Ohio Renaissance Festival

Heather Weekley

"Don't let go of mommy's hand and hold on to your sword."

If there's ever a place where it is appropriate to utter that phrase, it's at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. Take a quick trip to Harveysburg for the festival (don't be confused by the Waynesville address - that's just for the GPS unit), and you'll see your fair share of children - and adults - wielding faux weapons.

The Ohio Renaissance Festival takes place this time each year, and it's not your average hometown fair. This fest operates like a well-oiled machine, which it has to be to handle the crowds that visit each weekend between Labor Day and the end of October. Since it only takes a little more than an hour to drive there from Columbus, you can easily make the experience a day trip.

You definitely don't have to be a Renaissance-era enthusiast to make the most of the festival, which caters to all ages. Here are some of the can't-miss highlights:

*Jousting: This is probably the first thing that pops into your mind when you think "renaissance festival," and here you're able to see it live and in person. Three times a day, you'll find a full-armor jousting battle. Here's a tip: Get to the Arena of Champions early to snag a seat. Otherwise you'll be standing along the perimeter, where it might be tough to see over the crowd. If you have fidgety children, know that the real action doesn't begin until a half-hour or so after the start time.

*Shows: There are 11 different stages located throughout the festival grounds with dozens of shows each day. Be sure to pick up a map when you enter - there's a complete schedule with shows and events described by stage and time. Families with older children might enjoy "The Swordsmen," which is the Renaissance version of slapstick humor.

*Food: Come hungry! The food booths and stands aren't hard to spot, and the prices are reasonable. Most items (in 2013) cost between $5 and $10, and options included chicken tenders and fries, mac and cheese, cheesecake, and of course, giant turkey legs. Adult beverages abound for moms and dads who want something refreshing.

*Souvenirs: Dressing up for the Ohio Renaissance Festival is not a requirement, but if you do want to outfit yourself and your family in themed duds, you'll find clothing, handmade jewelry, accessories and more to rent for the day or buy and take home. Some craftsmen even make goods right before your eyes.

Some other helpful hints? We've got 'em:

*The festival grounds form a big loop, which is walkable in 15 to 20 minutes. There are also paths that cut through the middle, so you can easily get across grounds.

*Seating is ample to enjoy those turkey legs or if your feet just need a rest. Look for picnic tables and benches scattered throughout.

*Many of the festival weekends are themed - visit the website for a full list - and include Romance Weekend and Oktoberfest Weekend. Budget-conscious families may want to visit during opening weekend. Kids 12 and younger get in free those three days only, when typically only those 5 and younger are free.