The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center – a Top Family Destination in PA!

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The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

@whitakercenter #whitakercenter Facebook

As a kid I was completely obsessed with science centers. They were my favorite place to go. On a class trip, with my parents, any way I could get to a hands-on science center simply made my day. The same excited butterflies recently entered my stomach when I found out The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center – located in Harrisburg, PA was in the path of our family vacation.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

As authentic as a good old hands on science center can get – my kids (and let’s be honest, I) had THE best time. OK, my husband too… and the baby. So we were five for five! We started our day on the third floor playing with light, sound, air, and everyone’s favorite – the giant bubble machine.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

We then moved on to what would be our home for the next two hours – the “tot” area – KidsPlace. I could not get my kids – ages seven and three – out of this amazing area filled with everything a kid could want to exercise their imagination.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Even the baby got in to it!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Between the play ambulance, theatre (with multiple background curtains and really nice props), water play area, fish tank, big brick & slide structure, they were engaged and playing and content as can be. Guess what we were able to do? Sit down and just watch!

If The Harsco Science Center was nothing but this one area I’m convinced they would still think this was the highlight of our trip.

Also in this area was my favorite accessory to any good family venue – a nursing room! Part a mom’s refuge from her own children and part a quiet, private, cheerful place to breastfeed, it got a full A+ from me!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Heading down a flight, brought us to the “Move It” area with car races, die cut machines, and tons of play experiences.

Followed by the circus themed “Carnival of Health”, that was filled with interactive exercise games as far as the eye could see.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Heading down another flight brought us to “Forces of Nature” where we learned about weather (including a hurricane simulation machine) and gravity. The kids loved lifting thousands of pounds with pulleys and having very fast wind blown in their faces! Since the last few months have been filled with crazy weather occurrences it was nice to have hands on demonstrations so the kids could actually learn about them.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

But here – the pièce de résistance – was the “Backstage Studio”, including a stop animation lab. Upon seeing this, my husband became giddy. It was quite possibly the most excited I’ve ever seen him at a place for kids. Normally the guy telling us it’s time to go – he sat down and created a whole movie for our kids which he proudly played. Forget them; I was excited to watch HIM enjoy it so much!

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

What we thought would be a fun back-up – in case of a rainy day while visiting amusement parks – turned out to be the highlight of our trip. I can’t recommend The Harsco Science Center enough if you will be in the Harrisburg, Lancaster, or Pennsylvania Dutch area. Rain or shine, this place will be a hit.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

As if their permanent exhibits aren’t cool enough, they have visiting exhibits as well (while we were there it was dinosaurs!). If you live in the area you can also take advantage of the wonderful programs they offer like Little Learners and a Parent-Child STEM Adventure program for kids 3-5. They also have Girl Scout programs and Girls in STEM programs.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

With the holidays coming, definitely check out the Holiday Celebrations including the seasonal Whitaker Wonderland – a sock skate rink, “snowball” pit, and Cranky Cars – from November 17, 2017 – January 28, 2018.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

Venturing past the little ones – The Whitaker Center offers movies on the giant screen (Central PA’s biggest if you’re keeping track!) and live performances (including comedians and musicians) at the Sunoco Performance Theater.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

We really did have the best time. Plus the kids got to learn a little science (ha ha- tricked them!). I can’t recommend this place enough. A great stop for Fall, Winter, or a place to add to your itinerary for next summer.

The Mint Chip Mama - The Harsco Science Center at The Whitaker Center - a Top Family Destination in PA!

***GIVEAWAY***

I’m not the only one who wants you to experience this amazing place, the kind people at The Whitaker Center want you to come as well! They’ve generously offered to give away to one lucky reader of The Mint Chip Mama a Family Four Pack of tickets!

To win, please comment below – what your kids would be the most excited to see (or learn about) at The Whitaker Center!

Winner will be picked Wednesday, November 1st, 2017, 5pm EST.

Please also take a moment to follow my blog & like my Facebook page where I share a little something special every day!

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Cherry Crest Farm – A Great Family Destination!

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The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

We were so lucky to visit Cherry Crest Farm on our last trip to Lancaster, PA. We saw the farm last year as we passed by in the Strasburg Railroad, but it wasn’t until a friend highly recommended it that we made it a “must see” this time around. I get why, this place was fantastic!

