For a touch of centuries-old fun and sportsmanship, families may go back in time at Medieval Times.
Medieval Times dinner and tournament is an entertainment experience that combines a jousting competition between knights, a royal court setting and a meal. The Chicago castle, located in Schaumburg, Illinois, is just off Interstate 90.
The attraction recently debuted a new show which stars a queen at the helm of the proceedings. It's been customary that a king has been the head of the court at the interactive tourist attraction.
"We thought it was a good idea to build a role around a female in the lead," said show director Leigh Cordner. "Audiences love it."
It's been more than five years since Medieval Times has changed its show. And this is the first time in Medieval Times' 34-year history that a king hasn't been at the helm.
"Young women who come to the show can see a queen that they can look up to," Cordner said.
For Sara Schubring, playing the queen has been a great deal of fun.
"It's been absolutely wonderful," Schubring said, adding she shares the regal role with three other women. "It's been rewarding to be seen as a role model for women and girls of all ages. The queen is a pillar of strength and she stands her ground."
Schubring has been with the production since 2013, but she portrayed a princess in the past. For guests attending the show, Schubring hopes "they can escape reality (for a while) and get lost in medieval times."
Cordner said it takes about 18 months to develop a new show to be presented at the castles.
"Every new show has to have the (same) elements," Cordner said. "People expect to see the horses, the jousting, etc."
Besides making a queen the leader, among other changes to the production are the addition of more than 700 new costumes; 200 new suits of armor, shields and helmets; and new music by Dr. Daniel May.
When guests visit Medieval Times, they arrive at the castle and are led into a lobby area, called The Great Hall. They're given different colored crowns that correspond to the knight they're asked to cheer on in the jousting competition held on the premises.
Everyone gathers in The Great Hall before their "colors" are called to enter the arena. Once seated in designated sections, dinner is served. While guests dine, the show unfolds with the knights being introduced and words from the queen. Throughout the show, which is high on sportsmanship and excitement, the knights showcase skills of strength and horsemanship while audience members cheer them on.
The menu at all Medieval Times castles is the same. It stars roasted potatoes, called "dragon eggs" by creative servers; tomato soup, referred to as "dragon blood"; seasoned chicken; bread; corn on the cob; and dessert. For guests who prefer it, there's also a vegetarian option for dinner. Audience members need only ask about it prior to the meal.
Cordner said he hopes people enjoy the excitement found at the interactive show.
"I hope they enjoy the experience of watching the horses and seeing the riders and horses working together," Cordner said.
In addition to the Chicago castle, which is the largest facility, other Medieval Times locations are in Buena Park, California; Dallas; Baltimore; Orlando; Atlanta; New Jersey; Myrtle Beach; and Toronto. The Chicago castle seats more than 1,400 people.