|The Big Apple Circus at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater|
When I was a kid I loved going to the circus. My father used to take us to see Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey at Madison Square Garden and it was so much fun. But as I grew older I started to feel sorry for some of the animals. As I learned about elephants, especially, I realized how sad it was that they were trapped in a circus for our entertainment (try reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate about a gorilla and elephants kept in a shopping mall for show, so beautiful and sad, and based on a true story). So now I avoid Ringling Brothers. I don't like the idea of so many beautiful wild animals becoming entertainment pieces (but note that Ringling Brothers will retire all elephant performers by May of 2016, according to USA Today). That's where The Big Apple Circus comes in. They are actually a non-profit organization and run many different programs to give back to communities. They travel around from city to city, so check their website to find out when they'll be near you. Then they fold up their giant tent and hit the road!
What is the Big Apple Circus?
Founded in 1974, the Big Apple Circus works under a traveling tent, very much a 'classic circus' of old. The tent is small in comparison to modern day circuses, so guests tend to feel like they are part of the experience. Take a look at how close you are with a front row seat:
There is actually a wooden platform around the ring so the performers can run around it right in front of you. The circus contains acrobats, magicians, clowns, jugglers, high wire acts and more. Oh, and they do have animals, but read further...
There is a horse act that is amazing, and the trainer's love for her horses is very evident (her name is Jenny Vidbel and she even has a Facebook page). You can read all about the Big Apple Circus policy on animals here. The horses are elegant and beautiful. If you are sitting up front, they run right past you at full speed (sometimes they accidentally kick dirt on you if you are in the front row, so beware!).
They also have an entire routine (which is my favorite!) involving dogs. Yes, dogs! Trained, adorable dogs, that were all adopted from shelters. I always watch them knowing my dog Milo (who was very athletic and loved agility) would have been an amazing circus performer! Some dogs just thrive on that, and you can see how much fun the dogs are having as they run around the ring.
They recently started adding more exotic animals to their routine. I think the latest show has a camel and llamas. If you are even more sensitive than I am about animals being in the circus acts, and the thought of more exotic animals joining the troupe offends you, then this is something to take note of. However, I urge you to check out Jenny Vidbel's Facebook page or the circus' animal policy page before you pass judgement.
The show is everything you can think of rolled up into one. Breathtaking, funny, silly, thrilling. They try to throw in a little of everything. There are some goofy clowns (which my son, at age 4, did not actually like too much. I think he was afraid of them). They like to come in the audience and tease some of the guests. The Jersey Grandpa, who was sitting on the end in the front row, fell victim to a flirtatious female clown who wanted to sit in his lap and gladly made him part of the act. That kind of stuff always happens to The Jersey Grandpa at these shows (remind me to tell you about the time he got splattered with phosphorescent bubbles during an oceanic puppet show). They did come to us before the show to ask if they could make him part of the act, so we had a heads-up! Each year, the circus changes its theme, so it's not the same every year. We have gone three years in a row now and have not been disappointed.
Ok, so I mentioned that my son didn't like the clowns (but, you know, the Jersey Momma's Boy is very particular--about everything--so don't go by his judgement). I thought the clowns were cute and funny, very classic and not overly scary, and no weird, painted faces). He was also a little freaked out by some of the magic show scenes where they 'sawed' a woman in half. Although they kept it light and made the act silly, he still needed to be reminded that they were fake and an illusion. If you're concerned, just talk to your child before the show about what to expect. Other than that, he enjoyed the rest of the performances. The acrobats were incredibly cool, as well as the trapeze/high wire act.
The tent is one of the coolest draws about the Big Apple Circus. Read about it here. As soon as my son saw that tent in the parking lot of the Somerset Patriots TD Ballpark, he was soooo excited. We're going in there? he asked in amazement. And I must say, it's pretty impressive.
All of the seats offer a good view (although I am partial to that front row!!). They sell snacks and souvenirs in the lobby of the tent, too (which we didn't actually buy because that flirtatious clown wound up giving The Jersey Grandpa a free bucket of popcorn. See, I told you she liked him).
Oh, and just a disclaimer that I did NOT receive any tickets in exchange for a review (although that would be nice, hint, hint, circus people!). This was just me and the boy and the grandparents attending a fun day at the circus! 'Nuff said.
- mid-week shows tend to be less expensive than the weekends. Look online for coupon codes, especially on RetailMeNot, check The Big Apple Circus Facebook page or sign up for their emails.
- we have never been to an evening show (I told you I avoid crowds) but I can vouch that the day time shows are still vibrant, fun and exciting
- they also offer special shows for guests with autism. Check their website for more information.
- if you get that front row seat, be aware that you are right there in the action! One horse ran by and kicked dirt up on me by accident. It hit me in the mouth.
- there are restrooms and an intermission (some shows might not have an intermission but this is always stated on their site if you buy a ticket to one of those shows)
- there's not too much room for a stroller, but they are permitted.
- seats are very close together, so don't plan on having a lot of leg room!
- the tent has heat inside, so don't worry about being cold if you go on a chilly day. It's nice and comfy under the big top!