To be honest, we loved it even more than expected. From the huge and legit corn maze (read: we had to sit through a corn maze orientation), to the tons of “old school” games and rides and slides, to the local food, to the pig races – we had to pull the kids out of there.

We began our day immediately heading to the Pedal Cart Track where my daughter, who is notorious for wanting to drive anything anyone will let her – got her fill.

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

Next, we headed to The Amazing Maze to see what the hubbub was about. As Corn Maze first-timers, we were really impressed and opted for the beginner trail with our three kids – ages 7, 3 and 1. Besides seeing real ears of corn growing in the real corn husks, there were little hidden surprises and fun “corny” signs everywhere! My kids loved finding these Ninja Warrior places, or fun maze puzzle piece stations.

Completely worth mentioning here is the love Cherry Crest Farm puts into this maze. This year’s theme was Charlotte’s Web and from an aerial view that’s just what you got. Plus with color coded ropes in the maze you could tell which part of the design you were in the whole time. Their 22 years of a-maze-ing designs are proudly displayed at the entrance.

Next, we headed to “The Courtyard” Area. Here my kids spent a TON of time playing with the Rubber Duck Race and going through the Straw Bale Maze. When my daughter told me she wanted to go on their “Website” I took a moment to say we’re not looking on phones while here. Then I saw her pointing and laughed. You have to say, Cherry Crest Farm has a good sense of humor!

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

But the piece d’resistance of this area was definitely the Lil Wagon Express. We went on it many, many, many times. But it is not just a wagon ride, it is a scavenger hunt to find hidden animals along the way. My son loved finding them. Every. Single. Time. (Hint, they were made of wood and didn’t move).

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

For the moms in the crowd I have to take a moment to compliment Cherry Crest Farm for not only having a lovely Baby Changing Area and Nursing Suite, but a bathroom stocked with what’s needed when it’s needed. You know what I mean. No quarters necessary (thank you!).

Enroute to the expansive area up the hill called “The Barnyard”, we stopped to take a picture on the Bucking Bronco. Not sure they made it the full 8 seconds, but Luke Perry would be proud.

This area was amazing! We could have spent an entire day just here. My kids high-tailed it to the Barnyard Jump for some intense jumping and then moved on to the Hay Chute Slide & Straw Bale Racer. The kids were able to walk up the hill themselves with their burlap sacks and then come shooting down. This was done a dozen times. I was ok with that because I didn’t have to walk up the hill even once (read: parenting win).

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

Next, my daughter tried the Giant Slinger. Now this is mean, but my favorite part was the power of the sling shot’s backfire shooting her onto her tush in a very surprising situation. She was not as amused as I was…

As big builder fans, our next stop was the Lil Cabin Builders area. Here the kids made life-size cabins out of huge Lincoln Logs. Next, they tried out their newly chiseled muscles on the Post Pounders and all the fun games out and about in the area.

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

Finally, we caught a pig race and wanted desperately to make it over to the new Battle Zone but just didn’t have enough time. But this is a good problem to have, it means we have to go back!

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

With three distinct seasons at Cherry Crest Farm– Spring, Summer, and Fall we can easily return and get to do even more. They’re open until November 4th, 2017 this season and honestly, I’m dying to go back for the Flashlight Maze and Pumpkin Festival. Plus – spoiler alert – the Fall has campfires and s’mores!

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They have some pretty unique events too throughout the year, including a Facebook Fan Day – where admission is free if you liked their page. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before!The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

In my opinion, with the weather now cooler, and the summer traffic gone, Fall seems like the best time to visit Cherry Crest Farm. But then again, anytime would be a good time to go. Oh, Cherry Crest Farm – you had me at fresh squeezed lemonade and fudge.

The Mint Chip Mama - Cherry Crest Farms

***GIVEAWAY***

The lovely people at Cherry Crest Farm want you to visit too! They are offering one lucky reader of The Mint Chip Mama a family four pack of tickets!

To win, please comment below with the activity your kids are the most excited to try at Cherry Crest Farm and why!

Winner chosen Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at 5pm EST.

Splish Splash – Long Island’s Award Winning Waterpark!

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The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

@SplishSplashWP #SplishSplashWP

My husband and I recently got to relive our youth by taking our children to the 96 acre water park Splish Splash – an award winning water park practically in our backyard!

