If you'd like to go to a Renaissance Festival, but you just feel that they tend to be too large and too overwhelming, the Des Moines Renaissance Faire may be for you. It's a small faire, and everything is within easy walking distance. The grounds are 16 acres, and it is a permanent location for the faire, with buildings on site, as well as a living history area with tents. And there is much interactivity for faire goers.
As a smaller faire, though, you have fewer chances to go. It runs three weekends in September.
There are over 50 vendors (food and shops) at the faire for your eating and shopping pleasure, so it's easy to find what you're looking for and not getting lost in the process. It also makes it easier to go back to a particular vendor if you can't find what you want elsewhere.
There are ten different venues for entertainment at the faire, though one of them is a "picnic shelter," and some offer no seating at all, and are sort of hard to find even with a map of the grounds and having walked around the grounds a couple of times. This makes some of the entertainment indistinguishable from some of the activities that you could do yourself. Some of the entertainment seems to be more "spur of the moment" or ill-planned out. We tried going to one entertainment event a few minutes before it was scheduled to begin--a singing group--only to see no patrons there, and just some of the performers sitting around talking, so we left. When we walked by later, we saw that they were up on stage singing, but I wouldn't be able to tell you if anyone was listening to them or not. Because things seemed to be ill-planned and/or ill-timed, there were things we probably would have gone to see but otherwise chose not to.
However, the faire does have a joust, and a children's area. They had jugglers, and comedic plays, and musicians, etc. So, there should be something for everyone when you go.
They also had a castle facade--something that is often times missing from some renaissance festivals, and some tower facades. And they also had a torture chamber/dungeon tour that you could go on as well--something that none of the other faires I have been to have had.