Touring Circuses in the United States and Beyond
The circus is NOT dead!
Despite the closing of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (May, 2017), circus performances continue to amaze and amuse audiences in the United States and around the world. (In fact, these shows now have more incentives and opportunities to play a fuller schedule). Some of these circuses have animal acts; others do not. Here in America (and globally), traditional circuses are STILL bringing their Big Top or coming to a venue in a city or small town near you!
Circus in America
These circuses are listed in alphabetical order: Visit each show's website link for more information on performances, locations, photos/video and ticket prices.
Circuses may not have all of their "normal" or promoted acts in each performance. To determine what you might see in any particular show, contact that company directly. Performances are subject to change due to any number of unexpected circumstances.
Big Apple Circus
Big Apple Circus is back to life! In 2016, financial hardships forced the original owners of this New York-based company into bankruptcy. However, new owners (and a new business plan) brought the Big Apple Circus back to life in 2017; touring dates are being planned for 2018. The headliners include "King of the High Wire" Nik Wallenda, Grandma the Clown, Jenny Vidbel's horses, and the Flying Tuniziani (featuring the talented guy who can throw a quadruple somersault; Ammed Tuniziani). bigapplecircus.com.
Billy Martin Presents the Cole-All Star Circus
The Cole All-Star Circus got its start in 1938 as a fundraising campaign for school groups and organizations in New York State; it continues to operate today. Mainly set up for school auditoriums, the show features acrobats, canines, clowns, cyclists and other floor acts. Performances are added as scheduled (with schools and communities that host the show; mainly in New York and Pennsylvania). Ticket offers may admit kids under the age12 free (with a paying adult). For information, billymartincircus.com
Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
Beginning in 1995, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus has presented a unique kind of show featuring traditional circus acts, burlesque, sideshow and vaudeville. Based in New York City, this company works with community organizations to produce festivals and performances – it also presents circus workshops, children’s after-school and summer camp programs. Check out the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Website at bindlestiff.org.
Carden Circus International
Carden Circus International works with many Shrine organizations to bring traditional circus to select American cities. Along with acrobatics, aerials, clowns and the like, animals are special stars of this show. The circus “is committed to the exemplary care and treatment of animals,” as noted on this page of their website. (Buy-one-get-one) free passes for children are often available online. For information, call 417-848-4394 or visit supershrinecircus.com.
Carson & Barnes
Carson & Barnes calls itself the World’s Biggest Big Top Show. For more than 80 years, the Carson & Barnes circus (based in Hugo, Oklahoma) has brought traditional circus acts (aerialists, acrobats, clowns, etc.), domestic and exotic animal presentations to audiences of all ages. Carson & Barnes books a limited number of performances each year but the schedule is always changing — the circus is also available for hire by municipalities, community organizations and charities to create family events and fundraisers.
Carson & Barnes complies with all regulations to ensure the safety and welfare of their performing animals as well as show entertainers and audience members. Tickets are available online or in person; discount coupons and free ticket vouchers may be available. For more information, contact Carson & Barnes Circus at 580-743-7292 or visit carsonbarnescircus.com.
Special Update: Carson & Barnes ended its summer, 2017 tour in July. The show still hopes to go on, however, there are no dates scheduled (as of this update).
Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Circus Flora presents aerial and floor acts under a Big Top in various locations; trapeze, clowns, acrobatics and more. The show works with community organizations to bring instruction and entertainment to underprivileged children and their families. Check it out at circusflora.org.
Cirque Du Soleil
Since the early 1980s, Cirque Du Soleil has created its own tradition in performance and dramatic arts. Originating in Canada, Cirque Du Soleil is an alternative to “traditional” circus; merging street performances (stilt walking, juggling, clowning, magic etc.) with high-energy floor and aerial acts, acrobatics, dance, drama, music, costumes and lighting. Animals are not part of the Cirque Du Soleil experience. Email email@example.com or visit cirquedusoleil.com for information.
Culpepper & Merriweather
Culpepper & Merriweather circus brings a 90-minute tent show to 17 states, 32 weeks per year. The performances feature trapeze, contortionists, dogs, wire walkers, clowns, horses, big cats and other elements that make up traditional circus. The public is invited to visit the grounds as the Big Top rises; there are free tours where participants can meet the animals and learn about their care.
Culpepper & Merriweather notes the welfare of its animals as a top priority. Animals are regularly inspected by veterinarians and government authorities. For more information on showtimes and locations, call Culpepper & Merriweather at (866) 244-8676 (866-BIG-TOP6) or visit their Facebook page.
Flynn Creek Circus
Flynn Creek Circus is a tent show that brings a vintage style to the modern circus. Pole work, trapeze, acrobats, juggling, hula hoop tricks and aerial ropes are some of the acts in this performance – no animals. Flynn Creek offers a circus camp in the summer. flynncreekcircus.com.
