Last year when I was in Orlando, I had the opportunity to spend a night at Medieval Times – a themed restaurant I had heard so much about growing up, but never had the opportunity to enjoy. The concept is rather simple, and brilliantly executed – you travel back to Medieval Times as you feast with your hands and cheer for one of six knights, each competing to win the hand of the princess, and the approval of the King. Or something like that.
There’s something so intrinsically American about this concept restaurant, which has been a particular hit for kids’ birthday parties since it first opened in the United States in 1983, at its Orlando location. Though fun fact: the concept actually originated in Europe.
But in particular tourist centres like Orlando, home of Walt Disney World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or Buena Park, California, not far from Disneyland, the audience range is vast both in terms of age and demographics. There are people from all over the world taking part in the often ridiculous concept, as they chow down on a plate of roast chicken and vegetables. And in an age where shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings are among our most popular, there’s a renewed enthusiasm in the concept. No longer a fringe idea for Middle School groups – the Medieval Times are now mainstream, and word has it they’re planning to update the show this year to jump on this new found interest.
You sit, you eat, you cheer – the concept is simple enough. So what is it about the experience that makes it a must-do on a North American itinerary? At the end of the day, it’s just a lot of fun. Our knight won the show, too, which added to the festivities (and some very excited children in our surrounds), but the enthusiasm of the audience, who soak up the often corny performances (and the actual corn that’s in front of you), is what makes the concept work.
And as staged and orchestrated as the script and the performances might be, and as simple as the dinner is (though there are no complaints there), the jousting is very much real. And so are the horses. So while it’s no Cirque du Soleil, there are a few awe-inspiring moments, something which will particularly impress the younger ones, and will put a smile on the face of even the most cynical travel journalist.
And to an extent, this takes you by surprise. As you walk into the building, which been crafted to present itself as a castle, filled with merchandise and photo opps, and you adorn your paper crown, you can’t help but expect the worst. But after a couple of drinks, and a few jousts, you find yourself cheering and shouting right along with the group of ten year olds who are up way past their bed time. And with that, I can’t recommend the experience enough. But then again, I am still a ten year old at heart.
The author visited Medieval Times Orlando (4510 W Vine St, Kissimmee, FL 34746) as a guest of Visit Orlando and Medieval Times. While in Orlando the author stayed at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek. You can read our review of the hotel HERE.
Medieval Times is also located in Atlanta, Buena Park (California), Dallas, Myrtle Beach (South Carolina), Toronto (Canada), Baltimore, Chicago and Lyndhurst (New Jersey). For more details, visit their official website.