st. louis arches

They’ve juggled with Cirque du Soleil and tumbled with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Coming from the best and worst neighborhoods in the River City, the daring kids of the St. Louis Arches (314/436-7676; ) train at the nonprofit Circus Day Foundation, the only year-round performing-circus school in the country— and are now dazzling crowds from their new ring in St. Louis’s City Museum. See them in their hometown or catch their summer tour, which includes stops in Illinois, Nantucket, and Israel. Its oldest performer may be only 16, but this skilled set isn’t clowning around.

Step right up! European-style, family-run circuses—all located right here, in the U.S.A.—are getting ready to dazzle you this summer. Here, the three shows to catch:

Circus Flora

The actors, dancers, musicians, and animals of Circus Flora perform at the Grand Center in St. Louis (sometimes in shows featuring the St. Louis Arches, the Flying Wallendas, and members of the Zoppé Circus). Founded 22 years ago at Charleston, South Carolina’s Spoleto Festival, the company gets its name from a rescued African elephant who starred in the show for 15 years. Don’t worry if your seat’s in the last row—you’ll be no farther than 42 feet from the action. (314/289-4040;; daily performances June 7-24, except Mondays)


It all started when French street performer Napoline Zoppè met an equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda in Budapest then ran away with her to Venice, where they started a circus. That was 165 years ago. Today, the Zoppè family circus sticks to its old-world Italian roots in a traveling extravaganza starring Nino, the clown (aka Giovanni Zoppè, a sixth-generation performer), bareback riding tricksters, and dancing dogs. This summer’s stops include Ridgeland, Mississippi; Philadelphia; Altamont, New York; Tiffin, Ohio; and St. Louis (where Zoppè teams up with Circus Flora). Turn-of-the-century circus feel guaranteed. (773/255-6788;

Flying Wallendas

For seven generations, the Wallendas have been airborne. The youngest start their circus training as toddlers, and tour with their stunt-performing kin. Famous for building pyramids, the clan can balance a record 10 people on poles and chairs—on the high-wire! They perform solo shows from coast to coast, and also team up with kindred acts, like Circus Flora. (941-355-4773;