Garden Brothers Circus
For more than 100 years, Garden Bros. Circus has been in the center ring. Currently at indoor venues, performances are about 90 minutes long; they include motorcycle daredevils, acrobats, camels, clowns, aerialists and the basic circus fare. The show has horses, camels and elephants (depending on whether the local municipalities allow them). However, according to the Garden Bros. website, it seems that the elephants are on their way out. Still, circus tradition lives on with this one-ring show that travels mainly in the northeastern parts of the United States.
During special promotions, the show offers free tickets for children (with paying adults). For more information, call Garden Bros. Circus at 888-620-8936 or visit gardenbroscircus.com.
Great Benjamin’s Circus
This show – about 90 minutes long – provides family entertainment in a traditional circus atmosphere; clowns, juggling, contortion, aerialists, acrobatics and etc. The circus offers special online pricing. It tours in select U.S. cities and states, including but not limited to: Illinois, Colorado, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico. They’ll be in Canada, too! Check out the full schedule at benjaminscircus.com. The Great Benjamin’s Circus has a dog act but no exotic animals.
Hamid Circus features traditional circus acts in the air and on the ground. The show also has its host of animal acts, although performances would vary. Hamid works with communities and charities (including the Shriners) to present family fun entertainment. Acts include (but are not limited to) trapeze and aerials, wirewalkers, stuntmen, clowns, elephants, tigers and more. Hamid Circus is based in New Jersey; visit hamidcircus.com or call 609-646-3340.
Jordan World Circus
Jordan World Circus keeps tradition alive with aerial displays, the big wheel, motorcycle feats, animal acts (elephants, tigers, horses, etc.) clowns and acrobats. Circus officials say the their animals are inspected by licensed veterinarians and the USDA every month).
Jordan World Circus is a touring show that works with Shrine organizations around the United States. For many performances, the circus offers free or discounted tickets for children (with paying adults). Visit thejordanworldcircus.com for scheduling information.
Kelly Miller Circus
Update: With the retirement of owner John Ringling North III, sources say that the circus has a new owner. Kelly Miller's Facebook page says the company is in its winter quarters (Hugo, OK) and will soon announce plans for the 2018 season.
Kelly Miller Circus is "America's One Ring Wonder!" That’s the phrase this circus uses to describe its long history, which began in 1938. The Kelly Miller circus operates under the Big Top; this show was actually owned by a relative of the original Ringling family. (John Ringling North II is the great-nephew to the famous Ringling Brothers; his grandmother was their only sister).
In Ringling tradition, the Kelly Miller Circus features animal acts (elephants, zebras, camels and etc.), acrobats, aerialists, fliers and clowns.
According to its website: “The Kelly Miller Circus exceeds all federal animal welfare standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Animal Welfare Act. We are regulated by and inspected frequently by the USDA, state and local authorities.” The Kelly Miller Circus show schedule is updated constantly; visit kellymillercircus.com or call (580) 326-9229.
Lewis & Clark Circus
Calling itself a “Great American Circus,” Lewis & Clark features family entertainment in southern and eastern states on its tour schedule.
Lewis & Clark, based in South Carolina, presents a show with animals (including camels, goats and horses), aerials, clowns, jugglers, acrobats, motorcycle feats and more.
Loomis Bros. Circus
Set in an enclosed structure, Loomis Bros. Circus brings circus to you! Elephants, tigers and dogs are part of this performance — as is a motorcycle globe, aerials, chair balancing, hair hanging, a Wild West show and much more. This three-ring circus (with a live band) travels the United States; the show also puts on performances for shrine organizations. Visit loomiscircus.com.
The Midnight Circus is based in Chicago, Illinois with performances under tents in city area parks. The show features aerial acts, acrobatics, clowns, dancers, jugglers and high wire antics. For more information call 312-952-8591 or visit midnightcircus.net.
Pages (Circus Pages)
Circus Pages, produced by Jose Pages for more than 25 years, features trained animals (elephants, horses, dogs, tigers, etc.), daredevils, aerialists, acrobats, clowns and all that makes circus “traditional.” Under a big top or in a building, performances last about 90 minutes and only accept cash for tickets, souvenirs and concessions. For schedule information, visit circuspages.com. Call 941-219-9331 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
RJ Circus United
Circus United melds “old world tradition with new age talent.” In a structured building, the company presents circus shows for communities, Shrine and other charitable organizations’ fundraisers; aerial acts, fliers, balancing wheels, contortionists, acrobats, animals and then-some. Some acts are contracted; they may not be available for all performances.
Visit circusunited.com, but contact the administrators of RJ Circus United for specific information on what will be in the show of your choice.
Ramos Bros. Circus
Touring in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah, Ramos. Bros. Circus is a one-ring show under the Big Top. With aerials, clowning, magic & juggling, horses, motorcycle feats, trapeze and acrobatics, this two-hour show is fun, family entertainment. For details, visit ramoscircus.com.
