Upcoming Festivals: The Texas Renaissance Festival

Steven David Photography/Photo used with permission of the Texas Renaissance FestivalIf you’ve ever dreamed of being a knight in shining armor, a milk maid, a bar wench, a fairy, a wizard or a blacksmith you are not alone!  For the 37th year the nation’s largest Renaissance festival will take place just a short drive out of Houston.  This is a huge event that is held over 8 weekends starting October 8 through November 27 (also, Thanksgiving Friday).

This is not just a few booths selling stuff.  The festival takes place in a 55 acre “village” that seriously transports you back in time.  You’ll stroll the cobblestoned streets featuring over 300 shops and lots of street performances.  The TRF covers every detail to make sure that your experience is truly out of this era.  25 different “feasting” spots offer traditional pub fare, Alsatian foods (mmmm….schnitzel), and kids can enjoy BBQ dragon!  Of course, big turkey legs too like you couldn’t have guessed.  You can wash your hearty food down with some honeyed mead, port, hard cider and more as well as all kinds of non-alcoholic beverages.

Steven David Photography/Photo used with permission of the Texas Renaissance Festival

There are over 200 live performances daily, with turnout averaging around 45,000 visitors each weekend in 2010.  Each weekend of the event will be centered around a different theme including Oktoberfest, Pirate Adventure, 1001 Dreams (think sprites and elves), Christmas, as well as themes centered on different Medieval cultures.  You can get details on each weekend theme here. The festival is held in Plantersville which is about 35 miles out of Houston, heading out I45 towards Conroe.

Lots of folks make a full weekend of it and camp nearby.  Please note that there are numerous restrictions this year regarding camping and fires due to the severe drought conditions.  In addition, the Royal Fireworks Display will be replaced with a laser show.

As far as what to wear you can come in your plain, old every day festival wear of shorts and t-shirts but half the fun is coming in costume.  Kind of like going to a Trekkie convention in plain garb…you might get some funny looks for your “normal” attire (not really….Rennies are not quite as fanatical as Trekkies, but they’re close).  Steven David Photography/Photo used with permission of the Texas Renaissance FestivalSeriously, I don’t think there is a place or event that offers better people watching than the TRF.  Rennie’s are a bit enthusiastic about their costuming and the details are amazing.

For the kids there are over 40 attractions including games, activities and rides.  They can test their longbow skills, scale the castle wall, catapult into enemy camp, ride an elephant or camel and play tons of carnival games.

Ticket prices are typically $25 adult/$12 child but some discounts do apply to opening weekend, and advanced and on-line purchases.  Go here for the deets.  There are also festival packages available.

Step back in time in Old Town Spring

Several cities have an “Old Town” where tourists and locals can go to enjoy art galleries, shopping, and dining while wandering through quaint streets based on some historic reference.  Houston is no different.  If you’re looking to get away from the craziness of this big city, or need a great place to take out of town visitors, a short car trip will transport you back in time to Old Town Spring.  Old Town Spring is a historic railroad town that is one of Houston’s favorite spots to get out of town.  Visitors can walk around this quaint Victorian village, stroll through the numerous shops and galleries, check out some Civil War and area history at the local museums, and eat some great down-home food. The town is also a popular setting for special events such as weddings.

The Spring area was originally settled in the early 1800’s and established itself as a trading post with the indigenous Orcoquisac Indians.  As the railroads were constructed in Texas, “Camp Spring” was established as a homestead for the railroad workers.  Now, it’s just a great way to “get away” for the day…especially with cooler weather in our near future (if I say it, it will come true).

With the holiday season just around the corner, we thought now would be a good time to introduce our readers to Old Town Spring.  You can find something for everyone on your list while having a much more enjoyable shopping experience than what you could expect at the mall.  Antiques, clothing, jewelry ,chachkis, and more can be found along with some great places to eat or enjoy a drink.  They also have an awesome candy shop that features lots of old time favorites, homemade fudge, and everything else (think stocking stuffers!).

For you festival goers, be sure to mark your calendars for some of the great annual events hosted in Old Town Spring including the Springfest Art and Wine Festival (springtime), the Texas Crawfish Festival (May) and their Home for the Holidays Celebration which runs from November 12-Christmas featuring horse and carriage rides, strolling musicians, and of course…shopping!

Check out the Old Town Spring website for all of the details on driving directions, shops, restaurants, and event dates.

Festivals and Events: Austin City Limits Music Festival

OK you live music fans…it may seem a little early to be talking about the Austin City Limits Music Festival, but 3 day passes sell out fast so I wanted to give you the scoop before they go on sale (individual day passes are also available).  We already tried to get in on the early bird sale and despite all of our efforts, still didn’t get tix.  (Be sure to keep reading below and check out my “festival survival kit” which is invaluable for any sort of outdoor festival in Texas).

