There’s an oddly provocative castle plunked down on the edge of downtown Dallas — right next to one of our main arteries, Interstate Highway 35 — where all and sundry can see it. It’s called Medieval Times, and while the prices inside are straight out of the 21st century, the goings-on are positively, well, medieval. So hey, if you want to get medieval on someone’s butt-tocks (as a brilliant Forrest Gump parody of Pulp Fiction once put it), this is the place to do it.
Officially known as “Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament,” this fair establishment is part of a chain with nine locations across the USA. Ours has been here since 1992. The franchise actually dates back to a Medieval-themed restaurant and dinner theatre in Spain, way back in 1973. As it exists today, Medieval Times does what a few other places, including “The Magic Time Machine,” try to do and fail miserably at: it replicates a small part of the lifestyle of a bygone era. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s probably anachronistic as hell and a lot tamer than the real thing, and of course the people involved are all actors who take great care to ensure that modern sensibilities are not bruised (all though they do call their serving girls “wenches.” But then, so do I). However, it’s a great show and it’s a lot of fun, if you don’t mind paying through the nose.
How much, you may ask? Well, how does $52.95 per adult sound, and $37.95 for the kiddies? And that’s just for the basic package. For an extra ten bucks each you can get the Royalty package, which includes preferred seating, a banner for cheering on your knight, a commemorative program, and of course a souvenir DVD. There’s that anachronism thing again. Given the hefty price, obviously this is not something you’ll want to do every weekend, but it makes for a memorable vacation event while you’re in town.
This hulking castle is an impressive and rather unexpected sight as you tool along the highway, and of course it includes all the basic accoutrements, from giant heraldic crests to a partial moat (filled with historically inaccurate koi, I fear). They’ve also managed to train genuine English ivy to crawl up the side of the castle, as you can see in the second photo below.
Inside, of course, is where all the action is. Alas, the place was shut up tight when I last visited. The schedule in irregular; some months they have multiple performances just about every day, while other months they’re only open five or six times a month. I chose the latter time to visit, of course. But fear not! I have actually attended a performance in the past, and I will endeavor to describe it to you. This was maybe twelve years ago, but having seen their ads on TV recently and having visited their website, I daresay they haven’t changed things overmuch.
Here’s how it was when I visited. When you sign in at the door, you and your party are immediately assigned to cheer on a particular knight — white, red, black, green, blue, etc., based on their heraldic crests and personal colors. As I recall, we got the Green-and-White night, a gangly yet noble-looking young man with long brown hair. You get your little banners and your color-coded crowns before you go inside. We had to wait a bit outside while they prepared the hall (and it’s huge, by the way), so we hung out and talked and gawked at the King and his lovely daughter, who were sitting on their thrones against one wall, regally surveying the crowd. Well, a couple of rowdies started to harangue them, and I was amused by what happened next: the king reached out with his sword, yanked the crown out of one rude kid’s hand, and proceeded to slice it in two. The kid wasn’t happy, but the rest of us were.
When the hall was opened up, we were led to our tables in our color-coded areas and proceeded to get fed. As I recall, you basically get what they’re serving, which was roast fowl, spare rib, veggies, and few other things (I really don’t remember!) served on pewter plates. Unless I misremember, you even get your drinks in old-fashioned tankards. You have to eat with your hands — no silverware, but lots of napkins! So far, so cool.
Once you’ve started your meal, the real fun begins. The MC introduces the show, with a tale of an embattled kingdom. The brave knights are revealed in a stunning procession, and then proceed to beat the hell out of each other with swords, spears, bolas, and of <>
guys, and he acquitted himself well. I think he came in second.
Afterwards, of course, you can retire to the cleverly-named Knight Club, where you can drink, dance, get autographs, and pose with both royalty and knights before you bid a fond farewell to the 1200s and make your way back to the land of technology and TV.
Medieval Times is located on 2021 North Stemmons Freeway (also known as IH 35), near unto the Dallas Market Hall and American Airlines Center. You’ll need to take the Market Center Boulevard exit. While you can buy your tickets just before the performance, this is not a place you can just show up and expect things to be happening. You’ll need to check the website for schedules and other details. Just go here: http://www.medievaltimes.com/.