My Rating: (5 / 5)
First things first; although this is lauded as the “Chicago” location for Medieval Times (They also have locations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Buena Park, Dallas, Lyndhurst NY, Myrtle Beach, Orlando and Toronto) it is actually located in Schaumburg, IL. If you aren’t familiar with the area and are vacationing in Chicago, be aware that this is a bit of a trek!
I totally get why they bill it this way; who (outside of people who live in the Chicago area) has even heard of Schaumburg? Not many, and certainly not the tourists they want to attract to the location. Though it does sound a bit like a city in a Dr. Suess book, which would certainly attract more people… at any rate, while we are tourists, I grew up in the area and definitely knew how far of a drive it was going to be, which helped us get a head start on our evening.
This is not a cheap destination. Regular prices start at $61.95 (plus tax and processing fee) and there are many options to add on to your package. We chose to upgrade to the King’s Royalty package, which includes first-row seating, a framed group photo, a commemorative program, a cheering banner and a behind-the-scenes DVD for an additional $20/person. We also added a table wine package that included commemorative wine glasses, just for fun and because they had nice wine and we were in a celebratory mood. I will admit that we had a killer discount code for our tickets, and so spent less than regular price even with upgrades. If you belong to travel websites or regularly scour the web for deals, you can get your own discount codes – I would share ours but it has since expired! Check the Medieval Times website for discounts as well, as they often have special packages available.
Be aware that once inside, everyone will be encouraging you to do more upgrading! Bought a package that includes a cheering banner? Why not upgrade that to a cheering flag?! Upgrade your wine package for more glasses! Get a commemorative tankard with your drink from the bar! It’s not overwhelming, but it is very hard to resist giving in to temptation!
The main doors open 75 minutes before the show starts, which is excellent, because there is plenty to do before hand! Once you enter, you can have your picture taken in front of a green screen. This was included in our package, but it was the first chance we had to upgrade! For a small additional fee, you can dress in medieval costumes for your picture – we chose not to do this for several reasons. There is a bar in the entry area with tables and chairs for seating, and more bar and seating areas as you move through the main hall. You’ll also receive your crown on entry, which corresponds to your seating section and lets you know which knight you’ll be rooting for. Ours was the yellow/red striped knight.
There are plenty of shopping areas in the main hall, where you’ll find everything from typical touristy items such as name-emblazoned mugs, shot glasses and tee shirts to highly detailed museum-quality swords and armor pieces, to fun kids toys and lots and lots of light-up neon items to flash later on in the stadium when it’s dark.
A bit past the main hall, you’ll find another bar with all possible varieties of drinks available, most with an upgrade available to a collectible glass! Of course. Next to this bar is the wine bar, where you can arrange to have table wine served with your meal, as well as upgrading that to include commemorative wine glasses, which we did! What can I say?
Round the corner and you’ll come across a display of historical artifacts, including weapons of the type used in the area during the battles. Of course the ones used during the show are reproductions, but it was fun seeing some of the historical items. There are some historical manuscripts on display as well, which was a favourite for me! There is also a dungeon museum in this area, where you can take a look at historical devices which were used to torture people, because as we all know, the medieval era wasn’t one of happy-happy-joy-joy for everyone.
In this same area, you can see a few of the horses that will be appearing in the show that night. These fellows are so calm and lovely, you’d never know hordes of children are shrieking around them or that people are flashing glowy neon swords in their general direction. I guess you would get used to it after a while! They were so still and calm, just an ear twitch here and there as they munched on their own pre-show goodies.
My favourite part of the pre-show wanderings was getting to chat with the Falconer!
He was located near the wine bar, and I stopped by twice, once while he was chatting with others and once, later, when the area was more deserted so I could ask him a few questions of my own. He trains the falcons himself, as well as appearing with them during the show. The beautiful girl who would be performing the night we were there was barely a year old, and he had been training her since she was 7 weeks. Like the horses, she was calm and lovely, with beautiful plumage. I was completely fascinated by her and by how well-trained she was!
Before long, the King arrived in a procession, and they began a knighting ceremony. If you are having a birthday, you can be “knighted” in a cute, but somewhat cheesy ceremony in the main hall. This would be a blast for kids (who were the ones taking part, becoming lords and ladies of the realm). The crowd seemed about split between families with kids and couples/groups of adults, the latter of which mostly wandered off to the bars during this part!
Once the knighting is over and the tournament is about to begin, the King and his herald – a truly talented emcee or master of ceremonies for the night – appear once more on the balcony above the main hall to proceed with a bit of banter and the seating assignments. Because we had front row seats, we were among the first to enter the main tournament area, and so missed the rest of the banter up above. That’s okay, it gave us time to get settled and look over the programs waiting for us at our seats.
The arena is enormous. It is split into six seating areas, divided for the six knights which will “battle” in the tournament; blue, red/yellow, green, yellow, black/white and red. Because of the size of the arena and the servers and photographers and bartenders and other folk wandering about in the aisles between rows, I’d highly recommend getting the front row seats for the best, least obstructed views!
That said, there is accessible seating for those with disabilities who cannot navigate the stairs, or who need specialized seating rather than the (slightly cramped) rows in the back row of the arena, and they are given priority seating before the rest of the crowds flood in. I spied an elderly couple in the back in our section when we were headed in, and they did have slightly wider and more comfortable looking chairs. Our seats were fine for me, but for my 6’6 husband there was an issue with having enough room for his shoulders! Thankfully, even he had enough leg room; there is plenty of space to stretch out.
Because this is dinner and a show, I should take a moment to talk about the food!
We both had the standard meal, though there is also a vegetarian option available. We started with tomato soup and bread, which was lovely, drinkable from the handled pewter bowl. This was followed by an enormous portion of fire-roasted chicken (seasoned beautifully, juicy and full of flavour!), corn on the cob (mine was delicious, Richard found his a little overcooked), and potato halves, again seasoned beautifully and all easy to eat with your hands – no utensils are provided!
This is accompanied by your choice of tankards full of ice water, Pepsi, or Diet Pepsi, which are replenished throughout the meal. There are also bar staff that circulate to bring cocktails or wine, or, as we pre-scheduled, you can have wine at your table served with the meal.
The show opens with a crew of white Spanish horses that perform various tricks and maneuvers, but are mostly pretty to look at and personable, trotting by and tossing their lush and beautiful manes and tails.
This is followed by various interactions with the knights and King and Princess, including a tournament that includes jousting. A net is lowered between the tournament area and the audience for the more dangerous parts, when part of a flying lance might cause injury!
This is the kind of thing you just have to give yourself over to. You have to embrace it, let yourself go, scream and cheer for your knight, boo at the others, appreciate the choreography of the animals and actors and let yourself be entertained. It’s fun, it’s funny, and if you really let yourself go, you’ll have a throat sore from all the screaming the next day. You can hear the revelry in my video of the opening ceremonies below:
We had so much fun, and couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. This show is a blast, and I’d highly recommend it. What you are really getting here is immersive dinner theatre, and like anything of that sort, you get out of it what you are willing to give over to the experience. Let yourself be open and you’ll have a blast! Cheer your knight in the races, root for the King in his negotiations with someone from a neighboring kingdom, let yourself be in awe of the joust. Be a kid again, and drink in the experience.
Let me know what your experiences have been at this, or other Medieval Times venues in the comments below! We’re definitely planning on going back, and maybe exploring them in other cities as we travel!