Imagine pairing a fantastic meal with a live performance of medieval jousting, swordplay, falconry and horsemanship. If this is up your alley, look no further than Medieval Times, a dinner tournament that is put on live, year-round and in multiple locations across the country.
Medieval Times Chicago, located in the suburb of Schaumburg, Illinois, recently hosted me for an evening performance. The night was fantastic, and I'm excited to share it with you here. You'll learn about tickets, the food, the live show and the wheelchair accessibility of the Medieval Times castle.
Tickets, Booking & Arrival
Tickets can be purchased at www.medievaltimes.com. The first step is to click the blue "Get Tickets" box on the top right corner of the website. You'll then be taken to a ticketing portal that will allow you to select a show date and time. Click on that one that interests you, and you'll be taken to a page like this:
To reserve wheelchair seating, you'll need to click on a link at the bottom of the page. It says, "Click here for real-time ADA/Handicap Seating" and has been highlighted with a red arrow in the screenshot above. Click that link, and you'll be transported to this webpage:
Full retail price for admission to the Chicago show is $61.95, plus taxes and fees. Each venue runs regular sales, and you can score a Chicago ticket for just $38.95 through the end of 2017 by using coupon code PSMR17. That's a savings of more than $20 off! Enter the code and click "Apply" to get the discount. The page will refresh.
The second red arrow above points to the section where you'll request the number of ADA tickets you will need for your party. The ADA seats are in the rear of the auditorium, and have chairs that can be pulled away to make room for as many wheelchair users as necessary. The upgraded Royalty, Celebration and King's Royalty ticket packages are not available to wheelchair users, because the preferred seating areas are not wheelchair accessible.
Once you've booked your tickets, all you'll need to do is show up! When you reach the castle's front doors, you'll check-in with the attendant and proceed to the interior check-in hall. There, you'll be sorted into kingdoms, which will determine where you sit and the knight you are supposed to root for in the tournament. You'll be given a cardboard crown that will denote your team's color. Guests can also take a photo with the King or Queen, which is available for purchase later.
Now, let's explore the castle and the tournament...
The Medieval Times Castle
Before the auditorium/arena opens for dinner and the tournament, you'll have an opportunity to walk around the castle. The building is decorated in a medieval theme, with armored suits and banners adorning almost every wall.
You'll have the opportunity to grab both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages prior to the show. Two bars serve soda, frozen smoothies, beer and cocktails, while another offers a selection of red and white wine.
A number of souvenir stands are filled top-t-bottom with medieval-themed memorabilia to suit all price ranges. Some of the chess sets for sale were fancy, but the kid in me really wanted a light-up sword. Given that my luggage was already bursting at the seams, I held back. But you can't resist purchasing a small flag to wave in support of your knight during the show!
With drink or sword in hand, it's a good time to visit the horses at the stables.
While you won't be able to touch the horses, they are still amazing creatures to behold. I hadn't actually seen a horse up close in a couple years, since I toured the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis, where I met (and petted!) a Clydesdale.
If you've had something to drink at the bar, I recommend stopping by the bathroom before the show, which will run about 90 minutes. You won't want to miss any of the live action.
The bathrooms were ADA accessible, with grab bars and easy-to-use sinks. If you do need to use them during the show, they're only a few feet away from the entrance to the auditorium/performance arena.
ADA Seating, Food & Tournament of Knights
After a short time exploring the castle, the master of ceremonies announced the tournament, and we were allowed to enter the auditorium. I and others with disabilities and mobility impairments were invited to enter before all others, which was a welcome courtesy. Since I visited on a Thursday night, the crowds were not very large, but that is surely not the case on weekends or when large groups book the venue.
As described earlier, the ADA seating is confined to the last row, which circles the arena. Chairs are moved out of the way by staff to make room for wheelchairs. This is a very comfortable arrangement, and the table height easily accommodated by power wheelchair.
Quickly after seating, a hostess appeared to take my drink order. I asked for a Pepsi. The menu was set in advance, and listed on the napkins:
The menu consisted of the following:
- Tomato Bisque soup
- Toasted Garlic Bread
- Roasted Chicken
- Sweet Buttered Corn
- Herb-Basted Potato
- Pastry of the Castle
- Beverages, including Pepsi products and coffee
When taking my order, the hostess did ask if I would like a vegetarian meal, but I declined. I did not ask what was included in the vegetarian option, but I suspect that the chicken entree was switched with some form of salad.
The soup was presented first, and tasted wonderful. Next came the entree and the accompanying sides:
The half chicken was prepared well - moist, tender and absolutely delicious. The herb-seasoned potato and corn on the cob were fantastic sides, and I really enjoyed the meal. Honestly, it was a far better meal than I expected, especially for such an affordable dinner show.
The show began, not with swordplay or jousting, but with a touching tribute to the beauty, power and majesty of horses. Each of the knights was paired with a different steed - Andalusians, American Quarter Horses and Friesians. The tournament announcer, in a deep voice, read:
“In myth and in legend, the Knight and the horse are forever linked. Few things are held in such great esteem by the Medieval warrior than a stalwart horse, who possesses the bold courage of his master and the quiet strength of his ancestors.”
The show that would follow proved the existence of such a connection between man and horse - a connection as old as time, and one that has been sustained through the centuries. If you'd like to read more about the resident horses and how they are cared for, click here.
Even though the crowd was small when I attended, people were very much engaged in the action and cheered loudly as each knight faced the spotlight. I had been sorted into the Yellow & Black team, and I had a fierce competitor to root for!
The photo above depicts the most exciting event of the evening - jousting. The Red & Yellow Knight had a strong showing against the Black & White Knight. Although this is only theater, knights flew from horseback and lances shattered into pieces. Children in the audience were especially impressed by the performances.
Following the jousting, the competitors engaged in sword combat. Sparks flew and lit up the arena! The maneuvers were expertly choreographed, making them appear to be realistic. Groans washed across the audience each time a knight fell, while cheers sprung up from the victorious team. It was truly thrilling! The lighting, which used stroboscopic and pyrotechnic effects, may not be suitable for everyone, but added a lot to the show experience.
And, best of all - my knight won! When I met him after the show, he told me that he has been a Medieval Times knight for more than 12 years. That, my friends, is a true love of horses and theater - a wonderful combination! It was exciting to meet him, and a few other performers as well. They all seemed like great people and on the whole, a great team assembled by Medieval Times Chicago.
If you're traveling to Chicago or live in the surrounding area, I can't recommend a night at the Medieval Times Dinner Tournament enough. You'll love and be impressed by the show, if you look at it as an acting and choreographic performance.
If you don't live in the Chicago area, you'll also be able to catch performances at the Medieval Times castles in Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Buena Park, CA; Dallas, TX; Lyndhurst, NJ; Myrtle Beach, SC; Orlando, FL and Toronto, Canada! Plenty of places to experience a bit of medieval fun, whether you travel with friends, family, your children or solo, as I did.
Have you attended a Medieval Times performance?
Which location did you visit, and how was the show?
Let me know in the comments below!