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

Located on Long Island, only a short distance from where we live, we spent the day shooting around in water tubes, descending down twisty slides, and laughing our soaking wet butts off! (Don’t tell my kids I said butt.)

I remember so vividly when Splish Splash opened in 1991. I was 13 and at the height of my water park obsession. My Dad & I packed up the car and were on our way. My husband had a similar vivid memory, Splish Splash was his first destination after getting his license. Our kids didn’t care about either. Ha!

But we love days like this- where raising our family close to where we grew up both brings up nice memories and let’s us create new ones. 

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

Enough with the nostalgia, let’s get on to the day! Splish Splash is right off the L.I.E about 45 minutes east of where we live. We parked and headed inside. With maps all over and the larger attractions numbered, it was easy to find our way around.

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

We started on The Abyss riding two at a time. It was great that my three year old could go on a big ride to start the day. I was even happier to find this was the case on most rides!

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

We continued on to Mammoth River. My kids giggled the entire time down while I smiled that we could all ride together in one raft as a family.

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

Next, we visited Hollywood Stunt Rider. Another family ride with winding dark tunnels. Equally great about this ride was the view – we were above the trees (a really big deal to my kids) – and could see the whole park.

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

My daredevil daughter next begged to go on Shotgun Falls, a free-falling drop slide with a five-foot drop into a very deep pool. Luckily her father is a good sport and took her.

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

Realizing height was a bit of a challenge on some rides, my husband offered to take our 38ish” son over to the beautiful and activity filled Kiddie Area while my daughter and I headed to the awesome roller coaster like Bootleggers Run. I should mention, at 5’2”, I’m a pretty lame tall team captain.

We met back up at Johnny Rockets for a quick lunch. As a big “bring our own lunch” family this was a big upset for us, but the park doesn’t allow outside food so we gave it a go. We got a chocolate shake. It all worked out.

We continued together looking for family rides and headed towards The Battle of Mutiny Bay (which also happened to be the perfect low key post-lunch digestfest ride). With water cannons coming at you from on-lookers, you had no choice but to attack back! My kids were hysterical! I can see why the Travel Channel voted it one of their 10 favorite water park rides.

Next, we relaxed a bit in the Kahuna Bay Wavepool, one of two wave pools we tried and then on to Dinosaur Falls and Dragon’s Den. The rides were great – not too scary but exciting and thrilling, the perfect combination.

Speaking of perfect – one of our last rides was everyone’s favorite – the Lazy River. I was lucky enough to have a snuggly little boy on my lap who just wanted to cuddle. I could have stayed that way for days.

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

Our time at Splish Splash was wonderful. The park was clean, there were tons of options for children of all ages and sizes, and there was plenty of shade.

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

A few Splish Splash tips now that I’m a pro:

  1. My daughter often suffers from swimmers ear so we got her the EAR BAND-IT Swimming Headband. She loves it and so far so good.
  2. I bought the Travelon Floating Waterproof Smart Phone/Digital Camera Pouch because I realized I had to take pictures! All were taken through the plastic, not so bad, right?
  3. I love individually wrapped Babyganics Alcohol-Free, Hand Sanitizing Wipes and always have one with me. We quickly washed our hands before lunch without walking to a bathroom. Score!
  4. Wear water shoes NOT flip flops, I happen to love these from Keen.
  5. You can never go wrong with a nice long sleeve rash guard.
  6. I found a super cool (not) sunglass cord in a drawer and figured – why not?
  7. We rented a large locker (there are three choices, large fit an over-stuffed beach bag easily) but cubbies were at each ride entrance.

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

If you live in the area, and have a child over 36”, you should definitely check out Splish Splash. It would be a great destination the week before school starts. The Travel Channel agrees, they voted Splish Splash one of the best water parks in America!

*Get your discount tickets here!*

Or use promo code: MintChipMamaSBlog17 in the top right box on the website!

The Mint Chip Mama - Splish Splash

The Crayola Experience in Easton, PA. What a Great Family Day!

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@VisitCrayola #VisitCrayola #magicofcolor

Who doesn’t love arts & crafts? In my family – from the age of eight months to thirty eight years, we all love creating. Upon booking our first family ski trip to the Poconos, we knew immediately the best place to stop enroute would be the Crayola Experience, in Easton, PA!

Back in 2012, on our first visit (and prior to the expansive renovations), we ventured to the Crayola Experience as an easy day trip from Manhattan.