Zilker Park

If you’re a fan of public television, you’ve probably caught one of the ACL live shows.  Austin is in the top list of live music meccas in the country, and Austin City Limits is the first authority.  The ACL Music Festival is celebrating its tenth anniversary and although the line up is not yet out, like seasons before it is sure to be a doozy.

The festival is held each year in Austin’s Zilker park.  This year the dates are September 16-18.  Bummer that they aren’t keeping the October dates of last year which helped to assure slightly cooler weather, but even 100° weather isn’t enough to keep folks away.  Over the course of three days, over 100 bands share seven stages.  (My husband also wants to mention there is a plethora of veritable hotties in attendance…I’m sure he’s including me in the bunch.)  There is always a big closeout show on Sunday evening.  Past final acts have included Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty (made even more dramatic by the rolling in of a spectacular Texas thunderstorm), and Foo Fighters just to name a few.  Plus, there are a bunch of great lesser-known acts.  I always come home with a few additions to my music library.  Other bands over the years have included Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Lucinda Williams, Dave Matthews, G Love and Special Sauce, Gnarls Barkley, Norah Jones, Van Morrison, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and the list goes on and on and on.  Check out the Wikipedia entry for a pretty comprehensive list of past line ups. Continue reading

Upcoming Events: Galveston Mardi Gras

Come join the 12 days of revelry at one of Texas most popular annual events.  Mardi Gras 2011 runs from February 25 to March 28 (Fat Tuesday).

The Galveston Mardi Gras first began celebrating in 1867.  Festivities include parades, galas, live entertainment and more.  More than 250,00 people attend.

So get your beads and get to the beach!

Upcoming Events: San Antonio’s Fiesta is Just Around the Corner!

If you have been thinking about making a trip to San Antonio, April would be a great time!  Every year, for about two weeks, San Antonio becomes one big city-wide party.  Fiesta 2011 is from April 7 through April 17.

From several parades, including one on the Riverwalk, to great festivals, music and food, Fiesta showcases the cultural diversity and spirit of San Antonio.  All events are produced by  local non-profits so all event proceeds go to serve those living in the San Antonio area.

Because Fiesta is not just one event, I will tell you some of my favorite things to do and see.  Being a native San Antonian, I am well versed in “Fiesta stuff.”  I will TRY to be succinct, but with all that goes on during Fiesta, this blog may run a little long.   Check out the Fiesta official website to get ALL of the details.

Also, although most of the events are kid/family friendly and offer lots of kid activities and entertainment…it’s called Fiesta for a reason and there is a lot of partying going on.  I wouldn’t say things get as crazy as Mardi Gras, but just know there is a lot of drinking occurring at most of the festivals.

Coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo

Some of San Antonio’s debutantes attend the Court of the Order of the Alamo, which celebrates Texas’ struggle to gain independence from Mexico.  You will be completely awestruck by the detail and beauty of the Court’s gowns and trains as well as the pomp that goes along with this event.  This is a great family event, especially for those with little princesses in the house.  This is a reserved seating event, with admission from $12 to $44, so get your tickets early!  If you can’t make it, you can still enjoy the beautiful gowns at one of the parades.

Fiesta Oyster Bake

Held at the St. Mary’s University Campus and is typically one of the first festivals of the Fiesta season.  Lots of music, entertainment, and you guessed it….oysters!  If you’re not a bi-valve eater, not to worry….lots of other great festival food for the rest of you!

Cornyation

For you less reverent types, the Cornyation is a parody of the Order of the Alamo Coronation.  Definitely not one I would take the kiddos to, but it is great fun and hilarious to watch, unless you are easily offended.

NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio)

Pronounced neeh-OH-sa, this is hands down my favorite Fiesta event. You will never look at festival food the same way again.  NIOSA takes place at La Villita Plaza in downtown.  I would suggest trying to go with someone who knows the lay of the land, because it is not only crowded but very easy to get lost in.  Plus…there are certain food booths that you must try out while you are there including the “anticuchos,” “shy-poke eggs,” and “Maria’s tortillas.”  With over 250 food booths, you definitely want to make room for the “good stuff.”  Figure out why I love NIOSA?  Yup, the food.  Each section of La Villita represents a different ethnicity contributing to San Antonio’s cultural heritage.  And watch out for cascarones!  These confetti filled eggs are sold by the dozen and smashed on top of the head.  It usually takes me a couple of weeks to get all of the confetti out of my house after NIOSA.

The only bummer is that it is only for four days (April 12-15 this year) and runs Tuesday through Friday which can make it difficult for working out-of-towners.  If you can take off work on Friday, you will be glad you did!

Parades

There are several parades during Fiesta.  My two favorites are the Texas Cavaliers River Parade which takes place on the San Antonio River that runs through downtown and the Fiesta Flambeau parade which is especially beautiful because it is at night.

I am proud to be from San Antonio!  Get to Fiesta this year and see why!