Big Top Tips on Going to the Circus

It’s quite a feat to have kept up The Greatest Show on Earth for generations, but Ringling Bros. still manages to give us the magical, iconic moment of parenthood. There’s something about taking your kid to see the circus that makes it a blast for you and the kids.

Here are some ringside tips:

1. If at all possible, purchase your tickets in advance. Even though you can purchase tickets at the door, you will likely have just walked three blocks in the cold (depending on where you parked) and you won’t feel like standing in line and talking through a little microphone to ask which seats are left.  I saw one mom standing in line tell her son to “just think about something else” when he started doing the Gotta Go dance – not a chance you want to take.

2. If you arrive an hour early, you can meet some of the clowns before the show. This can be a lot of fun and is the best photo op of the event, by far.  However, lots of kids (and many of us adults) actually prefer our clowns at a distance. You have to decide whether meeting a clown in person would be your kids’ thrill of a lifetime or deep psychological scar. To their credit, the clowns work really hard to be approachable without being too pushy.

3. Have a meal before the event so that nobody is starving. If you can dine out beforehand, even better, as it makes for a nice prelude up to the show.

4. Souvenirs range from $5 for shaped bracelets or a coloring book to $35 or so for stuffed animals. Fifteen to twenty dollars is  average for blinking tiaras, light-up lasers, or spinning flashlights. If you are going to buy something, do it before you are seated so your kid can feel like big stuff and run the whirly-gig thingy the entire time (annoying, yes, but you’re at the circus and anything goes). Otherwise, he will spend much of the time eyeing the other kids’ whirly-gigs and wishing for his own, and  he won’t enjoy its full useful life, which is during the show, through the ride home, and up to 48 hours after the show, when it will fall into a corner of his toy basket.

5. One thing about refreshments at the circus is that they are ridiculously expensive and yet irresistibly unique and fun. A snow cone comes in a clown cup, a fruity drink comes in an elephant mug, cotton candy comes with pink pigtails or a mad-hatter cap.  When do you really eat cotton candy besides the fair or the circus? Warning: A bag of cotton candy is $12. That must help pay to move a lot of elephant freight.

4. Be prepared for intermission, because if you haven’t bought something by then, a vendor will be happy to bring temptation right to your seat.  If you’re not buying, this is the perfect time to divert the kids’ attention with gum or skittles from your purse.

5. Don’t promise a treat after an evening show because it ends late, around 10 p.m. However, you will head home exhilarated and happy, even if you are about to hurtle one whirly-gig out the car window.