Most Interesting Knights Tournaments in the USA :: The portal of the largest rankings on the Internet!

Knights tournaments were a mainstay in entertainment and popular culture in the medieval era, which ran from roughly 476AD until 1492AD, particularly towards the later end of that span. It is quite incredible, then, that - over five centuries after that period ended, they are still popular today.

That’s right – even after so much time has elapsed, you can still attend knights tournaments today that will go some way towards replicating those which took place in the medieval era. Most tend to focus on jousting (you know; the one where two people charge at each other on horses, and try to hit each other with enormous lances), but others do include sword combat too. We’ll look at a mix of both those major disciplines in this article.

If you’ve always been fascinated by medieval history, or simply became a really big fan of Game of Thrones, you should definitely look into attending a knights tournament. Here are the 10 most interesting knights tournaments you can visit in the USA today.

The 10 Most Interesting Knights Tournaments in the USA

Knights Tournament
1 Armored Combat League We’re kicking off with the biggest medieval combat organisation in North America: the Armored Combat League.

This is a group made up of numerous “chapters” which hail from around the country: the New England Executioners, the Pacific Grizzlies, the Dallas Marshalls, and so on. These chapters are almost like clubs in their own rights – they have their own members, their own practices, and sometimes their own tournaments – and they proudly represent the city or region in which they’re based.

The marquee matchups, however, are the knights tournaments which take place between these different chapters. These are known by the particularly cool title of “Chapter Wars”.

The contests can either be duels, or fought between teams consisting of… well, as many people as want to take part! Even 16vs16 battles are not unheard of in Chapter Wars. These battles are fought in a “melee” format – representing a real medieval battle, essentially – with contestants scoring points for landing blows in legal strike zones.

The knights who battle it out wear full body armour, and wield period weaponry like axes, maces and swords (which have obviously been blunted to avoid causing serious harm), lending the whole thing an excellent air of authenticity.

Event Type: Melee
Location: Across the USA
Dates: Throughout the Year

Official Website:
2 Sonora Celtic Fare Rather than being standalone battles, like Armored Combat League’s Chapter Wars, many of the knights tournaments we’ll look at are part of wider-ranging medieval events or festivals. That is the case for the Sonora Celtic Fare.

Every year since 1986, Sonora – located in California – has played host to one of the nation’s most fun medieval festivals. Along with celebrating Celtic medieval culture, the Sonora Celtic Fare is the site of two main types of knights tournaments. There is a jousting contest, but it’s the larger foot combat competition we want to focus on here.

The foot combat knights tournament attracts competitors from across the country, including members of the USA team who fight in the Battle of the Nations; the biggest medieval combat event on the calendar, which is held in Europe each year. The fights are completely unscripted, the weaponry, shields and armour are real, and the tournament follows what’s believed to be a historically accurate format. There are duels, 5vs5 and 21vs21 contests, and the event is open to both men and women.

Event Type: Melee
Location: Sonora, California
Dates: March

Official Website:
3 Sarasota Medieval Fare Now, we’re going to take a look at our first full jousting-focused knights tournament; the Sarasota Medieval Fare.

Much like the event in Sonora, the Sarasota Medieval Fare is a celebration of medieval history and culture in general, rather than purely a combat tournament. There’s little doubt as to what the marquee event is, however: it’s the jousting contest.

The Knights of Valour are probably the biggest jousting organisation in the USA, having been covered by various media sources including the New York Times. They partake in contests across the country, and Sarasota – situated down in sunny Florida – is an ideal location in which to see them.

Whilst always entertaining, the tournament is completely un-choreographed. The jousting is done wearing heavy armour, and is full contact. In short, it’s the real deal, and it’s being carried out by highly trained and experienced competitors.

Thanks to the sheer quality of the Knights of Valour, the jousting tournament at the Sarasota Medieval Fare is arguably the closest you can get to witnessing the kinds of jousts that you’ve seen on TV and in the movies for real.

Event Type: Jousting
Location: Sarasota, Florida
Dates: November

Knights of Valour Website:

Official Website:
4 Maryland Jousting Tournament Here we have another knights tournament that’s centred around jousting… albeit one that’s far more relaxed in nature than the Sarasota Medieval Fare!

At the Maryland Jousting Tournament (which has been going since all the way back in 1950), the jousting isn’t the traditional type in which two riders go straight at each other, and try to knock the other person off their horse. Instead, it’s based around “ring jousting”. As its name suggests, ring jousting involves using the lance to spear rings which hang from arches, then presenting the rings to the judge at the end.

