The last time I went to Medieval Times, I was in college and it was for a friend's birthday. It was fun in the kitschy way we intended it to be, but, after going back—this time to the one in Arundel Mills—with my boys, aged, 3 and 5, I can safely say that having kids in tow vastly improves the experience.
I have some quibbles, which I'll get to in a minute, but overall, this was a great experience for the boys. Watching them stare in slack-jawed wonder at the jousting, the hawk-flying, and, particularly, the sword-fighting offered one of those awesome moments of parent joy. The story, which involved knights competing in a tournament before the king and queen, and a villain from another kingdom trying to steal the princess, was much better developed and more clear than I recall from 15 years ago. And the boys loved rooting for "our" knight (based on where we were seated), the black-and-white knight.
And the food was much better too: tasty bread, tomato soup, ribs, potato wedges and half a grilled chicken each—all served without utensils, but with plentiful handi-wipes (didn't know they had those in the realm). I even got my 3-year-old to try and love soup for the first time. And the waiters were friendly and just funny enough (the main dish was "giraffe—which I've heard tastes just like chicken") without being annoying.
Among my quibbles was that, as a first-timer, I had a hard time getting in! If you're going to take the trouble to build a massive castle, wouldn't you let visitors enter through, you know, the castle? Instead, signs on the castle doors direct visitors to enter "through the mall." Unfortunately, they didn't specify which door and, based on where we parked, we ended up trudging through a massive Best Buy to find the entrance. You, dear reader, can avoid this problem: Enter through the mall entrance to the left of the castle and you're home free.
Also, there's the violence. I knew to expect sword-fighting, of course (and the requisite stick/fork/pencil/hot dog fighting that ensued for days afterwards as my boys tried to imitate it), but I was a little surprise at the explicitness of the "killing" of the knights. I don't recall if it was the case 15 years ago, but in this "tournament," the fights were to the death. After a pair of knights fought with swords, shields, fists, etc., one would explicitly finish the other off, slicing across his belly with a flourish or some such thing, and he would be carried off. Granted, it's nothing they can't see on TV, and I wouldn't quibble with it for older kids (maybe 8 and up), but it was a little much, particularly for my 3-year-old. Also—and this is as much a quibble with the script as with the violence—I thought it was strange that the king made a big show of sparing the life of the villain after he lost a fight, sending him to jail for being willing to die for his kingdom, while five knights had just been killed fighting for the "honor" of facing him.
Finally, there's the cost. It's $56.95 for adults, and $35.95 for kids 12 and under. That's pretty pricy, but I think you could argue that it's a pretty singular experience, akin to a Broadway-type show, plus a really big dinner. The "extras," though, seem a little excessive. Given the large ticket price, I think it would be a good gesture to include things like the "tax and processing fee," free refills, and, particularly, gratuities, all of which are extra. Before and several times after the show, servers reminded patrons that "gratuities are not included." It seems a little, pardon the pun, gratuitous to ask a family of four that just paid about $200 to get in the door, to pay another $40 (20%) in tips. It's not the fault of the servers, who were excellent. Their pay shouldn't be left up to the discretion of potentially tapped-out parents who might rightfully be feeling pinched. The show should incorporate their pay into the ticket price, even if it means bumping that price up a bit.
Okay, enough griping—I can't help it, I'm a griper—the show really is an incredible and unique experience. I think when my boys are a bit older, it might make for a great birthday party venue (there were lots of parties in attendance the night we went). Of course, then, I'll know where to park.