Taking kids to live theatre can mean having them sit quietly in the audience when taking in the show or seeing something that is juvenile in nature but enables kids to interact. Medieval Times in Toronto encourages audience participation from the whole family and you get to enjoy dinner too.
As a child I remember visiting the historic Arts & Hobby building during the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) on Toronto’s Exhibition Grounds. While the Arts & Hobby has found a new home, the stately domed structure now houses the lively Medieval Times dinner theatre, the only Canadian location at the moment.
As seating is general, unless you upgrade to front row VIP seats, don’t be surprised to see people lining up to get in when the doors open at 6:30. Although seating doesn’t begin until 7:15 (show starts at 7:30) the entertainment begins in the Great Hall. In the center of the large room sits the bar serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at a fee. Outlining the wall, you’ll find an assortment of souvenirs and knightly products you can buy.
Occasionally your shopping will be interrupted by the King’s bugler, announcing a new assortment of knights, a ceremony you can participate in for a fee but still entertaining to watch. You’ll notice the variety of cardboard crowns adorning everyone’s head, the colour indicating which section you’ll be sitting and what knight you’ll be cheering.
Once our section is called to enter the arena we make our way over to our section table. The rows of communal tables are actually raised significantly behind the row in front ensuring all guests can see the performance without issue, kids included. Looking around the seating area, we find ourselves close to the royal throne at one end of the arena. The lighting makes it easy to see the area representing each knight as we sit in the glow of green.
Our hostess instructs us proudly on supporting our knight, the green knight, as we practice loud whoops and hollers. On the opposite side, bathed in red, sits our enemies supporting the red knight which leads to boos. After opening remarks from the King, our meal is brought out and a horse performance begins.
No surprise, eating in Medieval Times means no cutlery so you drink your soup and eat your chicken leg and vegetables with your hands, something my kids loved. There is a vegetarian option for guests offering a pot of rice and vegetable stew, my meal of choice and surprisingly filling. Luckily there’s no need to dig into your rice out with your hands as they sneak a spoon in your pot.
As we continue dining, the knights are brought out performing a few feats on horseback such tossing lances at a target, spearing a hanging ribbon, and passing a baton between riders. Occasionally the Princess tossed carnations to the riders who in turn toss them out to fair maidens within their section. My youngest was treated with her own carnation toss.
Finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for. The knights return to the arena in full armour ready for a combination of joisting and swordsmanship. The crowd gets into the fun, cheering for their knights and booing their enemies. My kids love it though I’m surprised at how much I get swept up into the frenzy of cheering. Nets are lowered on the side to avoid splintering from the lances during the joist and fly it does as two knights race towards one another in battle.
Even with they’re knocked off their horse, the battle continues with hand-to-hand combat including shields and swords, as well as other fighting implements. The knights play up to the audience, calling for their cheers and jeers. It seems obvious to me that it’s all a show, each sword strike choreographed, but that doesn’t take away from the entertainment value.
In the end our green knight is triumphant.
It may not be a history lesson like visiting Colonial Williamsburg, but an evening at Medieval Times offers its own version of immersive fun for your family. I put together this short video highlighting a little bit of the Medieval Times Toronto experience to give you a peek at what to expect: