I have seen the commercials and boy does Medieval Times look amazing. I always wondered, do they really not offer forks and knives with your dinner? My interest was always piqued, but never enough to purchase tickets for a show at Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Only 15 minutes from Teaneck, the short distance alone couldn’t get me to splurge on tickets. I had always imagined taking an Israeli cousin visiting from out of town for a show, but that never materialized either. No, it was not the treif dinner that was the impetus, in fact I had heard that they offered fine kosher meals. I guess it was on the bottom of my list of local attractions to visit. Somewhere in between Bowcraft and the Circle Line.
With no plans on the Sunday before Pesach aside from keeping the boys out of the house, I was searching for a fun local activity. With three boys ages 3, 6, and 9, an outing watching some knights duke it out in a indoor arena sounded like a fantastic option. Having no advance tickets I drove up to the lot an hour before the show started. My boys were excited to see a castle but were not sure what to expect inside. I thought I had the times wrong. But I was on time, and discovered that most people come an hour plus before the show since seats are given out on a first-come first-served basis. Unless you are willing to shell out another hundred bucks on box seats, try to get there early for better seats. Overall, I think coming early is a good idea, since there is a nicely themed lobby area and picture opportunities for extra fees of course. Be prepared: Your kids may hit you up for a light saber, which I seem to always be a sucker for. But that being said, this is a kids show, with a Ringling Bros. feel, but with no elephant poop. I guess that is why most of the adults were getting drinks at the large bar in the lobby area. More on that later.
There are coupons and Groupons available online, so better to come prepared with a discount rather than pay full price. I asked several times while purchasing tickets at the box office if they had kosher food. The lady at the ticket counter assured me there is kosher food and told me to ask my server for the special meal. It seemed like a lot of out of towners and birthday celebrations were in attendance. Once you enter and give your tickets, everyone receives a crown with their team color. As we were shown our seats, my boys were quite excited. I felt the cheese level rising. I kept thinking I was trapped in the Las Vegas Excalibur Hotel during a Knights Convention. The show itself was very fluffy for the first bit. Lots of horse riding and B-level acting. The falcon flying through the audience was thrilling. Costumes were okay and every time I perceived something as being ridiculously cheesy or rolling my eyes I peered over to my boys and they were having a blast. The jousting was nice and the fight scene finale was slightly entertaining. It was like a WWE match with swords and the crowd cheering and raising their mugs with laughter.
But keep in mind the exciting fighting portion only took place during the last 30 minutes. Overall I would give the show a 6 out of 10 if you are an adult, and maybe a 9 out of 10 if you are 6–10 years old. The lights go down every now and then with some loud noises so I would not recommend the show for the under-4 crowd. Somehow my 3-year-old did not flinch, but that could be because he is into superhero shows and never watched Barney or Wiggles.
Now on to the food. Lets just say there is no reason to look forward to the food offered. Yes, the food is edible and is basically a microwaved frozen kosher meal. I commend them for even offering an option. However, the meal is a step up from having an empty plate while all the other spectators are eating chicken with their fingers. Luckily the double-wrapped meal came with plastic ware, which you will certainly need to open the package. To my surprise my boys ate their meals to the last drop. Soda is included in the meal and you can order a beer if you are in a merry mood. I was kind of surprised how many people were drinking beer after beer on on a Sunday morning. I guess that’s what people do when football season is over.
Back to the food, the last touch of the meal was a dessert. All the surrounding spectators received a nice hot apple turnover. I was getting ready to promise my boys a nice treat at 7-11 on the way back when the waitress brought out push-up lemon italian ices. A nice touch and unexpected. Were they the tastiest ices? Not really. But again, I kept reminding myself that we were not there for the food and started thinking about what I could order as take-out later to make up for this meal. I would rate the meal a 2 out of 10 for adults. For kids, if they like chicken and veggies, they will be happy, and that’s all that counts. Worst-case scenario: They will just drink tons of soda and ice pop. If you do plan to go for an event like a birthday let them know and they will announce your name during the event. They even had some of the actors come to the seats of some of the birthday boys and girls.
In the end, my crew had a good time and the boys still play with their light-up swords. Medieval Times may be best suited as a group outing but not for all ages. If you go, remember it is basically a kids’ show and not to expect to be wowed like a circus. Have a drink and enjoy the chicken and kosher ices, and don’t forget to cheer with the crowd. “Huzzah!”
By Ben Cohen