med times

Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament: A Retrospective

I’ve known about Medieval Times for a long time now. In my youth, friends would go to birthday parties there and talk of knights jousting and eating with their hands, but I never had the opportunity to go. So recently, given the chance, I embarked on a trip to Medieval Times in Lyndhurst with some co-workers. For all those that presume that the place is for children, you have to remember, kids have parents and every place that is kid-friendly needs something for their parents or guardians, i.e. a bar. So naturally, a group of adults, met with flashing plastic swords and scurrying children, headed straight for the bar for some respite. But one quickly eases into the scene, embracing a role in the play that is Medieval Times.

If you’ve never been, here is what you can expect:

Upon entering, your group is given a color. This color represents the kingdom you belong to and therefore, which knight to cheer on. Your knight has allies and enemies and when they enter the field of battle, you give them the support that you would your favorite sports team. What surprised me about the tournament aspect was that it was actually a play of sorts. I was expecting sword fights and jousts but in addition to this, received a full production with a story and dialogue, making it that much more engaging. Essentially, the story is that the King is holding this tournament, having called upon knights from his and neighboring kingdoms to to fight and prove themselves as warriors. Sort of like gladiators, but they also do cool stuff with horses.

There is of course, a villain, plenty of dramatic music, and a climactic finale where the tournament’s victor fights the villain. The choreography is pretty impressive. It’s obvious the performers put a great deal of training into these performances, which are physically grueling. I’m curious how they decide the outcome of the tournament. There is perhaps some chance, as there is a trick competition where the competitors try to get their lances through a small ring hanging from a string. The outcome of that determines who fights who and it goes from there.

Medieval Times probably comes off as a bit hokey if you’ve never been, and in a way that’s its inherent charm, much like renaissance fairs or larping. So similarly, if you want to have a good time, you’ve got to let go of those preconceived notions and allow yourself to get sucked into the action and play along. Follow these instructions and you will have a good time. Now, go forth and be merry.