Dinner shows come and go—though it was a real surprise when Orlando lost Arabian Nights Dinner Show earlier this year—but Medieval Times on Highway 192 in Kissimmee has stood the test of time, celebrating their 30th year in 2014. Based on tournaments from the 11th century in which Knights of the Realm display their combat skills, the show is a grand pageant of swordplay, horsemanship, and even the ancient art of falconry, woven around a tale of good and evil.
King Phillipe is on hand for photographs when guests first enter the castle, and while you may feel slightly silly wearing a paper crown if you’re over the age of 12, do it anyway. The crown you are given bears the colours of the knight you will be supporting, and you’ll only stand out more if you don’t put it on. Leave your inhibitions at the moat and get into the spirit of it all!
Before the show starts, guests are invited to tour the Medieval Life Village, a collection of cottages containing artifacts such as textiles, coats of arms, and weaponry of the time. Carpentry, metalsmith work, basketry, pottery, and a kitchen display, are all hosted by costumed characters, bringing customs of the era into focus. And if you’re of a gruesome mindset, there is even a display of torture-chamber implements in the Dungeon, gory enough to make your hair stand on end. A full cash bar is available for those who would rather relax in the lounge or the great hall after a long, hot Florida day.
Once inside the jousting arena, the story begins to unfold. Guests are invited to enter the arena according to the colour of their crown, and they are then seated in the corresponding colour’s section. Each knight is introduced, and as their glories in battle are detailed, their supporters go wild. Be ready to cheer loudly for your knight! This is an evening worthy of allowing yourself to be raucous and untamed. Trust us, there’s always at least one section full of school-aged kids, and you don’t want support for your knight to be drown out by their cheering, so go wild! As an aside, it is not only okay to Boo for the rival knights, it’s highly encouraged.
The Tournament of Games begins as the Knights of the Realm practice their horsemanship and their skills with the lance, sword, battle-axe, bola, and other heavy weaponry. While there is an element of choreography, the sharp clang of metal upon metal, complete with sparks flying, is a testament to the fact that the fighting is realistic and intense.
Horsemanship skills are also on display, and the beautiful Spanish Andalusians in Medieval Times’ stable put on their own show of stunning agility and control. In keeping with a realistic experience, Andalusians were also the horse of choice for 11th century knights and nobility.
The climax of the tournament is the jousting competition, known as a [I]Joust a plaisance[/I] in medieval days. As opposed to a joust in which one knight challenges all comers (called [I]pas d’armes[/I]), this is a series of elimination events. As each knight falls, the victor wins the right to challenge other successful jousters until only one is left standing. And this is where your cheering really comes in handy.
As each contest of skill is completed, knights who were successful receive carnations from Princess Leonore, which they cast into the grandstands to lucky ladies (of every age) who catch their eye. At the end of the tournament, one special damsel is chosen as the queen of the realm, and given a special sash and a photo opportunity with her champion.
Of course, no medieval celebration would be complete without a feast, especially when King Phillipe and Princess Leonore are in attendance, and Medieval Times’ hard-working ‘serfs and wenches’ dish up a four-course banquet of half a roast chicken, a barbequed rib, half a herbed jacket potato, garlic bread, and a bowl of tomato bisque soup, followed by a flaky apple pastry. Coffee and Pepsi products are included; beer, wine, and cocktails are extra. Come to mention it, so is cutlery; guests are encouraged to eat with their hands (but don’t worry, the soup bowls have handles). Vegetarian? Don’t worry about that either. You can pre-order a meal of hummus, pita bread, carrots and celery sticks, a 3 bean stew with brown rice, and fresh fruit or Italian ice.
With the Brit Guide to Orlando now in its 20th edition, we’ve been to Medieval Times many times, and while we know the story well (though it changes a bit every 5 years or so), the experience is always incredibly entertaining. As first-timers, it’s hard to distinguish the real from the rehearsed, and children inevitably see it all as completely real and convincing. But familiarity doesn’t seem to lessen the enjoyment. Each time we come out we find ourselves saying, “That was a terrific show.”
Pre-booking allows you to designate a rest day (we recommend mid-way through your holiday) to enjoy your accommodation pool, perhaps visit a water park or do some shopping, then experience Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in the evening. It makes the perfect end to a restful day away from the hubbub of the theme parks.
A Royalty Package VIP upgrade is available through Attraction Tickets Direct, adding VIP seating, a commemorative programme, a Knights Cheering Banner, and a special “Behind the Scenes” DVD (one per family).