Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus – Fully Charged

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus – Fully Charged – website

** Note: Ringling Bros. was at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont November 3 through 13. Any specific information (such as location, parking, etc) is specific to the United Center, but my experience and observations are based on what we experienced at the Allstate Arena so it’s possible there may be some slight differences.

Location: United Center, 1901 W. Madison Street, Chicago
The United Center can be reached by public transportation by taking the Orange, Green, Purple, or Brown line to Madison, and then taking the 20 bus west.

Phone: 312-455-4500

Hours:Wednesday, November 16 – Sunday, November 27 (no shows November 21 or November 24)

Monday – no performances
Tuesday & Wednesday – 7:00 pm
Thursday – 10:30 am, 7:00 pm
Friday, Nov 18 – 10:30 am, 7:00 pm
Friday, Nov 25 – 11:30 am, 3:30 pm, 7:30 pm
Saturday – 11:30 am, 3:30 pm, 7:30 pm
Sunday – 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm

Admission: Tickets range from $13-$90. Opening day tickets are $11. Children’s tickets are discounted 50% on certain days. Discounted tickets are available for groups and Scout Night (Friday, November 18 & Friday, November 25).

Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketmaster.

Use the code MOMMY to purchase 4 tickets for just $44 for weekday shows, or to save $4 for weekend performances.

Parking: Parking is free for this event in the lots surrounding the United Center.

Bathrooms: There are public bathrooms on each level. Family bathrooms are available on the 100 level in the First Aid room across from section 115/116, and at the 300 level at the top of section 303/304.

Nursing area: There is no designated nursing area.

Handicapped/stroller accesibility: The United Center is handicapped accessible. Strollers must be checked at any guest relations booths located at Gates 2 or 6, or the Lexus Club Level at section 221, or on the 300 level across from section 325.

Other amenities: There are vendors everywhere selling glow-in-the-dark toys, swords, light up wands, and other items. There are vendors at tables throughout the venue and vendors walking through the stands.

Food: Vendors sell lots of food at tables and in the stands – hots dogs, nachos, cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream, etc. It’s pricey! $12 for cotton candy (which comes with a free plastic hat) and $10 for a cup of ice cream dots.

Special events: Friday, November 18 and Friday, November 25 are Scout Nights.  Sunday, November 20, the post-show will be in Spanish.

Activities: There is a pre-show that begins an hour before the show. During the pre-show, the audience is invited onto the floor to watch performers, take pictures with clowns, get temporary tattoos, watch an elephant paint, and participate in other activities.

In the lobby there was a photography booth were you could dress in circus accessories and get a picture taken (for a fee).

We paid: I received complimentary tickets.  (We paid $13 for parking at the Allstate Arena, but parking is free at the United Center for Ringling Bros. performances.)

Our experience:

We arrived early for the show. The lobby of the venue was packed with vendors selling toys and souvenirs; it was bright and colorful and there were flashing and spinning lights everywhere. We found our seats and sat for a few minutes. Vendors walked through the stands selling food and toys and although we planned to buy a snack or treat for the boys, we heard the prices ($12 for cotton candy, $10 for a cup of ice cream dots) and decided against that. The pre-show was happening on the floor so we walked around there for a while. The boys each got (free) temporary tattoos, we watched some performers, and hung out by the clowns before it was time to head back to our seats.

The show started out with a cute little skit and then a parade of elephants, clowns, and performers of all kinds. The kids were mesmerized. They moved on to juggling, tight-rope walkers, clowns, the “Twin Turbines of Steel”, and trained stallions and zebras. Cooper really enjoyed the show and Dexter, who we usually have to spend a lot of energy entertaining and containing, sat on my lap entranced for almost all the performances.

After an hour there was an intermission of about 15 minutes. The show returned with the 12 tigers performing in a cage with their trainer. I was a little nervous during this part; they stand up on hind legs and roar at the trainer and I have to admit I was a little nervous that my kids would watch them tear this man apart, but, of course, they didn’t. Through the elephant performance, clowns, the Human Torch (who is launched from a catapult and flies across the floor), and gymnastics, the boys both sat fairly quietly (with just a little bit of whining for treats) and enjoyed the show.

John and I enjoyed the show, but we both thought the animal parts were a bit sad. I was also a bit shocked by the prices; I expect to pay a lot for treats and toys at events, but I thought the prices (at least the ones we saw) were really ridiculous. We had some apples from McDonald’s in our diaper bag so the boys snacked on those and we noticed some people around us brought in their own candy.

The boys really enjoyed the show. I don’t think we’ve ever had them behave so well for a performance before (which is probably a combination of them really enjoying the show, being a little older, and them being well-rested and in a good mood). Cooper told us his favorite parts were the flaming man and the lions and tigers (there were only tigers, but he insisted it was lions and tigers).

I received complimentary tickets for my family. All opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Janie's Mom says

    There is a reason why you and your husband thought the animal bits were sad, the exotic animal performers live a very inhumane life and are trained with cruel and abusive methods. These animals have nothing to be happy about.
    http://www.ringlingbeatsanimals.com/bound-babies.asp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFCZ25w8rCY
    Bullhooks. Whippings. Electric shocks. Three-day train rides without breaks. Our yearlong investigation rips the big top off how Ringling Bros. treats its elephants. http://motherjones.com/environment/2011/10/ringling-bros-elephant-abuse
    No excuse for abuse!

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