This post was most recently updated on July 27th, 2020
Every year, in the countryside outside San Diego, you can attend an event you might expect to see in Europe, but definitely not in southern California! Yet here is where you can view the international jousting competition, “Tournament of the Phoenix”. With knights from all over the world, plus costumed historic interpreters and authentic weapons, musicians, archers and swordsmen, you can travel back in time to the medieval days of chivalry.
(cllick on any photo to enlarge)
Is this just another Renaissance Fair? No, it is not! What makes the Tournament of the Phoenix so unique is that it is a real, unstaged physical competition that lasts three days. Entrants compete in the Joust, Pollaxe Combat, and Club Tourney. All displays are as close to historically accurate as possible, as well as crafts, weaponry, and skills demonstrated. It really is like going back in time.
Here’s an example of the hunting contests:
There’s plenty for all ages to enjoy! My husband and I attended with my son and his family. Even my 2-year old granddaughter enjoyed the event. She made her own princess hat, played in a children’s area with magic wands and tents, engaged in some sword-fighting with her dad, and listened to professional story-telling.
For me, the most fascinating displays were those of artisan skills that would have been used in medieval days: calligraphy, pottery, hand-sewing, cooking over a fire, and medieval surgery. (So glad I live in modern times!)
I was also very intrigued with the skill that went into making weapons in medieval times. Swords, knives, and more were displayed as well as some of the methods used to make them. I found a very beautiful knife made of meteorite, but the price was a bit steep: $425. Definitely some beautiful craftsmanship!
Historically accurate costuming is a highlight of the Tournament of the Phoenix. Everyone strives to be as accurate as possible, from the shoes to the hats and everything in between. You will see intrically designed chain maille, leather clothing, and much more!
In medieval days, just like today, there can be a huge discrepancy between those with money and the common folks. Here at the Tournament, there are displays of the living environment beside the battle field. These photos depict the living quarters for a wealthy person or military leader, whereas the poor had lowly leanto tents and very little bedding.
We enjoyed musicians and falconry exhibits, too!
And finally, the event you are waiting for — the jousting competition! The rules are explained carefully to an eager crowd of spectators, and we all watch to see if the jousting lance is broken and where it hits. That’s how points are scored. It is exciting to watch the horses charge towards each other and the noisy clash of jousting lances, along with shards of wood flying through the air when they break. Add to that the energy of the horses and the heavily armored contestants (how do they see out of their helmet?!), and it’s quite entertaining!
I love that the Tournament of the Phoenix has something for everyone, and you can experience history while being entertained. If you’d like to attend the next Tournament, check out their website for more details. It is held every year in October — in Poway, California. Tickets are about $22 for adults or only $12 for their preview day. If you buy your tickets in advance online for Saturday or Sunday, you’ll get the Friday preview day included for free. This is an event you can attend more than once and still really enjoy it. I’ll look for you there!