By Jason Wojciechowski on April 11, 2004 at 4:47 PM
So I went to Medieval Times on Friday night. Beware of that link: it's got crazy "medieval" music.
The place is basically a giant theme restaurant. You buy a ticket that covers dinner (chicken, a rib, garlic bread, soup, potato, a pastry) and a show (a competition-with-storyline between knights). The servers call you Lord or Lady (depending, obviously, on which you are), speak with bad accents, and so on. No silverware is provided, so you have to tear open the chicken with your hands, drink the soup from your bowl, and drink your iced Pepsi (ok, so it's not all so medieval) with no straw!
The knight's competition was neat. They did these jousting things, where they had to grab brass rings with their lances, they tossed poles back and forth between each other, and they chucked a spear into a target from horseback. Oh, right, there are horses, supposedly descendents of the Andalusians real Spanish knights rode back in the day.
After the competition, there's a bunch of battles to the death, the idea being that the King's champion died in the last war and he's holding this tournament to decide who the new champion is. Unfortunately, the wizard tells us that there's a traitor in our midst, and we have to be on the lookout. Anyway, depending on what section you're sitting in, you cheer for different knights. For example, we had to cheer for the Red and Yellow knight. It was cool, because he was one of the better ones (the competitions with the brass rings and stuff are real, with real winners and losers), plus he ends up being the hero in the end.
Before the show, there's a bar, and you can buy frozen strawberry daiquiris in glasses the size of Oprah's head. Really, they're huge. It cost $20, but you get to keep the glass, and, like I said, it's a gigantic daiquiri. After the show, the bar remains open, and there's a dance floor where the kids like to go. That may have been the most bizarre part of the night, because we'd just got through watching knights wailing on each other, horses prancing and dancing, a falcon flying around eating a fake bird, and now we've got Sean Paul singing and all the pre-teens shaking their rumps obscenely.
Speaking of pre-teens: it was odd how much fun they seemed to be having. This place seems to be the epitmore of not cool. It's a medieval-themed show! Medieval! Knights, horses, and wizards are the domain of nerds. What were these normal kids doing here enjoying it? And make no mistake, they enjoyed it. They cheered, they gasped, they ate with gusto. Austen mentioned the mainstreaming of geek culture happening these days, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings, and saw this as another example, or perhaps a consequence, of that phenomenon.
Why'd we go through with this whole thing? It was free, of course (except the daiquiri)! One of Austen's actors, Ed Schiff, plays the king, and he brought Austen in to scout for talent. One of the knights, Martin Igoe, who plays the Yellow Knight (unfortunately, or enemy, but we cheered for him anyway), drove us from Manhattan to the castle (it's in Lyndhurst, New Jersey). He was a nice guy, and truly looked the part of a knight: 6'4" and strapping, long, curly blond hair, fairly handsome. He told us that he started at Medieval Times as a squire and moved up to knight. You don't have to know how to ride horses and have any stage combat experience to be a squire, and apparently, that's where you learn.
At $50 for adults, $37 for children, it's not terribly cheap. On the other hand, for a two-adult, two-child family, that'd run $174, which, since it includes dinner and the show and lasts for like four hours, might be a better option than the local Six Flags, where a hot dog would run you $12.50. It might be one of those experiences that everyone should be so lucky to have once.