We were invited to tour the Baltimore/DC Medieval Times castle, and couldn’t say no! Read on to find out why we love this attraction and what makes it great for a family day out.
By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
The jousting, the feeling of traveling back in time, the novelty of eating a meal just with your hands… Whatever initially draws you to Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, when you leave, chances are good that you and everyone else will feel the same: energized, happy, and ready to visit again soon.
Medieval Times is a national chain of attractions offering dinner and a unique show (in fact, it is North America’s longest running and most popular dinner attraction). Guests enjoy an evening of super-fun, high-quality, family-friendly entertainment inspired by royal days of past. There are nine Medieval Times locations — make that “castles” — in North America, including the Baltimore/DC area castle located in Hanover, Maryland.
We recently visited the Maryland castle for the second time (we also have been to the Orlando, Florida, venue) and it was just as exciting as our first visit. After all, you witness live jousting, swordplay, horsemanship, and even a bit of falconry, all while cheering for your knight. Based on our visits, especially this most recent one, we want to share with you some of the things that make Medieval Times so unique — and present a special offer for our readers!
First, the medieval theme is present throughout the facility and the show. The entertainment complex is inspired by an 11th century, European-style castle, as is clear from the exterior of each Medieval Times venue. After you get your tickets, you enter the Hall of Arms, full of medieval artifacts including knights in armor, swords and other weapons, and coats of arms — it’s a mini museum,. This is a very large room with high ceilings, with decor and dim lighting to set the ambiance. Here you also will find full-service bars and several gift shops, offering just about anything, from light-up wands and toy for kids to costumes (for both kids and adults) and fine gifts.
By then, you will have received your paper crown indicating which “realm” you belong to. When the show is about to begin, royal trumpeters announce the call to the feast, summoning guests to take their seats in the arena. Once inside, guests are greeted by King Don Carlos and Princess Catalina, who invite them to share in a regal banquet and cheer for their own knight. Guests cheer for one of six “Knights of the Realm,” named after historic regions of medieval Spain; the Medieval Times arena is set up so that three regions are on either side. Even the youngest guests will have no trouble following along and rooting for their knight, since the announcer calls them out by name (“the blue knight,” “the red and yellow knights,” and so on).
An exciting show
Early on in the show you will see some of the beautiful horses “dance” around the arena. Then there is a brief, exciting demonstration by a falconer that has the falcon fly around the arena. Kids (and grown-ups!) will be wide-eyed as this powerful and majestic bird swoops across the crowd but then gently goes back to its handler. Then the main attraction begins.
In the new production, the Herald of the North delivers a gift to King Don Carlos that could unite two kingdoms together forever, or forever cause two kingdoms to be joined in battle. Lord Chancellor leads the cast through a spectacular display of equestrian skills and medieval pageantry and then the Tournament of Games starts. the knights on their horses compete in games of skill, such as the ring pierce, flag toss, and javelin throw. Throughout the events, your knight comes close to your section to show his appreciation and may throw flowers at the crowd.
You’d be surprised at how “into it” you can get. The first time we went, and each time we’ve gone, we have cheered for our knight as if we were rooting for our college or hometown team during a sporting event. As with any sporting competition, vendors will come around selling items, but it’s always with a non-intrusive, low-pressure approach, and the items are of good quality. A flag with the symbols for your region (about $10) is made of a 12″ X 18″ fabric and set on a very solid dowel so it makes for a nice souvenir.
Throughout the performance you can get a great view of the entire arena: seating is set up on elevated rows so no one’s view is blocked (think of stadium seating but with regular chairs and long tables). As the battles ensue, knights engage in authentic jousting matches and sword fights. Knights are eliminated in various rounds until the last two battle and a victor emerges. The intensity of the games increases as the night goes on. Before the sword battles begin, protective nets are lowered on both sides of the arena but you still get a great view. During each activity, squires set up the games and help out the knights.
We have visited Medieval Times with family and friends in age from seven to seventy-something, and everyone has had a great time. The show is not scary but it can get intense at times, and very sensitive children may need to be reminded that it’s all pretend play: a friend in our last group is, at age 9, a “big girl” already, but still started to get tense at the end of the show, worried that the knights would be hurt.