Royal Hanneford Circus
The Royal Hanneford Circus is steeped in tradition and history. Under the Big Top or in a structured building, circus acts are the flying trapeze, motorcycle stunts, clowns, illusions, floor work and acrobatics. Animal presentations may include tigers, zebras, camels, liberty horses, elephants and barnyard domestics.
While “old time circus” lives on with Royal Hanneford (which travels to various areas of the United States), the circus works with municipalities and charitable organizations to sponsor community performances throughout the country. Performances may not have all elements, depending on the community contract and location restrictions.
Contact the circus at email@example.com or call 941-504-1164. Visit royalhannefordcircus.org for tour information.
Universoul Circus combines traditional circus acts with a musical style. Shows are usually about two and a half-hours long; they include motorcycle feats, dancers, stilt walkers, horse riding tricks (and other animals), aerial arts, acrobatics, the balancing wheel and more. Universoul circus is under the Big Top; traveling in select cities. Visit universoulcircus.com for a closer look.
Vargas (Circus Vargas)
Under a Big Top tent, Circus Vargas has undergone some changes in recent years; focusing now on the aerial arts, clowning, illusions, acrobatics and stunning visuals while eliminating exotic animal acts. In an intimate setting, the audience is encouraged to participate in activities before and after the performance. With shows that last two hours long, Circus Vargas travels to locations in California. Call 877-468-3861 or visit circusvargas.com.
Vazquez (Circo Hermanos Vazquez)
Originally established in Mexico (but now in the United States), Circus Brothers Vazquez is presented (primarily) in Spanish under a big top. The show features acrobats, aerialists, magic and juggling, high wire and other floor acts. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-829-7839 for scheduling of Circo Hermanos Vazquez performances. Visit circovazquez.com.
Mixing cabaret nightclub acts with “old school circus,” Wanderlust features aerialists, bicycle arts, western feats, stilt walkers, exotic dancers, acrobats, contortionists and special features. They do not present any animal acts, however, calling the operation “100% Animal-Free and Family Friendly.” Wanderlust is based in Portland, Oregon. Email email@example.com for information, or visit wanderlustcircus.com.
Zerbini Family Circus
A tented circus complete with animal acts, aerials, acrobats and clowns, Zerbini tours areas in the eastern half of the United States. For more than 250 years, Zerbini is family owned and operated. zerbinifamilycircus.com
History, Preservation, & Education
In stable and select locations, the following organizations are geared for class instruction and/or circus history preservation. They often feature performances and presentations that celebrate the circus arts. Planning a trip to the neighborhood? Contact the school or museum to determine whether you can tour the facility or participate in any special activities.
Circus Juventas is a circus school (for students from 6 to 21) located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Classroom experiences focus on aerial arts and acrobatics. The school offers several performances each year (featuring beginning and advanced students). For more information, visit circusjuventas.org.
Circus Smirkus is based in Vermont. Circus Smirkus provides summer camps for teaching circus arts to adults and children. This is not really a traditional circus show (as most people have come to know), but the company does work with community partners to create performance fundraisers and the like; primarily in New England states. The production works under a big top to give adults and children (of most ages) an experience they’ll never forget. To run away with the circus, visit smirkus.org.
Wenatchee Youth Circus is located in the state of Washington. The organization works with children to help them stay focused on ultimate goals of success. Although there are no animals here, WYC — a “nonprofessional” troupe that covers parts of the western United States — offers "professional" performances of high wire, flying trapeze, acrobatics, fire handling and aerial acts. Visit wenatcheeyouthcircus.com.
Circus Arts Conservatory is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history, legacy and artistry of circus acts and performances. Based in Sarasota, Florida, the company offers classes and summer camps for adults and children; aerial silks, ropes, high wires, acrobatics and more. The Circus Arts Conservatory has special events throughout the year; check out the performance and class schedule at circusarts.org.
Circus Harmony, located in St. Louis, Missouri, lets children and adults “run away with the circus and still be home for dinner!” The school offers classes and summer camps focusing on the circus arts; aerials, cycling, juggling, balancing, strength training and the flying trapeze. Students present hundreds of shows each year (in the Circus Harmony ring at City Museum and other venues). For more information, visit circusharmony.org.
Circus Historical Society is an educational organization set up to “preserve, promote and share though education, the history and cultural significance of the circus and allied arts, past and present.” The CHS has annual conventions in various cities. For information about the Circus Historical Society, visit circushistory.org or search for the group on Facebook.
Circus World Museum is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The Circus World Museum features exhibits, models, photographs, advertisements, manuscripts, artifacts and more; the complex includes a library and research center focused on American circus history. The museum gives tours and performances under the Big Top and, during the summer, animal presentations. Call 866-693-1500 or visit circusworldbaraboo.org for all the details.
