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I've never been to the circus.  Can you believe it?  I'm thirty (ahem) years old and have never seen a show under the big top, and neither have my kids.  They also never tasted cotton candy…until last Wednesday, that is, when we followed New York winter break tradition and caught the Big Apple Circus' latest show, "Dream Big".

This year's show is about a magical dream machine that makes figments of your imagination materialize inside the circus ring. There are clowns, acrobats, aerialists, a juggler and a modest collection of seemingly well-cared for and obviously well-trained animal performers including something called a capybara which is apparently a rodent but is actually very cute in a "don't tell me it's a rodent" kind of way.

BWW-JR-BIG-APPLE-CIRCUS-DREAM-BIG--An-Afternoon-of-Firsts-20010101I was expecting a crowded, dirty, overwhelming experience.  What I found instead was a surprisingly sanitary, well-ordered, beautifully designed example of modern circus artistry scaled to a perfect level for kids ages 3 to 16.  The show blended the traditional (Grandma the clown) with the modern (Melanie Chy, an award-winning hand-balancing contortionist who could just as easily be performing in Cirque du Soleil).  My eight year old and her friend were entranced.  My three year old was in and out, and it took a little bit of work to keep him engaged.  Luckily, whenever an act wasn't captivating him, I only had to pacify his attention span for five to ten minutes before the next act pulled his focus.

Having never been to the circus before I was expecting something out of a scene from "Water for Elephants".  But luckily, I found a modern, clean tent with carpeted floors and lots of breathing room.  I could have done without the port-o-potties during intermission and I wish someone had told me to bolt over to the restroom ASAP before the lines started forming.  But outside of that the whole experience was really well designed and fairly stress-free which is more than I can say for most big, New York, family-friendly attractions. 


After doing a little research on the Big Apple Circus, I was really impressed with their various outreach programs.  This circus aims to educate AND entertain, and they work hard at being a positive presence in children's hospitals and at-risk youth communities as well as presenting special, adapted performances for special needs kids.  It's nice to know that when you shell out for tickets (which can run anywhere from $15 to $95), a portion of your money is going to support some great programming.

 "Dream Big" is playing New York's January 8th, then moving on to Bridgewater, NJ and finally Boston, Mass.  If you are looking for New Year's plans, check out the Big Apple Circus' special New Years Eve Under the Big Top, which includes a party and midnight toast (You're meant to bring your kids).


  • The Big Apple Circus is back in NYC with its new show, "Dream Big" which blends the traditional with the modern in a kid-friendly circus arts presentation that is perfect for children ages 3 to 16.
  • Plays NYC until January 8th including a special "New Years Eve Under the Big Top" performance for families to enjoy while ringing in 2012.
  • For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Big Apple Circus' website at
  • A capybara.  Who knew?

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From This Author Erin Leigh Peck

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