The show, of course, is carefully planned out and choreographed, so the knights know what to expect and it’s all safe. That said, yes, knights perform with real metal weapons and wear authentic armor. During battle scenes, real titanium swords create sparks. When jousting, the knights charge at speeds of approximately 15-20 miles per hour and reach an impact velocity speed of about 30-40 miles per hour. This is part of what makes the show so exciting!
Knights are not the only stars of the show. The beautiful and highly trained horses are the co-stars here, performing not just in battle scenes and jousting but showing off their moves in dressage sequences.
A royal meal
Guests enjoy the show while feasting on a four-course banquet served in true medieval fashion. That means no silverware! This is not as messy as it might seem: each person is served individually and the food is easy to eat. The four-course dinner consists of soup served in a bowl that you can pick up and sip from and a large piece of chicken, corn on the cob, half of a baked potato, garlic toast, and dessert (pastry or cake). You’ll get a wet wipe at the beginning and a larger, warm wipe at the end of your meal to clean your hands.
The food is good and filling, and since everyone gets served the same amount, you may have some leftovers to take home (especially if kids don’t finish their meal). Medieval Times is very accommodating to those with food restrictions: we once got a fruit cup in lieu of the pastry and it ended up being a sizeable bowl of fresh fruit. There are also vegetarian options for those who can’t eat chicken. Keep in mind that your food won’t come all at once so you will need to eat the items one at a time or risk having some go cold if you wait to have everything on your plate.
Throughout the night, serfs and wenches bring the food and two rounds of drinks (water, soda, or iced tea) plus coffee. Someone also will come take orders for alcoholic beverages from the bar, so you never have to leave your seat. The service has been great every time that we have gone, and in keeping with the royal theme, staff will always address you as “my lord” or “my lady.” When the tournament ends, guests can get autographs and mingle with cast members.
A great offer
Are you ready to get the royal treatment yourself? The Baltimore/DC castle is just about an hour from Northern Virginia. This is an indoor, climate-controlled facility that you can visit year-round (days open vary by location).
And between now and February 28, 2017, you can take advantage of a special offer: tickets are $36.95 per adult and $29.95 per child (age 12 and under) with the code MT3629 through 2/28/17. This is a great savings off the regular price of $59.95 for adults and $36.95 for children. Before you go, see some other good tips (and fun facts!) below.
- All Medieval Times knights begin their training as squires – just as they did in the Middle Ages – learning horse care, sword fighting, and weaponry. It takes a minimum of six months of training to become a knight, and no prior experience with horses is necessary.
- Knights perform with real weapons and every shield must be repainted after every show.
- Medieval Times is the top breeder of pure Spanish horses in North America. Each year, 25 foals are born at Chapel Creek Ranch, where they spend two years training.
- The horses enjoy retirement at the ranch after 15 to 20 years of performing, where they receive all the food, comfort, veterinary care, and socializing that they need.
- Each arena is filled with about 4,455 cubic feet of sand, about the load of 10 dump trucks.
- Medieval Times has its origins in dinner and entertainment show in Majorca and Benidorm, Spain.
- The Baltimore castle measures 65,000 square feet inside and can accommodate 1,000 guests per performance.
- The horses in the show are are Andalusian and Friesian stallions.
Tips for attending
- Shows are about two hours long so keep this in mind when visiting with young children (an afternoon show may be better than an evening one).
- The castles offer group packages and VIP upgrades with priority seating and other perks.
- The ticket booth opens just about an hour before each show and lines can get long, so buy your tickets in advance, if possible.
- The Baltimore/DC area castle is in Arundel Mills, a busy area with a mall, the Maryland Live! casino, and restaurants. Give yourself enough time to find parking, and enter through the mall’s side close to the castle.
- Get there early to enjoy the artifacts throughout, meet some of the cast, and maybe watch a “knighting” ceremony.
- This show is great for people of all ages, so it’s good for anytime, but also a nice option if you have family visiting.
- Stay a bit after the show when they start to clean up, and you may get a glimpse of a “medieval Zamboni” like the one pictured below!
Thanks to Medieval Times Baltimore/DC and to US Family Guide for inviting us for a great night out!
Disclosure: My group received a tour and complimentary admissions to Medieval Times to facilitate this review. We have been previous customers and the opinions expressed here are my own. #MTFan
Photos (c) P. Hall