Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Medieval Times

There are some places that I've never been but always intend to go. And there are some places the wee ones keep asking to go - especially when we drive past them on a regular basis. Medieval Times is one of those places. I don't have a good reason for not having gone, just life getting busy and not paying attention. Needless to say, when I was offered the chance to attend Medieval Times for their opening night of the new show, I jumped at the chance.

The wee ones loved the idea of seeing the horses and jousting, although they didn't know what that was prior to seeing the show. They were also intrigued at the idea of eating with their fingers - but when it came time to do so, they weren't quite so sure about how to do it.

The pageantry of the show is a lot of fun, from the royal court welcoming everyone in to the show to the knight we're assigned to cheer for (based on seating, which isn't assigned until you enter the castle). The night started with a gorgeous horse entering the arena and cantering amidst the mist before performing some trained maneuvers.

The king's Lord Chancellor introduces all the knights, and there is a great parade of all the knights' entourages supporting them. It is a great display, and the wee ones were happy to see their Green Knight and cheer him on, especially as he came to our corner of the arena. The show is in an arena, with seats on all sides. The action is readily visible everywhere. We were sitting in a corner and could see quite well. The only part we couldn't see was the royal court who sat behind us, but that didn't hinder our enjoyment of the show.

After the parade, there was another show of horse with trained Pure Spanish Horses (which looked like Andalusians to me) who piaffed - a very difficult maneuver - jumped and more without riders, just their master of horse who kept them in line. The wee ones were fascinated by the bowing at the end of the show.

Up next was the falconer. His falcon traversed the arena and dove towards a target the falconer swung. It was amazing how fast the falcon can fly. I've never seen one in action before, and it was a cool and unique addition. We spoke some with the falconer before the show began, and we learned more about how falcons are trained and how they hunt. I had always thought that falcons brought the animal back, but instead the hunter goes to the falcon and exchanges a piece of meat for the animal the falcon took down.

A dressage demonstration was up next, with riders showing their precision as the horses danced in an organized show around the arena. Having ridden as much as I have, I know how difficult this is, and it was impressive to see them staying as in rhythm as they were.

Next up was the meat of the show - if you'll pardon my pun. The wee ones were so excited to see the knights come out. It wasn't purely jousting, as I had initially thought. There were also relay races and games of skill where the knights had to capture rings on their lances at full speed. I can only imagine the coordination that would require.

As part of the show, a barbarian came to offer a gift to the king, which was mildly rebuffed. He ended up challenging the winner of the jousting tournament and added a necessary good versus evil element to the show.

The jousting was impressive. It started with knights going one on one and shattering their lances as they attempted to unseat their adversaries. Once the knights were on the ground, it was a fight to the "death" with a variety of weapons. The winner of each round continued until there was only one champion remaining. While our Green Knight won his first round, he was sadly defeated in the end. We still cheered for the ultimate champion as he battled the barbarian, of course.

While all this was going on, we were also being fed our finger food. With Little Miss's dairy allergy, I was a little concerned that she would have a challenge eating. I was reassured before that night that she would receive a dairy free menu, and the night of I discovered that this meant she could actually eat the majority of the regular menu. I requested and received a copy of both the ingredients and a listing showing the common allergens in each food served. Shockingly, the only food she couldn't eat was the focaccia. There are also vegetarian and gluten free options, which is a wonderful and surprising treat.

The wee ones enjoyed the food. Mister Man loved the tomato bisque where he dipped his focaccia, and Little Miss loved it by itself, although I had to show her how to eat soup without a spoon! The chicken and rib and potatoes were also well-received by everyone, and the apple strudel (yes, also shockingly dairy free) was devoured. There is a ton of food served, and Medieval Times smartly provides containers to take leftovers home.

The only part of the evening that I didn't enjoy was the wait staff's emphasis on the fact that they should be tipped. When our waiter introduced himself, he made sure we knew that tip was not included in the cost of the ticket. He also mentioned it after serving the food. And at the end, he placed a tip holder in front of us, reminding us again that we needed to tip him as it wasn't included in the cost of the ticket. I would so rather pay slightly more for the ticket and have that be his "tip" than have it pushed in my face repeatedly throughout the night.

The new show is now available at all Medieval Times locations across the country (and Canada). It was a great family event, and there are constantly ticket coupons and specials available to make it even more affordable.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received complimentary tickets to Medieval Times for myself and the wee ones. I was not compensated for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

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