We decided to take take the kids to Medieval Times: Chicago Castle (actually in Schaumburg, IL) last Thursday night as part of our ongoing New Year's vacation. Back in my post-college days, I lived about ten minutes from that place and had always wanted to go, but never quite got around to it, basically because my friends and I often referred to it as "Ye Olde Tourist Trap"
The show is much like the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur Hotel in Vegas. There's lots of fanfare, actors wearing costumes and talking in pseudo-old English accents, jousting, sword fights, utensil-less food, and wenches serving ale (at substantially marked up prices).
Don't expected to get seated right away. Upon entering, you're led off to the great hall where you can buy various souvenir trinkets and where various upsell ceremonies take place. The Hall was packed to the gills with people making it hard to move around. I got so antsy over it that paying $10 for a beer in a souvenir mug actually seemed like a good idea. Anything to take the edge off.
Once you get in, you're served a decent meal of texas toast, soup, chicken breast, grilled potato wedge, riblet and an apple turnover. Not bad. But, we didn't come for the food. We came for the show. As an actor myself, I appreciated how hard the actors at Medieval Times worked to battle each other and play to the crowd. The only bad thing I can say about the performance was that when any defeated jouster got knocked off their horse, the actors quite clearly jumped and it looked really fake. However, the rest of stage combat was really good. Whenever they clashed swords, sparks literally flew (something gimmicky about the swords, no doubt)! I also loved seeing the knights using flails and shields as weapons.
Overall, I can say that we all had a great time and were glad that we went. Medieval Times is not particularly cheap, though. And there are a ton of upsell packages to wade through. Yes, it's gimmicky and yes it's touristy, but it's fun and it's something you should do at least once.
Google photos made an auto-awesome movie of the video footage I shot at Medieval Times Chicago Castle. If you have a look at it, you can get a decent idea of what to expect.