SoCal Adventure: Medieval Times and more…

After five days of relatively non-stop adventures — catch up here: Orange County, San Diego Harbor , LegolandSan Diego Bus Tour and Disneyland & Disney’s California Adventure — we all needed some down time and that slower pace ended up characterizing the second half of our trip.

We’ve done this sort of trip before and I thought I’d planned for sufficient relaxation, but apparently it was less than my kids really needed. If you’ve read the previous installments, you already know that the little one, K-, got sick to her stomach after eating lunch at a Subway in San Diego. Fortunately, as is typically the case with (presumed) food poisoning, it’s a quick experience and she was fine within a few hours.

My 13yo son G-, however, contracted a head cold while we were jammin’ through Disneyland and while I’m sure he’d agree it was worth it, the next day was a long one with some very tired campers who weren’t motivated to do much of anything other than lay around our hotel room. Fortunately, Howard Johnson Anaheim has nice big rooms and a great pool complex, but it was a long, slow day.

In fact, it was so leisurely that I started to worry that our tickets to dinner and the show at Medieval Times that evening would end up unclaimed as my children insisted they’d rather stay in the room. When the evening rolled around, fortunately, they were all eager to go have another adventure and we all ended up quite glad we went.

I’ve always been fascinated by the medieval era, with its castles, knights, royal families, wizards and court intrigue. Fertile ground for great stories and I have many times shared my love of King Arthur and the like with my children, especially using medieval knights as a launching point for discussions with my son about honor and trust. If you’re a Knight of the Round Table, you’re going to be faithful and honorable above all else. A far cry from our modern “whatever you can get away with” culture.

Though I’d seen advertising fliers and billboards for the Medieval Times show for as long as I can remember, I’d never actually gone and so was a bit leery of the kitsch factor and whether it would keep the attention of my kids. It’s a “dinner theater” but the show is really far more dramatic and engaging than that suggests, as you can see in this photo:

We were part of the Green Knight's province!

When you arrive, you’re assigned one of six Spanish provinces. We were green, supporting the Green Knight of Leone. Other knights represented the other areas and the theme is that it’s a tournament for the amusement of King Don Carlos and his lovely daughter, the Princess Catalina.

(The six provinces are represented thusly, if you’re curious and a student of Spanish history: The Black & White Knight is Don Iofre Santa Creu, defender of Santiago de Compostela, The Blue Knight is Don Alberto del Mau, defender of Valiente, The Red & Yellow Knight is Lord del Font, defender of Perelada, The Yellow Knight is Don Eduardo del Rey, defender of Navarre, The Red Knight is Baron Ruiz de Roig, defender of Castilla and The Green Knight is Don Temple, defender of Leone)

Sir Richard, Lord Marshal explains what’s going on and narrates the more confusing moments, and we first meet him with quite dramatic lighting that offers a glimpse of the showmanship of the entire Medieval Times experience:

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Dinner is served by wenches and seemed to be all you can eat. Standard fare was vegetable soup, followed by a quarter of baked chicken, a spare rib, bread and a half-potato, followed by an apple turnover for dessert. Beverages are included unless you want something alcoholic, in which case you need to pick up the additional tab. I opted for iced tea, and the kids all stuck with water.

We quite liked the meal, though the soup tasted mysteriously like Ye Olde Cambell’s Vegetable Soupe in my opinion. The chicken? Perfectly cooked and quite tasty: even my two little ones happily dug in and ate quite a bit. Oh, did I mention there are no utensils? That’s fun too, it’s not often we eat in such a messy fashion. My 16yo, A-, opted for the veggie meal and that was a tasty veggie medley served over rice with, yes, a spoon. She ate it all and declared it fit for a queen, a regal accomplishment in and of itself! 🙂

During the meal the show continues, including the arrival of a representative from the kingdom to the north, accompanied by boos and hisses from us in the peanut gallery. And there was pageantry, as you’d expect:

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The Knights each faced great physical challenges to prove themselves worthy of the Princess, including some well choreographed sword fights — with sparks flying each time the swords clashed! — and, my favorite, some surprisingly high energy jousting:

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I was frankly unsure how the kids would relate to this completely analog experience. It’s not participatory (other than cheering your knight), there are no computer displays, no special effects, no “Disney” touches. Just showmanship, a well rehearsed set of fights and a lot of well trained horses. More melodrama than drama.

And yet, the kids loved it. In fact, by the middle of the two-hour show, G- was up on his feet cheering on The Green Knight, as we all lustily yelled our support as he vanquished his foes and brought honor to our corner of the tournament arena.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Medieval Times. It was bigger, more engaging, more fun, and more engrossing than I ever expected, and my kids agree that it was one of the best things we did on our Southern California vacation. It costs more than dinner for four at Denny’s, of course, but it’s an evening show, an event that will have your kids talking for years, making it well worth the approx $50/person ticket fee.

We made our way post-tourney back to HoJo and enjoyed the pool again, followed by watching the Disneyland fireworks show from our balcony. A good view, though definitely not as good as when we were on Main Street in the park itself the previous day.

The next few days were more wind-down than anything else, with our low key activities including a few hours meandering around Downtown Disney shopping for memorabilia and a few hours at Laguna Beach with my Dad (it was crazy busy and parking was crazy hard). The last morning we shared breakfast with Papa then bid him a tired farewell as we walked into the Orange County Airport for our quick 100 minute flight back to Colorado.

All in all, a terrific vacation with lots of memorably experiences both new and old. Were we tired? Yes. But on an adventure holiday, that’s just a sign that you did things right. G- is unfortunately still a bit under the weather, but that’s as much his insistence on eating food that prolongs a head cold (wheat, dairy, sweets, all things that trigger his allergies) as anything else. Still, even that was well worth it and he swears it was well worth a few days of feeling yechy so we could spend more time at Disneyland. And I agree.

And now, time to catch up on work and some sleep of my own…

Disclaimer: Medieval Times supplied us with tickets to their Buena Park show.

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