Ring jousting is much more concerned with the rider’s sheer skill and precision with the lance, rather than their bravery or physical strength. When you realize that – at the highest level – the rings are a mere one inch in diameter… well, you can start to comprehend just how talented these jousters really are.

If you haven’t got a stomach for the violence inherent in traditional jousting, but still admire the abilities of the competitors, then this might be the best knights tournament for you.

Event Type: Jousting
Location: Various Locations Across Maryland
Dates: Throughout the Year

Official Website:
5 Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament Now, it’s time to look at a completely different type of knights tournament!

The Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is summed up very nicely by its name – visitors literally get chance to eat their dinner whilst medieval contests are taking place in front of them!

The layout of the “castles” (there are nine in total, spread across the USA), resembles that of a medieval event. There’s a large space in the middle, where the contests take place, and the spectators/diners sit around the outside, feeling like kings and queens of yore.

All the stops have been pulled out to make this feel like an authentic medieval event, with even the waiters wearing period clothing as they serve you a four-course feast fit for a king. As for the contests themselves; they begin with games of skill – including the flag toss and javelin throw – before moving on to more physical matters. There are both authentic jousting matches and sword fights, and you must cheer on the knight representing your section of the castle.

This isn’t the most serious knights tournament we’re looking at… but it’s not intended to be! Rather, this is a family-friendly evening of fun and spectacular medieval entertainment.

Event Type: Jousting, Sword Fighting, Skill Games
Location: Various Locations Across the USA
Dates: Throughout the Year

Official Website:
6 Scotfest Jousting Championship The Scotfest extravaganza –which takes place in Colorado each year, with the Rocky Mountains as a staggeringly beautiful background – is a highly-focused event. Rather than being concerned with medieval history in general, as many of these festivals are, it instead focuses entirely on Scottish medieval culture. You can take in some live Celtic music and Highland dance, and learn about the surprisingly large number of Scottish clans which still have descendants in the area.

Of course, that’s all well and good, but for the purposes of this article we’re interested in some good old-fashioned knights tournaments!

The medieval combat represented at Scotfest is jousting. Both of the major jousting disciplines are on show here: light armour jousting, in which the competitors must hit a certain spot on their rival’s shield, and heavy armour jousting, where you actually need to knock your opponent off their horse.

The festival runs over an entire weekend, and there are both light and heavy armour jousting events on each of those days. That’s a whole lot of jousting!

Event Type: Jousting
Location: Estes Park, Colorado
Dates: September

Official Website:
7 School of Chivalric Martial Arts The Schola Saint George (SSG) – also referred to as the School of Chivalric Martial Arts – has been running since 1999, and has established a reputation for being one of the most committed and passionate groups in its field.

The SSG are true connoisseurs of medieval combat. They refer to it as an art, and train their members in all major forms of it: on and off horseback, in and out of armour, and so on. Much like any other martial art, the SSG awards belts and rankings for practitioners of the medieval martial arts that it teaches.

In addition to being an educational organisation, the SSG also arrange tournaments throughout the year and around the country, with the events being run by that area’s local branch. Specifically, their favoured event is the “pas d’armes”, in which, traditionally, a knight would stake out a spot – on a bridge – for example, and demand that anyone who wanted to pass defeat them in one-on-one combat. You can see examples of these intense matchups on the SSG website, and we’re certain that seeing them in person would be even more impressive.

Event Type: Various
Location: Across the USA
Dates: Throughout the Year

Official Website:
8 Great Lakes Medieval Faire Much like the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament we looked at earlier, this is very much an event where the focus is squarely on fun, rather than on historical accuracy!

The Great Lakes Medieval Fare is a 13th century-style theme park, situated next to the shores of Lake Erie, near Cleveland. It’s a lovely setting in which to celebrate and partake in all things medieval; the forest in which the park is actually located is reminiscent of Sherwood Forest, where mythical medieval hero Robin Hood operated.

There are an extremely wide variety of things to do here, including creating crafts, playing games and seeing shows. Most importantly of all, there is also a jousting contest!

The jousts on offer here are carried out between colourfully-decorated participants, and are full-contact. There are actually three full jousting matches per day, which is excellent because it means you’re assured of seeing some medieval combat action during your visit.

If you’ve got a child who’s fascinated by all things medieval, then this is an absolutely perfect, fun way to introduce them to the fascinating world of knights tournaments.

