Big Top Boondoggle



See bottom of page for Exclusive Discount on Ringling Bros Circus Next Week

Last month, Daughter came home from preschool each day with stories of tigers, elephants, trapeze artists, monkeys and…clowns. They were studying the circus! (Don’t you wish you could go back to preschool?) She cut out and painted pictures of various animals and brought home an entire circus train filled with traveling acts.

Somehow, we haven’t managed to take our kids to the circus yet so I started searching for when the big show would be in town. I Googled “Ringling Bros” and found dates for May in Hartford. That was two months away and an hour away.

Then one afternoon when we were checking books out at the library, I noticed coupons for Picadilly Circus. Kids get in free! It was close by in Danbury, Connecticut with shows at 4 pm and 7 pm the following week. How perfect, I thought. Close by, cheap – my kids would get to see the circus! I browsed the web site and it looked….like a real circus.

I told the kids and we spent a week excitedly looking forward to our first circus. Thursday afternoon, we left school promptly and drove straight to Danbury to make the 4 pm show. The location listed on the web site was the Danbury Ice Arena. There weren’t any directions so I relied on my phone’s Google Maps GPS to get us there.

“I know how we’ll be able to find it!” Daughter exclaimed as we started out. “Just look for the big top!”

“Well, honey, this one isn’t in a big top.” I tried to ease her into the small circus experience. “It’s just in a regular building.”

Boy, was that an understatement. We drove in circles (no thanks to Google Maps), asked two groups of people on the sidewalk, and finally found the square, squat building in the middle of town. We rushed from the top of the parking garage down to the sidewalk and over to a small door in the middle of the building.

When we entered the small, well worn lobby, we found a line of parents and two people taking cash for tickets at a portable table. We finally got through the line, used the bathrooms, and entered the arena.

First, it was cold (oh yeah, ice arena). To say it was one ring would be generous. We found seats on the bleachers just as the motorcycle stunt began. Then came the clowns (two with an old car), the acrobats (not too bad), and more clowns.

Daughter looked around. “Where’s the trapeze?”

“This one doesn’t have a trapeze,” I said. “But look – there’s an elephant.”

We could make out an elephant-in-waiting on the other side of the arena. This scrappy large animal was our only hope of saving the circus experience.

I watched her face as my heart sank. It hadn’t dawned on me that by trying to deliver a circus to her, any circus, I might just spoil her grand expectations. That instead of delivering on her dreams, I’d dash them.

We bought cotton candy and lemonade. We broke for intermission which was basically a push to buy tickets and ride the elephant or a small group of sad ponies. Or take your photo with the motorcyclists.

We watched the final elephant act with two young girls standing, sitting and somersaulting on him. It was pretty cool but we were scraping for excitement in an empty barrel.

On the way home, I tried to pump up our experience but couldn’t escape acknowledging that we needed to see the real circus someday.

I revisited the Picadilly web site and confirmed that most of the pictures were of exciting and fun acts that weren’t any part of the circus we attended.

And then I headed straight for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus Fully Charged at the XL Center in Hartford. We’re attending next Wed., May 4 at 7 pm and I know it will be worth the one hour drive to see the real deal.

Special Discount

I’m also excited to offer my readers an exclusive discount to the show:


Valid on $15, $20, $25 Price Levels (price does not include facility fee)

Valid on: Thursday, May 5th at 10:30am and 7pm

Friday, May 6th at 7pm

Saturday, May 7th at 7pm

Sunday, May 8th at 5pm


Valid: Online, via phone or the XL Center Ticket Office

Valid from March 27th – May 8th at 5pm

Let me know if you’re attending and I’ll look for you at the show!

And this time, we’re not telling the kids. It will be a surprise.

PS Full Disclosure

One of the perks of writing a blog for three years, is that PR firms start offering you all kinds of free products. Since that’s not the type of blog I write, I usually turn them down.

But lately, a nice woman named Patrice has started offering me free tickets to shows at the XL Center in exchange for reviewing them. The kids don’t know this, but I’ve passed up Disney on Ice and Harlem Globetrotters. But when the circus came to town, well, let’s just say I actually approached them and said, hey, I’ve got a story to write….

So, yes, we’ll be guests of the XL Center next week and I’ll write up the show the next day. Hopefully after reading my experience at the podunk circus nearby, you agree it’s a good move…. HPL


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