First held in 1979 in Largo, The Bay Area Renaissance Festival is a tradition that has lasted 41 years. From its small beginnings, it has grown into one of Tampa’s favorite annual attractions.

When it began, the Festival featured renaissance dancing, archery contests, jugglers, mimes and madrigals. Through the years, attendance grew and so did the Festival. Now more than 80,000 people visit annually.

It is open weekends through Sunday, March 31 and will also open on Friday, March 29.

Escape from the present and journey into a time when kings and queens rule and mermaids and fairies are a reality.

This year’s features include Bow Blast where you can take a shot at your friends in an all new Robin Hood-style bow and arrow game. Run around the course firing at your friends, but do not get shot. Get your picture taken with an oversized jester, king or knight.

Mead N Feed is an all new Daily Royal Event for ages 21+ featuring mead tasting from Superior Lakes mead, wine and cider paired with cheeses, breads, fruits and entertainment you do not want to miss.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to ride a knight’s horse? Stick around after the Joust and have your turn at being a noble knight of Fittleworth.

Become the biggest dill in all the land trying your luck at Pickle Jousting.

Do not miss Pirates and Pets on March 2 and 3. Check out Ultimate Air Dogs Dock Diving Championship, Dog Demonstrations, Wiener Dog Races and Dog Costume Contest along with Pet Vendors/Rescues.

Barbarian Brew Fest on March 9 and 10 includes a Beard and Archer Competition, Craft Beer Festival and Game of Thrones Costume Contest.

Other weekend special events include Shamrocks & Shenanigans on March 16 and 17 and High Seas Adventure March 23 and 24. Do not miss the Free Beer Festival on Friday, March 29. Every ticket gets a free beer. USF Students and Staff with valid ID, Military and First Responders get a free ticket with valid ID. Ladies Shopping Day, School Day and the Masque Ball happen that night.

The last weekend, March 30 and 31 will include the Florida State Belly Dancing Championships, Steampunk Invasion, Costume Contest and more.

Admission at the gate is $21.95 for adults and $13.95 for children 5-12. Ages 4 and under are free. Discount tickets are available at participating Circle K and at Festival is located at 11315 N. 46th St. in Tampa (at MOSI).

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Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.