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Since moving to the suburbs, and subsequently having two more children, we have been looking for an opportunity to return. The timing could not have been better. My seven year old and three year old went to town, while I enjoyed the baby friendly facility (including a nursing room on the 2nd floor!). There was literally something there for everyone.

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Bursting with four floors of color, we began our creative journey at the top.  While I waited on the short line for Melt and Mold, my kids were at Meltdown. Think painting directly from the belly of a giant Crayola crayon – the kids dipped brushes into melted wax and “painted” their creations.

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Next, it was Melt and Mold time. Here the kids put a crayon into one of three machines and watched it melt, drip down, and mold into a dinosaur, ring or Crayola swirl. My kids thought this was fascinating! We spent a good amount of time here and made souvenirs for pretty much everyone we know.

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Our last stop was Drip ArtCrayola’s take on spin art. As a child, spin art was my jam, so I eagerly awaited my turn right behind my kids. Yanking the throttle to control the speed of the spinner, my son pretended he was on a rocket ship as the crayon wax dripped into a beautiful circular design. It’s safe to say this exhibit was a winner.

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Feeling like we successfully conquered the fourth floor, we headed down to the third floor where my kids had tunnel vision to the jungle explorer in the Activity Studio. A HUGE two story jungle gym with twist, turns, slides, and climbing galore meant they were in heaven (and I could sit down for twenty minutes – yay)! I watched them have the best time and even ran back up to the fourth floor to snap a quick picture of them in one of the clear lookout bubbles.

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After some begging, I got them to move on to the Doodle in the Dark area. This great (dark) space provided large neon doodle boards on the walls, an animated dance floor, and an interactive dancing experience where a Crayola crayon copied your moves. Let’s just say Mr. Purple pulled out some impressive choreography!

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Heading down to the second floor, we found ourselves mesmerized by the Art Alive area – where your iPad creation magically transports  into a live animation on the wall.

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But once they saw the Molding Madness area they started running. Loving the vending machine and the crafting equally, they put in the provided tokens and picked their Crayola Model Magic colors.

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If your kids are like mine and seek out shows and character meet and greets, this is the floor for you. We not only met Mr. Green, we saw crayons being made at the Crayola Factory show and were transported into the two dimensional world of a coloring page in the Be A Star studio.

Favorites of ours on both visits, these are all not to be missed.

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As our grand finale exhibit, we created custom crayons by picking a color, logo, and name at Wrap It Up! Once the label printed out we used the machines to attach it to the provided crayon making it an official Crayola color. Woot!

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As our time at the Crayola Experience came to an end, and we exited through the colorful gift shop – loot bags in hand – we once again agreed the “Experience” was a success.

Perfect as a day trip or enroute to one of the many fun things to do in the Poconos, the Crayola Experience is a great place to spend the day. If you live in the area, check out their special events. Wish I could do a Mom’s Night Out here!

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****Giveaway****

Know what’s even more fun than coloring? Winning an annual pass to color as much as you want! The nice people at the Crayola Experience have offered to giveaway 2 annual passes to The Mint Chip Mama readers!

To win comment below:

What is your favorite arts and crafts/creative thing to do with your kids?

Winner chosen Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 5pm EST!

(Drum roll) the winner is Jen H! 

But even better – everyone is a winner! Follow this link to save $3 off  your admission tickets! The code to access the tickets is: Chip. With the school break next week it’s a great time to go!

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Ladies and Gentlemen and Children of Ages! Big Apple Circus presents Metamorphosis

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Big Apple Circus presents Metamorphosis

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Fantastical Fun for Everyone!

Looking for a fun activity to do when it’s too cold to play outside? Well, step right up to the Big Apple Circus! Boys, girls, and adults of all ages will thoroughly enjoy themselves under the big top where no seat is bad and smiles are guaranteed.

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I am a big fan of the circus. Not clowns (ew! They scare the bejesus out of me) but the circus. I used to drag my husband pre-kids and now I am happy to drag my whole family! This was our third year taking our daughter. The first year was exciting because they made an announcement that the actor (one of my favorites) Eli Wallach was in the audience. I couldn’t resist saying hello during intermission and telling him my favorite movie was Keeping the Faith. He could not have been nicer. Last year I bought tickets so far in advance I did not know I’d have a new baby keeping me home (my lucky husband got to go). This year we all went together and even the baby (who just turned one at the time) loved it. We were unsure if he would sit still but given our lack of a babysitter for the day, he came along. I think he was the most enthralled!

