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Is the Carden Circus Worth It?

The Carden Circus is a classic big-top experience. Performers stretch the limits of human ability as they fly through the air, swallow fire, and walk the tightrope.

But spectators are increasingly hesitant to buy tickets to the circus. 

Today, we’re looking into one of the greatest shows on earth to discover what secrets are hiding behind the curtain. 

Let’s dive in!

circus performer
Head to the Carden Circus for a thrilling show.

What Is the Carden Circus?

For over 50 years, the Carden Circus has entertained families with astonishing athletic feats and amazing animals. This traditional circus experience has something for everyone. The main show promises to astonish viewers. Aerial acrobats and exotic animals take the stage to perform incredible acts. 

The Carden Circus is the largest in the US. They’re based in Springfield, Missouri, but they also tour throughout Texas and Oklahoma. 

Who Owns Carden Circus?

Current owner George Carden has performed in the circus since he was three years old. His mother, Betty Winkler, met Larry Carden while he was filling out divorce papers from his current wife. The two married less than a month later. They immediately hit the road, performing in the Carden Circus. 

Before George took center stage as the ringleader, he worked everything from concession stands to cleaning duties. Additionally, he’s filled just about every role in the circus.

George bought the Carden Circus from Larry in the 1980s. In 2022 he was inducted into the Circus Ring of Fame. This foundation honors lifelong performers and people who’ve significantly impacted the circus industry. 

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How Long Does the Carden Circus Last?

The length of each show varies depending on the venue and acts set to perform. The Carden Circus switches up its performances every two years. These include flying trapeze artists, a human cannonball, and numerous animal acts. But on average, shows tend to last about two and a half hours. 

Can You Buy Tickets for the Carden Circus at the Door?

It’s possible to buy tickets at the door when they’re available. However, shows occasionally sell out, and you can’t predict when that might happen. So to be safe, order your tickets online ahead of time. 

Adult general admission to the Carden Circus costs about $25. However, their website typically offers specials and discounts. Pre-sale tickets are usually half off the regular price. One of their best deals is one free child ticket for every adult ticket purchased.  

In addition, they offer the first 100 people in line for every show entrance at a super deal, even better than the pre-sale price. So it’s worth getting there early enough to try getting this excellent discount.

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Does the Carden Circus Give Animal Rides?

If you get to the venue an hour before showtime, you can get the chance to hop on top of a camel or an elephant. Sometimes they offer these rides during intermission, but it’s not a guarantee. You’ll pay extra for this interactive experience, but riding an elephant is something you’ll likely remember forever. 

Before the show opens, they also offer face painting, bouncy castles, and other activities for kids and adults alike. 

Does Carden Circus Have Tigers?

In addition to the elephants and camels, the Carden Circus also features live tigers. However, the company has come under scrutiny for including these animals in its shows. Animal activists have called on them to rehome these creatures to sanctuaries where they have room to roam. 

In response, Carden and his team vehemently deny the mistreatment of their animals. They refer to them as “family” and claim to have a zero-tolerance policy for verbal or physical abuse.

George Carden says he won’t replace his elephants as they retire. But for now, they’re still a major attraction. While he seems to acknowledge that live animals are becoming taboo in the big top, his trainers continue to use bullhooks, which are hollow metal rods, to “encourage” the animals to perform.

From flying trapeze artists to dancing elephants, the Carden Circus has lots to keep your attention.

Are Circuses Illegal in the United States?

In the US, six states have banned the use of animals in traveling exhibits. Concerns over their welfare have caused a shift in the circus industry. Today, more shows than ever are animal-free. 

In Rhode Island, it’s illegal to use bullhooks on elephants. New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, and Hawaii have various bans on animal performance, with other states following closely behind. 

Why Are Circuses Becoming Illegal?

When you imagine an elephant, you may see this majestic creature wandering across the plains or enjoying a dip in the watering hole. But circus life is far removed from the African savannahs and Asian jungles. 

These animals are often subjected to cramped living quarters, rigid schedules, and forceful hands of humans. They have limited socialization and minimal exercise outside of training and performing activities.  

The brains and bodies of these animals evolved for life in the wild, not in captivity. As a result, numerous elephants have escaped, only to be found roaming busy city streets. So, aside from rampant concerns over animal cruelty, these circuses are also a danger to the public.

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Should You Attend the Carden Circus?

The Carden Circus features aerial acrobats, fire-eaters, and sword-swallowers attempting spell-binding feats. Contortionists bend themselves into knots, and tightrope walkers defy gravity. These aren’t your everyday activities and are pretty impressive.

But if you’re uneasy about the use of four-legged creatures in the Carden Circus, more shows are popping up around the country that don’t include animals. For those of us who grew up being mystified by the human performers, we can still witness these acts when the circus comes to town.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to attend the Carden Circus.

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