Discover the most mesmerizing + eccentric shows in the United States that have accomplished the near-impossible feat of being intriguing for all ages.
The vibrant energy of an engaged crowd, the thrill of being so close to profound talent, and the fusion of theatrical elements that make humans feel makes live entertainment an excellent choice for a family activity - and maybe even an excuse for a full-blown family vacation. However, all live entertainment is not created equal, and many shows are far from appropriate for children. So we vetted many of the greatest shows regularly presented in the United States, and narrowed it down to the best options for families.
Location: Treasure Island Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada
Price Range: $53 to $92 (a steal for Cirque du Soleil tickets.) Make sure to buy tickets at least three months ahead of time to help ensure you get your desired seats.
As almost everyone enjoys good dreams, splashed with a hint of the bazaar, almost everyone adores Cirque du Soleil. The combination of the world’s greatest athletes, otherworldly sets and costumes, eccentric music, and quirky characters makes most of these famous shows a total win for families. But some of the shows are pretty risqué - we're talkin’ nudity - so you don’t want to take the family to just any Cirque du Soleil production.
The Cirque du Soleil Mystere show is free of nudity and filled with shockingly talented acrobats and opera singers, musically enhanced adventures and high jinks, a rainbow of color, and sets that make you feel as though you’ve been transported to a whimsical utopia, all come together to create a celebration of the lighter side of life – something we could all use more of. As Cirque du Soleil says, Mystere is a “joyous funhouse.”
Tip: To better understand Mystere’s multitude of characters, go here to get the low-down on each.
Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Price Range: $17 to $35
Immerse yourself in full-on Texas vibes during this energetic musical that chronicles the story of pioneers in the Texas panhandle during the 1800’s. And rest assured that this compelling glimpse into the past is 100% more interesting than your high school history class, as it’s loaded with over 60 “triple threats” (performers that sing, dance and act), dramatic costumes, horses, foot-stompin’ music, special efforts, and of course, fireworks.
In addition, the outdoor amphitheater where this show lives is carved into the canyon, which is the second largest in the United States. Be sure to reserve a spot at the pre-show Chuck Wagon Diner where you’ll enjoy acclaimed Texas BBQ, all the classic sides and a generous helping of dessert before you settle in for the production. If you really want to impress the kids, buy tickets for the post-show backstage tour, where you’ll be able to meet the cast and get autographs.
Tip: Engage with the beauty and adventure of Palo Duro Canyon (aka, the Grand Canyon of Texas) by booking a few nights at one of their cabins or campsites.
Location: All over the place, and run by various organizations
Price Range: Generally $10 to $40
While kids might see some barely-covered-bosoms and a few drunk people, Renaissance Faires are primarily PG. While each faire varies, you’re almost sure to experience everything from elaborate jousting shows, rides on giant swings and labyrinths, to hair braiding, lots of flower crowns and a wax mold of your hand (something everyone cultured human should have.) These outdoor time machines have something for everyone. And then there’s the food. Massive chunks of meat, homemade ice cream sandwiches, and other delicious, yet not too healthy, delicacies can be scored at these gatherings.
If you’re doubtful about saying yes to this adventure back in time, know that while these faires are a bit campy, those that host it put in an exceptional amount of work to make sure the Middle Ages world they create is as accurate as possible. The performers you encounter do their best to speak in an Elizabethan accent, the music is often flowing out of old world instruments like lutes, harps and viols, and there’s always an abundance of performers and attendees going all out with their costumes – it’s unforgettable.
Tip: To fully commit to the experience, come in costume – you won’t be the only one.
Locations: Permanent productions in Las Vegas, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, Orlando, and New York City
Price Range: $100 to $230
These odd, cheery musical wizards put on a superb show that checks all the boxes for family entertainment: lively, catchy music, visually stimulating, curse-word-free and lots of humor. The mix of music, communication through crazy eye contact and physical gestures, and multimedia art creates an auditory and visual feast that turns even the youngest of humans into lovers of the arts, especially those that enjoy more action than talk, as the performers are mute during the show.
And for the adults, know that this isn’t a performance crafted purely to entertain - there’s a deeper meaning: these “blue men,” aka “human,” are expressing what it’s like to exist in the wildness of our contemporary society. Deep right?! The soul-moving percussion, rock music, silent humor, and stunning visual effects are used to express these humans’ connection to creativity and community, which can sometimes be super chaotic, yet always captivating. There’s a reason this blue percussionist-mime extravaganza has been around since 1987.
Location: Traveling shows
Price Range: $15 to $55
While most parents of tots may think it’s impossible to see a live show as a family without having to scamper out to the lobby half way through, the Sesame Street Live shows have conquered this problem by crafting productions so enthralling that even the most fidgety of littles will be entertained for the totality of the Sesame Street fest - which is pretty short.
Sesame Street Live has three touring shows, which include “Make Your Magic”, “Let’s Party!” and “C Is For Celebration.” “Make Your Magic” is based on Elmo being so intrigued by a magician that he sets out to learn the mystical art. However, he first has to learn that to reach his dream he has to employ practice and perseverance. “Let’s Party!” is a highly interactive performance that consists of all the favorite Sesame Street characters choosing a theme for their party, while of course, offering up all the fixings of a great party (singing and dancing) throughout the show. Finally, “C Is For Celebration,” which is specially crafted to be performed in a more intimate theater, is one of the best options for really little kids as it’s only 45 minutes, and consists of a lot of up-close, high-energy dancing and singing.
Location: Traveling shows
Price Range: $40 to $220
Disney on Ice has coupled two of many a child’s favorite things - ice-skating and Disney characters - to craft one of the most popular, and long lasting shows for families. This chilly spectacle is almost constantly on the road, selling out arenas around the world, as love for Nemo, the Frozen gang, pretty much all the Disney princesses, and other animated classics is a universal phenomenon.
However, Disney on Ice makes sure to mix it up, usually having a few shows touring at the same time, which all have plot lines emulating what’s currently hot on the Disney scene. So almost each round of shows involves a new storyline, with the characters being those that are at the forefront of childrens' minds.
While Disney on Ice is definitely geared towards children, parents will be in awe of the costumes, elaborate sets, and extraordinary skills of the figure skaters and acrobats. This is one of those shows that leave everyone buzzing with amazement as they leave their seats, discussing their favorite parts of the spellbinding experience. This is a bucket list show for many families.
Tip: Disney memorabilia is everywhere at these shows. To avoid spending a fortune, make a plan with the kids before arrival regarding your price limits on goodies. Same tip goes for the Marvel show below.
Location: Traveling show
Price Range: $60 to $135
For families with children who have moved on from Disney characters, to the action and glory of Marvel Universe, this live show, featuring all the favorite Marvel characters, will leave fans wide-eyed during the entirety of the performance. The combination of the extraordinary stunts and performers, the latest and greatest in special effects, and fast-paced plot lines pulled from the seemingly endless Marvel movies, makes the audience feel as though they’ve dropped in to this high-octane comic book realm. Add to the excitement before you go by looking up the primary storyline of the show, and watching the Marvel film/s that most closely resemble the show’s plot.
Tip: Sometimes, this show has toys that are interactive with certain parts of the plot. If you think your kids would be interested in this heightened level of participation, ask one of the many vendors if this sort of item is for sale.
Location: Traveling show
Price Range: $30 to $190
Founded in 1926, the Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that have awed families in more than 26,000 productions, spread over 123 countries. Their mix of crazy-impressive basketball skills, physical comedy, and the infectious sense of camaraderie that emanates off the team makes this a must-see performance.