed that to be true of the mermaids and fairies, so she took the unicorn in along with them. 

The best part was how mellow Magic is. That's her magical ability, the owner told Maria, who had inquired: She lets every kid pet her.

Jane fell in love.

All three kids felt comfortable petting the short, subdued pony -- even Archie, with a little guidance from Dad. 

(How cute is he in those tights?!)

Right before we left, a woodland fairy of some sort plopped down in front of the girls and invited them to become forest rangers, giving them each a woven bracelet and instructing them to follow the two rules of forest rangery: be kind to animals and pick up trash. 

She didn't have any discernible wings but a quirky accent and green paint all over her skin. She was such a delight! 

Mermaids and fairies rank high for our girls, but part of what makes the RenFest so fun is its range of unclassifiable creatures -- some with horns and accents and interesting body paint. Scattered throughout that sprawling, sun-speckled village, popping out behind trees, singing and dancing at random and greeting children with great enthusiasm, the entire scene bursts with wonder. 

Now that we have a kindergartener attending five consecutive days of school, I feel a heightened obligation to make the most of our weekends.

The RenFest certainly served that purpose! The girls are already planning for next year's trip. They want Ted and me to wear costumes too! 



 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and three young children in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at