By Steve Beauregard

It’s exciting, it’s entertaining, it’s free, it’s air conditioned!

We’re talking about the circus acts show held daily at the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Since the resort’s inception back in 1968, the casino has used the allure of good old fashioned circus performers as its unique lure to bring in, (and keep) customers, both young and old.

One of the free Circus Circus shows

One of the free Circus Circus shows

Back then, acrobats performed over nets just feet above the gaming floor. You could be playing blackjack and see an acrobat jumping into a net right above you!

And while the set-up has changed since then, (there’s now space between the performers and the gamblers), the free shows remain – just as kitschy, cheesy, and as cool as ever.

The shows provide that rare Las Vegas opportunity to just sit and relax and be entertained – without spending any money.

The show area is upstairs, in the Carnival Midway area above the casino floor. I’s a very kid-friendly area with hundreds of video games and countless carnival style games of old.

In the middle of the Midway sits a platform stage fronting a small grandstand area. There is a relatively little seating ( reports the stands only seat 60 people), however if it gets crowded, there are plenty of viewing options next to the stage, as well as in Midway area.

The circus show seating area is to the left

The circus show seating area is to the left

If you happen to be there on a weekend, or a very busy day in Las Vegas, you may want to get there five to ten minutes early if you want to ensure you have a seat.

Circus Circus Free Shows

The shows are completely free, and are appropriate for all ages.

The type of acts run the gauntlet, from your basic silly clown show to incredibly athletic acrobatic displays. Circus Circus calls it “The World’s Largest Permanent Circus.”

While the lineup will change based on who Circus Circus hires (and keeps), you can expect a steady stream of acrobats, gymnasts, clowns, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze artists, balancing acts, and animal shows. The dog rolling a guy in a barrel was especially amusing to me for some reason.

For a free show, many of the acts are pretty impressive. I will say that the shows were much more entertaining that I thought they would be, and that there are some very talented performers here. A recent show involved two women from China, who used their feet to toss bowls on the other person’s head, all the while riding tall unicycles!

Circus Circus Midway Acts Hours and Schedule

While they say the free circus acts run beginning “at 11 a.m. daily,” the truth is that the seating area opens at 11 a.m.

The first circus act of the day actually begins at 11:15 a.m. daily and runs all day long until around midnight. The last show on Saturday night begins at 12:30 a.m.

A recent schedule of times for the Circus Circus show acts

A recent schedule of times for the Circus Circus show acts

The schedule is posted near the entrance to the stage and a large clock informs guests as to the time of the next performance, however for the most part, there will be a new show either every ½ hour, or every 45 minutes, depending on the time of day.

Each show lasts around ten minutes.

Circus Circus Midway Games and Hours

Surrounding all sides of the circus stage is the famous Circus Circus Midway.

While home to over 200 modern video games, it’s the classic, old school state fair type of games that you’re more likely to remember.

We’re talking about the games of skill, such as a ring toss, or football toss, or my favorite, the horse racing/skeet ball game, in which your horse runs as fast as the points you accumulate.

Most of the games run in the $2 range. And as long as there are two or more players, a prize is guaranteed. Granted, the prize may be a stuffed animal worth 28 cents, but the satisfaction and look of happiness on the face of my 5 year-old after he beat his big sister at the horse race game was worth much more.

Midway Hours

A fun carnival game at the Circus Circus Midway

A fun carnival game at the Circus Circus Midway

Monday – Thursday: 11 AM to 11 PM

Friday: 11 AM to Midnight

Saturday: 10:30 AM to 1 AM

Sunday: 10:30 AM to 11:30 PM

The Midway is also home to a souvenir shop and a McDonald’s, as well as the Horse-A-Round Snack Bar (which is now closed). The bar was carousel that was used in the filming of the 1998 Johnny Depp movie, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Overall, the Midway games and free circus acts upstairs at Circus Circus is a cheap, pleasant diversion, and great way to spend time on the Strip with kids.

In a town where drinks can run you $16, and where you get charged resort fees, parking fees, and get squeezed to blow money at every turn, a chance to sit in air-conditioning and watch an entertaining circus show completely free of charge is a nice change of pace.

(Photos courtesy of Suzy S. Photography, Chris Yunker, and Michael Ocampo via Flickr.)