Every summer, Colorado has a Renaissance Festival where, on the weekends, you can pretend you're from the 1600s and experience what recreational activities might have been like back in the day. You can watch the royalty parade through the festival, watch comedy, throw tomatoes and knives, shoot bows and arrows, and even get hypnotized.
The Renaissance Festival is a fun excuse to dress up, and also a great place to people watch. This year, we went on the very last day of the festival, so there seemed to be an especially good amount of costumes. Some of my favorites were David Bowie from Labyrinth, and a handful of Disney characters like Belle, Ariel, Peter Pan and Alice. I also LOVE the extravagant dresses with hoop skirts and detailed embroidery. Maybe one day I'll be good enough to make one.
Other than watching the shows, you can shop, pet and ride animals, get your face painted or hair braided, eat, drink and be merry. My souvenir this year was a leather mask. I've always wanted one. I got a deep blue color, so maybe it can go with my TARDIS outfit. When we got hungry, we chose giant turkey legs and sausage on a stick. Beer and cider was also plentiful (and cold!).
One of my favorite places to go is the petting zoo. While I don't necessarily like that these animals just wait around for people to ogle at them, I enjoy giving them some love. These guys have an abundance of food around them. This is where I make most of my friends. ;) Last year I rode an elephant, but each time I walked past them this year, the lines were crazy long. You can also ride camels and llamas.
Everyone should go to the Renaissance Festival at some point. It costs less than $20 for a ticket, and if you carpool (which you should!), getting there isn't so bad (Larkspur is about an hour and a half south of Boulder). I met someone who came from Montana and got a hotel so they could come multiple days - that's how fun this place is! Food isn't too crazy expensive, but It can add up (especially if you're drinking). You can find all sorts of souvenirs, from $10 wands that shoot glitter (25¢ refills!) to $500 kilts in your family's (or your boyfriend's family's) special pattern. There are swords, dresses, corsets, mugs, fairy wings, flower crows, tiaras...really anything you could think of that would fit into the time period.
It would be easy to spend a lot of money if you let yourself be impulsive, but it's not necessary in order to have a good time. The shows are free to watch, and you can peruse the shops as long as you can keep yourself in check. They let you leave and come back, which means you can pack food in your car for lunch, rather than having to buy food.
Remember to bring some cash, though - typically you need it to pay for food and drink, but most vendors have credit card capabilities. However, they sometimes cut out some of the price if you pay with cash, since they won't have to worry about credit card fees. It's also advisable to bring a water bottle (they have a drinking fountain you can refill at) and lots of sunscreen! Don't forget to reapply, and don't forget about weird places you might get burned - like your scalp (not fun!). Also, since it's in July and August, it's typically very hot and dry, but because it's Colorado, there might be a crazy afternoon storm. Hardly any of the ground is paved, so you should wear shoes that can get nice and dirty.
I've only ever been to the Colorado Renaissance Festival, but I know that lots of other places have them - I'd love to hear about your experiences, too!