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What and where
Camlann Medieval Village, Carnation, Wash.
Camlann is not a typical Renaissance Fair — it's a living museum (their term). This is a hand-built facsimile (down to the forged hinges on the shutters) of a 14th-century British village. It's in a lovely setting in the woods — an easy 45-60 minute drive from Seattle.
We went on a summer weekend day during the Harvest Festival, so the village was busy with activities and craftsmen/women. Children were singing medieval songs and a man in armor explained how sword fighting worked. These are not actors but actual working people making things who are incredibly knowledgeable about their area of expertise: blacksmiths, leather workers, calligraphers. The selling of crafts is a minor focus, though there are cool things to buy. The food is decent, too. My 6-year-old daughter was captivated by the entire experience. This is NOT passive entertainment — there are many opportunities to try things. We wish there were more! It's also very relaxing and shaded in the village. A nice way to spend the day.
The restaurant at Camlann (Bors Hede) is NOT a Disneyland restaurant. It's run primarily by volunteers making food from the 14th century so it's not efficient. The day we went (during the Harvest Festival), we didn't get into the dining hall even though we were with a party that made a reservation. But we made a nice meal out of the meat and veggie pies they served in the village square. Some of the other visitors didn't quite get into the spirit; they were upset that the restaurant couldn't feed them quickly. (So some of the other visitors were a downside.)
The only other caveat is that we left wishing they gave us more things to do — like card wool or make pinch pots or sort things. Minor quip, of course. Note that since much of Camlann is staffed by volunteers, some days will be slower than others; the liveliest days will be the festivals.
If you go ...
Age recommendation: 3-100
Tips: We went during the Harvest Festival, so had lots to do and look at. Make sure you go when there is something going on or it might be too quiet. Check out the website for schedule; they have village days and festivals and feasts year round. Bring your own food (and water) unless you are patient. They only take cash or checks.
Cost: At festivals, adults are $10; kids and seniors $6; kids ages 5 and under are free. Evening feasts are extra.
Upcoming events: Camlann is open for Village Days, the last two weekends in September, with demonstrations, presentations and the opportunity to eat at the Bors Hede restaurant from noon to 3 (make reservations).
On Sept. 27 and 28, you can attend Michelmasse, a new festival, from noon–5 p.m.
Restaurant: The Bors Hede restaurant on site is open year-round, Wednesday through Sunday, 5 to 7 p.m. Make reservations at 425-788-8624. Tickets are $45 a person for the feast.