International Circus Hall of Fame is housed in Peru, Indiana; another home for circus memories. This museum exhibits models, posters, traveling wagons, specialized gear, animal enclosures and other memorabilia from circuses in the United States and around the world. Special events are scheduled in the summer. Join the circus! For information, call the International Circus Hall of Fame at 800-771-0241 or go to visit.circushalloffame.com. ICHF is also on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
Circuses on Hiatus?
These circuses still have an internet or Facebook presence, but information on scheduling is outdated or nonexistent. Still, they may be entertainment options to consider (currently or in the future).
Circo Atayde Hermanos (Mexico): Beginning in 1888, Circo Atayde Hermanos is one of the oldest family-owned circuses in the world. The website is in Spanish; circoatayde.com.
Cole Bros. Circus (USA): With a continued presence on Facebook, the Cole Bros. show keeps the name and history alive; facebook.com/colebros.
Russell Bros. (USA): The presence on Facebook continues to show optimism for this show. The page says that “Russell Bros. is a real, old-time traveling circus; performing in America's smaller communities.” Contact producers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit facebook.com/FamilyFunCircus.
Pickle Family Circus (USA): The Pickle Family Circus was established in San Francisco, California in 1974. The circus has nothing scheduled but it continues to have a presence on Facebook at facebook.com/ThePickleFamilyCircus1974.
Zoppe Circus (USA): An Italian family circus since 1842, Zoppe says it is working on its latest show and schedule for the “new season.” For information on the intimate 500-seat, one-ring tent show,visit Zoppe on Facebook at facebook.com/ZoppeFamilyCircus. Online at zoppe.net.
In countries around the world, circuses are thriving sources of family entertainment. Check out this list – only some of the popular shows abroad. Get your passport ready!
Australia: Eroni’s circus performs under a Big Top with aerial, floor and animal acts. The Joseph Ashton Circus features trapeze, horses, high wire acts and the Big Wheel. Lennon Bros. Circus offers floor, air and animal presentations. Silver's Circus has floor and aerial acts but no animals.Stardust Circus gives the ultimate "real circus" experience, too!
Finland: Sirkus Finlandia is what a circus is supposed to be, especially the clowns! With animals, contortionists, riding acts, aerialists and acrobats.
France: Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione or “Winter Circus,” is housed in its own building in Paris. The show also tours various areas of the country during its performance season; Also in France, the Raoul Gibalt Medrano circus – with the big cats, elephants and more.
Germany: Although there are many circus presentations in Germany, Circus Krone is a top notch show featuring animals, aerials, clowns and the whole works. Be sure to check out Martin Lacey Jr.’s beautiful lions and tigers; the performance is spectacular! And speaking of spectacular Lacey cats, Alexander Lacey showcases his majestic lions and tigers with Zirkus Charles Knie. This traditional European circus has all the elements, too!
Hungary: Magyar Nemzeti Cirkusz Richter features horses, elephants, ponies, zebras, camels, giraffes and more … a true menagerie! With aerial and floor acts, motorcycles and then-some. Say hello to the clowns; they’ll keep you in stitches!
Ireland: Tom Duffy's Circus unites tradition with today’s modern feats. Featuring animals, acrobats, aerials, clowns and all the rest – Tom and Jamie Duffy perform breathtaking stunts on the Big Wheel.
Monaco: The Monte Carlo International Festival attracts circus lovers from around the world to its competition performances. Everyone who’s anyone in the circus world has appeared (and won awards) at this festival, which is featured every year.
South Africa: McClaren Circus is a one ring show with everything that is true circus.
Spain: Touring in the Barcelona area, Cirque Raluy is a show that “combines yesterday with today.” Clowns, acrobats, juggling, balancing, athletic displays and aerials. The new season also features acrobat/contortionist Quincy Azzario.
Switzerland: Circus Knie, based in Rapperswil, is the largest circus in Switzerland. It sparkles under the Big Top, features animal acts and has its own zoo.
United Kingdom:In its seventh generation, the Charles Chipperfield Circus has floor and aerial acts under the Big Top. Also, the Moscow State Circus calls itself the largest show in the United Kingdom. It has one ring for floor and aerial acts but currently, from the looks of things – no animals.
Circus Lovers, Check These Links Out!
An ever-expanding list of notable circus performers, past and present.
- Circus and Sideshows!
American circus history, list of circus performers and owners with biographies, thousands of circus photos, movies, circus news, traditions, information.
- Circus Fans Association of America
For friends, fans, performers and those of us who wish-we-could, Circus Fans Association of America is all circus and then-some!
- Windjammers Unlimited
Windjammers Unlimited is dedicated to the preservation of traditional music of the circus.
- List of circuses and circus owners - Wikipedia
© 2017 Teri Silver