Event Type: Jousting
Location: Rock Creek, Ohio
Dates: Throughout July and August

Official Website:
9 Longpoint HEMA Tournaments Much like the Schola Saint George, who we looked at earlier, Longpoint are an organisation who take their medieval combat extremely seriously. Again, like the SSG, Longpoint are practitioners of “HEMA”, or Historical European Martial Arts. Technically this covers a wide time period – including the use of rapiers during the Renaissance era, for example – but there is a heavy focus on medieval weaponry.

Whilst Longpoint has certainly developed a reputation for being an educational organisation, they’re also becoming increasingly well-known for their knights tournaments. These contests are extremely competitive, with highly-skilled and experienced entrants hailing from across North America and Europe.

The events are always one-on-one contests, but there are a nice variety of specific disciplines. These include both men’s and women’s tournaments, and fighters may alternately use longswords, messers, or a variety of other weaponry.

The Longpoint HEMA tournaments aren’t the most beginner-friendly contests that we’ve looked at here. For those who are truly interested in the art of medieval combat, however, there are few better options in the USA.

Event Type: Sword Fighting
Location: Across the USA
Dates: Throughout the Year

Official Website:
10 Combatcon We’re finishing off with another lovely, serious tournament, where the entrants display a fascinating dedication and commitment to their craft.

Like the Longpoint tournaments, Combatcon (which is an extremely cool name) covers all HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts, if you’d forgotten). Despite the presence of rapiers and singlesticks, however, we’d say that the most focus certainly goes to the longsword; a classic knight’s weapon.

Specifically, there are three whole separate competitions dedicated purely to the longsword. They have the “Synthetic Longsword”, which is obviously the least dangerous, and is open to amateurs. Then there’s the “Open Steel Longsword”, which is for skilled synthetic fighters and the better finishers in smaller regional competitions. Finally, there’s the “Tier One” competition, which is reserved for the very best of the best.

Whilst the Combatcon tournament is theoretically open to anyone, their high qualification requirements ensure that – if you do choose to attend – you’re almost guaranteed to see a very high quality of combat indeed.

Event Type: Sword Fighting
Location: Across the USA
Dates: Throughout the Year

Official Website:


So there you have it. If you’ve got a taste for medieval warfare or armed combat, or you simply want to see a different form of competition to what you’re used to, then we’d highly recommend checking out one or two (or all!) of these knights tournaments.

Since we’ve devoted so much energy to looking at the modern-day state of knights tournaments, however, we thought it would absolutely be worth going back and looking at the historical context of these competitions; how they first began, what they originally involved, and so on.

Knights tournaments are – of course – based around the concept of knighthood, or chivalry. That is, in short, a code of behaviour which knights followed, and which gave them a highly-respected place in medieval society. Whilst we may most readily associate chivalry with this time period, however, the concept actually began all the way back in Ancient Rome, with the “equites”; the Roman equivalent of knights.

Regardless, we have obviously come to see knights as a purely medieval concept now, and this is indeed the period in which knights tournaments came into being. As you can probably guess, there is some dispute amongst historians over when and where these contests began. The word “tournament” itself is a French term, which obviously points us towards France, and this is the place most historians point to for the invention of the medieval tournament. The most likely inventor is thought to be Geoffroi de Preulli, a baron from Anjou, but nobody is entirely sure.

Whoever the instigator was, we start to get written records of tournaments becoming more and more popular from the mid-11th century onwards. To begin with, they comprised entirely of “mêlées”, in which two large teams of horsemen attempted to defeat the other in what was almost a mini-battle. In time, of course, the joust also became a major part of knights tournaments, although the melees still remained the main feature.

Knights tournaments were very much the height of medieval entertainment. They were large events, full of pageantry, and were invariably followed by big feasts afterwards, in which the local ruler would give prizes to the best knight on either side of the melee. Their popularity was certainly not limited to France; there are written records of them already being big in England and Germany in the early 12th century.

Given the fame that successful knights achieved in these tournaments, the incredibly fast spread of their popularity, and their sheer size and scale (3000 knights were reported to have attended a single tournament in 1179, never mind all the lords, ladies, squires and spectators)… well, we think it’s fair to say that knights tournaments were the first true international sporting events! They were like the precursors to modern tournaments in football, tennis, golf and other widespread sports which millions enjoy spectating today!

Knights tournaments have – of course – been left in the dust by those other events in terms of overall popularity. We think it’s fascinating, however, that even after over 900 years since they first became popular, knights tournaments are still being arranged, competed in and attended to this day.