Usually we write our yearly circus post in the spring when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus barrel into town for their annual extravaganza. But this holiday season, there are not one, not two, not three, not four, but five circus shows playing New York City over the holidays, plus a circus-themed exhibit and Cirque du Soleil holiday windows inspired by the troupe's soon-to-open 3D movie.
So if you want to run away with the circus you certainly don't need to go far. Here's where to get your big-top fix in NYC this December plus details on two big circus spectacles debuting in 2013.
Circus Oz Holiday Show – Midtown West
New Victory Theater, 209 West 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues
Through Sunday, December 30. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$17-$65 but you can save 20% on select performances by using the BroadwayBox discount code.
My daughter and I caught this show last weekend and it's got attitude to spare. While the circus performers aren't the best we've seen, there are some seriously original acts—our favorites were the giggly foot juggler and the cross-dressing acrobatic clowns. The exuberant and goofy personalities of these acrobats from Down Under and the rockin' live band keep the show flying high.
Big Apple Circus: Legendarium – Upper West Side
Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, 62nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue
Through Sunday, January 13, 2013. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$25-$175 but you can save up to 25% on select performances by using the BroadwayBox discount code.
I reviewed this show when it opened in October and it's truly the best production the Big Apple Circus has done in years. Even though there are many returning acts, the show feels fresh this year, thanks to a great theme (the history of the circus in NYC) and new additions like the hilarious Acrobuffos clowns and an awesome juggling/tango duo. Plus there are majestic horses and adorable dogs.
Forces! The Movical – Williamsburg
Streb at S.L.A.M., 51 N 1st Street near Kent Avenue
Through Sunday, December 23. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$25 for adults, $15 for children
Perhaps we're cheating a bit by classifying STREB's latest movement/theater piece as circus. But just look at that Whizzing Gizmo in our slide show (yes, that is the official name of that massive piece of hardware). Choreographer Elizabeth Streb has the acrobatic members of her Extreme Action Company leap, jump, tumble and fly through the air. After each performances, audience members of all ages can stay for a post-show workshop ($10 per person) to try out their own gravity-defying moves.
Circo Comedia – Manhattan Beach
Kingsborough Community College, 2001 Oriental Boulevard near Decatur Avenue
Sunday, December 9 at 3pm
This French-Canadian duo hits Brooklyn for a one-day only vaudeville-style show. Jean Saucier is the acrobat/trick cyclist/balancer/juggler while his partner Patrick Cote yuks it up as an inept clown. When they work together, everything goes hilariously wrong.
Holiday Circus – Brighton Beach
Millennium Theatre, 1029 Brighton Beach Avenue between Brighton 11th Street and Ocean Terrace
Friday, December 21-Sunday, December 30. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$35-$55 but you can save 35% on select performances by using the BroadwayBox discount code.
This second annual spectacle mixes circus skills with seasonal spirit. Santa himself hosts the show, which features acrobats, jugglers, animal acts and a trio of kooky clowns. Arrive an hour early to enjoy the pre-show dance party.
Also of note for circus buffs: Bloomingdale's holiday windows are inspired by the upcoming film Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D, with animatronic acrobats soaring through the air in fantastical settings. And on the Upper West Side, the Bard Graduate Center's current exhibit, Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010, examines the history of the circus in our city through images, artifacts, posters and ephemera. For a more interactive experience, visit on Saturday, January 26, 2013 for the Carnival of the Elephants Family Day with a pachyderm-themed shadow puppet show, crafts and a visit from a zookeeper.
And there's big NYC circus news for 2013: After skipping the Big Apple for the past two years due to ongoing renovations at Madison Square Garden, Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will return to the city next March but in a different venue: Brooklyn's brand-new Barclay Center. No word yet on whether the troupe will reroute its controversial Elephant Parade to the borough. Meanwhile, Cirque du Soleil is bringing its new spectacle, Totem, to the Citi Field Grounds in Queens the same month.
Want to keep up on all the circus shows that pop into New York City throughout the year? Bookmark CircusNYC, a great website that has a comprehensive list of all circus-related performances, classes and jobs in the tri-state area.
Find out about other fun things to do this season with kids in our Holiday Guide.