I visited the Central Florida area for the very first time in 1989, shortly after moving to South Florida from Texas. As my parents drove down 192 toward Walt Disney World, one sight stood out… a castle! Before I even caught my first glimpse of Cinderella Castle, I was completely enchanted by Medieval Times. Every time I returned for a Disney visit, I admired that castle as we drove past – and I longed to walk across that drawbridge and venture inside. Last night, that long-standing dream finally came true, and it was every bit as magical as I imagined it would be!
Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament was founded in Kissimmee in 1983 – the first of nine locations in the United States and Canada. The Kissimmee location is also home to eight “cottages” that combine to make the Medieval Village adjacent to the castle.
TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Advance reservations are generally a wise idea as this ever-popular experience frequently sells out. On this night, there were two shows (6:00pm and 8:30pm), and both were filled to capacity. Pre-booking through the Medieval Times Website also allows you to peruse special offers for potential discount opportunities! It is highly recommended that you check in as soon as you arrive, as seating is first-come, first-served. But rest assured – there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Plan to arrive up to an hour in advance of your show time for a chance to explore the property. As majestic as the castle is, it is not the only building to discover! Remember that Medieval Village I mentioned earlier? Personally, it reminded me of the old world Spanish architecture of St. Augustine! And there is a good reason for the similarity – the Medieval Village is not simply a twelfth-century replica… it was actually relocated to Florida from Majorca, and it’s as genuine as it looks! I could have easily spent more than an hour just wandering around the Village, soaking up the beautiful construction of the buildings, and the authentic history they contained.
As you weave through the cottages and the courtyard, you’ll encounter the artisans and craftspeople of the village. Most are eager to share stories and demonstrations of their “trades”. Among the buildings, you’ll find a seamstress, basketry, blacksmith, carpenter’s workshop, and more. Many of their tools and creations are hundreds of years old! Enjoy the following sights from around the village (click on any photo for full-size)…
You’ll have a new appreciation for modern conveniences after visiting the village kitchen, complete with a medieval-era winery!
The Torture Chamber was both intriguing and eerie. Illustrations and informative plaques explain how these devices were used for punishment and shaming. While I’m not one to support such measures, there’s no denying the creative craftsmanship that went into these ghastly tools of discipline. You’ll certainly reconsider the modern definition of corporal punishment after a this peek into the past!
MAKING YOUR WAY TO THE DINING HALL
Once your tour of the village is complete, make your way to the castle. When you checked in, you were given a card for each member of your party. This card determines your seating by color and number. The color designates your section, grouped according to the Knight you will be cheering on. The number indicates your table. Tables are lined in grandstand style rows on either side of the tournament viewing area.
You first present your cards as you begin to enter the castle, just past the ticket booths. Here, you’ll receive your crown, displaying the color of your Knight. There are six Knights – Yellow, Black and White, Red, Blue, Red and Yellow, and Green. Once you proceed to the main hall, you’ll find the gift shops and bar area. I wasn’t really able to explore this as I would have liked. Though it is a gorgeous, open area, everyone waiting for entry to the tournament is corralled in this space. It filled up very quickly, leaving little room to move about. I was also accompanied by my highly claustrophobic daughter, so my focus shifted to calming her until we were able to move on. I did take notice of an area where souvenir photos were taken (available for purchase before show’s end), and I have to admit… though I cannot remark on pricing of souvenirs, the selections seemed both abundant and very appealing. Lord Chancellor appears above the main tunnel entry to the dining hall when it is time to be seated, calling groups of guests by their assigned color, and table.
His Majesty’s Royal Feast is exactly that – fit for a King! This four-course ensemble is a splendid example of delectable gluttony. In fact, it’s finger-licking good… you know, they didn’t have forks and knives in medieval times, so be prepared to evoke your inner barbarian! Dinner starts with a piping hot bowl of tomato bisque soup. Three out of four members of my family don’t normally do soup, but two of the three of the naysayers quickly became “yea-sayers” with just one taste. This was followed-up promptly by fantastic garlic bread. The main plated attraction included buttery corn on the cob, a perfectly seasoned crisp-shell halved potato, and the most flavorful oven-roasted chicken I’ve ever enjoyed. Dessert consisted of a warm, flaky apple turnover.
While I won’t provide a blow-by-blow of the show’s events, I will say that it was masterfully choreographed, and flawlessly executed. There was no weak link in the cast of characters, and the excitement level in the room was electrifying!
Lord Chancellor serves as the announcer throughout the tournament. Aside from the six Knights of the Realm, of course you can expect to be joined by Princess Catalina and the King, Don Carlos. Pay close attention to the Herald of the North, and be wary of his intentions! Last but not least, you’ll be astounded by the captivating displays by the animals rounding out the cast. Led by the Royal Falconer, the high-flying falcon is sure to leave audiences spellbound as he makes his breathtaking flight around the building. Throughout the evening, you’ll be treated to periodic demonstrations by the Spanish Horse Stallions, who will certainly dance and prance their way into your heart.
The show includes jousting, sword-fighting, and Medieval games, as guests are encouraged to cheer on their Knight to victory again and again. Sparks will fly (literally) as blades meet shields in the final battles, until one by one, the falling Knights meet their demise.
All in all, the show lasts about two hours. That’s an extensive time frame for such non-stop action and heart-stopping dramatics! I don’t think my son stopped smiling for a moment of it. In fact, I haven’t seen my entire family so intensely tuned-in to anything in a very long time. The only thing that I could possibly name as a drawback is the sheer level of obstructive activity in the stands throughout the performance. I can certainly understand the servers making frequent appearances… they have a job to do, after all… and they were generally pretty speedy about working their way through the serving processes. What I cannot understand or excuse is the level of audience roaming. As you will see in the following video clips, there was a pretty constant flow of guests on the move. Keep in mind, these are the two videos I sorted out with the least obstruction. What you won’t see are the people seated in front of us that seemed to be doing some strange yoga-like acrobatics over the seat-backs throughout the entire show. It seemed that we missed the end of nearly every battle as people were strolling to and fro. This is nothing that the venue can be faulted for, of course… but it is something to expect and be prepared for. Frankly, there was nothing short of a four-alarm fire that could have lured me from my seat for a moment!
I can easily see why Medieval Times has such longevity. It is timeless, and undeniably thrilling. The food was of higher quality than most area dinner shows, and the performances were much more impressive than I expected. I do not know how these fine performers execute these maneuvers in such a realistic manner without dramatic injury being a constant result. I gasped more than a few times! I now regret more than ever not experiencing this sooner, and I absolutely cannot wait to do it all again. Our Green Knight put forth a fine performance, but on this night, it was the Blue Knight who stole the show. We’ll see whose side we’re on next time, and how that round unfolds!
For more information, special offers, and updates, follow Medieval Times on Twitter and Facebook. This is also a wonderful way to take notice of the numerous community and charitable initiatives that Medieval Times takes part it on a constant basis. Aside from being notable performers and courteous hosts, this company is filled with fine hearts and a true dedication to animals, children, and the community at large.