1. Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time
I always recommend buying your passes ahead of time. Why spend time in another line if you can avoid it? Additionally, you can find discounted tickets online, as well, even generally the day you decide to attend. Save time, save money. Easy.
Scarborough’s website (as of 2022) recommends going to Albertsons and Tom Thumb to buy discounted tickets in person, as well.
They also offer military discounts, senior (65+) discounts, group discounts, and more.
2. Plan Your Garb
This festival occurs at a time of year when you can potentially experience everything from snow to rain to tornadoes to high heat. Be mindful of the weather and plan your garb accordingly.
Regardless of weather, I highly recommend always bringing a waterproof or treated parasol since it will come in handy. Especially if you are photosensitive, like I am. Additionally, while the walkways are well worn, they can be uneven and rocky. Be smart about shoe choice when considering not just the weather but also the terrain.
The festival is open rain or shine (or snow, but not tornado!), so plan your garb in layers. This is always a garb recommendation of mine. Be prepared to remove layers for weather or just general comfort accommodations.
Don’t have garb? Scarborough has costumes you can rent, or you can walk through the amazing shoppes and piece something together as you explore. That being said, don’t feel you need to go all out in full regalia on your first go. Start small with a piece or two that you really love and then continue to work on your garb over time.
3. Parking is Free, Get There Early
One thing I absolutely love about Scarborough is that parking is free. This helps financially and really adds to this festival being the most accessible one in Texas (in terms of cost and amenities).
Since parking is free, I highly recommend you arrive early. The parking lot is massive and the later you arrive, the longer that walk will feel at the end of the day.
PRO TIP: I tend to finish getting ready in the parking lot right by my car. This is a totally normal thing to do, so don’t think you need to sit in your car in full corset if that sounds terrible and uncomfortable. Corset up in the parking lot. Your ribs will thank me.
4. Make Sure You Bring Cash
Some vendors, activities, and food establishments are cash only. If you want that turkey leg and you want it now, better have cash on hand. While they do have ATMs on the grounds, those lines get really long, really fast. Of all the lines to wait it, avoid waiting in that one! Also, you’ll want to tip the acts you watch and that will obviously be cash only.
Truth be told, it’s also smart to be mindful that cellular and internet connectivity can be spotty at times during the Renaissance. Cash will likely be faster and more convenient for everyone.
5. Never Miss Opening Canon
I know, I know. But really, opening canon is a lot of fun. And if you are there to enjoy the start of day festivities, that also means you are there early and ready to enjoy the day with your awesome parking spot!
Really, though, it’s a great opportunity to see the King and Queen, as well as interact with some of the acts as they mingle with the crowd. Be warned, though, the canon is very loud.
6. Don’t Forget to Grab a Program
The first thing I purchase when I arrive at the festival is a program. Seriously, all these years later and I still buy one every single visit. First, it’s relatively inexpensive and also a really fun souvenir is you’re into collecting such things. Second, it’s a convenient way to have easy access to a map, list of vendors, as well as a schedule of all of the acts.
The program will also help you really plan out your day so you get the most out of your experience. Some shows occur more infrequently than others and some acts are only at Scarborough on specific weekends. All this info will be in that handy dandy $3 (as of 2022) program.
7. Cellular Connectivity is Spotty
Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. If you are banking on excellent cellular service while on the festival grounds, think again. Even if it looks like you have bars, they are often just lulling you into a false sense of security.
If you are with a group and split up, have a concrete plan for when and where you want to meet up again. That text or DM may or may not get to them until you reach better connectivity.
8. Research the Acts and Activities You Want to See
Check out the website and go to “Daily Schedule” to get a glimpse of the scheduled acts. They even let you sort by type of performance, like comedy, juggling, combat (or maybe all three at the same time!). They’ll even let you sort by PG-16 for better reference of acts that might not be little one friendly.
There are also lots of other activities you can partake in, like so many rides and games. My daughter loves any opportunity to ride on a boat that swings you high in the air. Truly fun for the whole family there and definitely worth the time (and cash).
My personal favorite stage and lane acts are:
- Birds of Prey, a beautiful interactive exhibition of birds hosted by The Royal Falconer and presented by Last Chance Forever Birds of Prey Conservancy.
- The Don Juan and Miguel Show, a comedy combat show that includes whips and maybe even a little danger.
- Cirque du Sewer, a comedy act that showcases that talents of trained vermin and felines alongside truly talented and hilarious humans.
- The London Broil Show, a comedy juggling act that involves some interactivity.
- The Rambling Sailors, a singing act offering sea shanties and wayfaring ditties.
- Sholo the Nubian, a dear friend who sadly passed away far too soon.
9. Save Money for the Shoppes
I love shopping. That’s no surprise. The opportunity to purchase super fun and unique things, while also supporting a maker and/or local vendor? Big bonus for me. You’ll definitely want to save some of the cash for the shoppes.
Keep in mind that many items you’re seeing are either handmade or small batch made domestically, so higher price tags will be warranted. It will help if you come with not just a budget in mind, but also an idea of what you want to buy.
Check out the website and go to “Shoppes” to get a glimpse of the shoppes located along the lanes of Scarborough. They even let you sort by type of shoppe, like apparel, artwork, service based shoppes like facepainting, or food (found under “Specialty Items”).
My personal can’t miss shoppes are:
- Lady McArthur’s Fiery Fare, a shoppe full of delicious (and spicy) jams, salsas and relishes. Oh, and they offer free samples!
- Medieval Moccassins, my favorite place to get a pair of faire shoes.
- Walkabout Jewelry, beautiful handcrafter jewelry for men and women. I especially love their rings and cuffs.
- Gilded Parasol, a parasol shoppe that will occasionally offer one-of-a-kind handpainted parasols that are absolutely gorgeous.
- Scarlett’s Corsets, the best underbust corset you’ll find at any renaissance festival.
10. Food Fit for a King
OK, the best part of the festival. Well, I guess that depends on the person, but really, the food at a renaissance festival is always a highlight and Scarborough does not disappoint.
Before I chat more about food, it’s important to note that Scarborough does not allow you to bring in your own food or drink (unless medically necessary, or you have an infant), so it’s smart to be a bit prepared regarding food, especially if you have any dietary restrictions.
Check out the website and go to “Food & Drink” to get a glimpse of the food options available at Scarborough. They even have a way to specifically look for gluten free and vegan food options, which are the most common dietary restrictions they accommodate.
My personal favorite places to eat are:
- The Bakery, which has reasonably priced baked goods and beverages. I especially love their cheddar rosemary scone and iced chai, when available.
- Royal Kitchen, they have a really refreshing fruit smoothie which is perfect for a hot day.
- Crown Kitchen, because you have to try a turkey leg. But seriously, they are huge. Enough to share, for sure.
- Village Kitchen, where you’ll find one of those Italian ices that are frozen in a real fruit cup make from an orange. Yum!