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 Photo Credit: FredCohenPhotography

My absolute favorite moment of the day was during the animal parade, when a camel literally stuck his head into my neighbor’s bucket of popcorn. As if that wasn’t funny enough, he did it a second time. We are still unsure if this was part of the act… if it was, my neighbor certainly wasn’t in on it! Kudos to the Big Apple Circus for replacing his popcorn immediately!

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Photo Credit: FredCohenPhotography

As always the circus was filled with acts that you should not and could not try at home. My favorite was the outrageous costume changing couple Vladimir and Olga Smirnov. I honestly do not know how they did it. You think they have the clothes layered but they keep coming off. I really want to know how they did it! Seriously, it was so cool.

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Photo Credit: Big Apple Circus

Also impressive was not one, but two ladies – Tatevik Seyranyan and Odbayasakh Dorjoo – who folded themselves into one small box. Yep, two ladies. Folded in half. One box. Do not try this at home folks. Makes my flipped downward facing dog seem pretty lame… The photo below only shows 50% of the women who fit in this box. At the same time.

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Photo Credit: Big Apple Circus

And of course what would the circus be without horses, dogs and other animals performing astonishing tricks before your eyes, trampolines, flying trapeze, “Chinese yoyos”, foot juggling, and an aerial space act that will leave you bedazzled and beguiled (spoiler alert, there was a spaceship. My daughter was MESMERIZED).

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The Big Apple Circus’ 37th season runs under the Big Top at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center (62nd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues) through January 11, 2015. The show is two hours long including a 15 minute intermission. The Big Top is heated and there are tables and chairs available for you to sit and eat prior to the show. There is also a stroller and coat check. Children under 3 are free when on the lap of a paid adult, one child per lap.

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In addition to the Big Apple CircusTicket Specials and *giveaway below*, I’m pleased to offer my readers the promo code BIGAPPLE which will give you up to $25 off tickets!* That’s per ticket, not just off the total purchase! (*Limited availability. Offer good on select seats and shows. Other conditions apply). Buy tickets online at www.BigAppleCircus.org, by calling (888) 541-3750, or at the Circus Box Office located in front of the Big Top on Lincoln Center Plaza (there is no service charge for tickets purchased at the box office). Hours of operation:  Tuesday through Friday from 10am – 8pm, and Saturday through Monday from 10am to 6pm (or to 8pm on weekend days when there is a 7pm performance).

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Finally, I want to share something very interested that I learned about the Big Apple Circus (a not-for-profit performing arts and outreach institution committed to invigorating the communities they serve with the joy and wonder of classical circus). At the center of the big apple, is a big heart. I like supporting companies that give back to the community and reading about all of these different programs simply blew me away.

Tax-deductible contributions made by corporations, foundations and individuals enable Big Apple Circus to bring its special magic to diverse audiences through its outreach programs including:

Clown Care[SM] the signature community outreach program of the Big Apple Circus, brings the joy of classical circus to hospitalized children at 16 leading pediatric facilities across the United States.

Vaudeville Caravan[SM] brings the uplifting power of the circus to delight the residents of nursing care facilities.

Circus After School[SM] provide a unique opportunity for at-risk youth to develop life-enhancing skills such as teamwork, commitment, and responsible risk-taking through a structured program of learning and performing the circus arts.

Circus For All!® annually distributes more than 50,000 free and discounted tickets to public and private schools and not-for-profit organizations serving disadvantaged children, families, and the elderly.

Circus of the Senses® a unique performance that enables children and adults with vision or hearing impairments and other disabilities to experience the magic and joy of the circus.

Big Apple Circus Embraces Autism! for these performances, Big Apple Circus worked with renowned ASD experts to adapt Metamorphosis for families with members on the spectrum.  The adapted show includes the same world-class artistry as the full performance only with a shorter running time, adjusted lighting and sound, calming centers, pictorial social narratives and plenty of folks to assist in creating a memorable event for all!

Ticket Giveaway!

Win two tickets for opening night at the Big Apple Circus!

Friday, December 12th at 6:30pm

To win, answer the following questions:

1. What’s the height of the Big Top?

2. What is your favorite part of the circus?

Winner will be chosen Sunday, December 7th, 2014 at 5pm.