Run Away With the Circus - Atlas Obscura

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Run Away With the Circus

Fly high in this afternoon of circus history and interactive aerial skills with the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.

Philadelphia is considered to be the birthplace of the American circus, predating the now infamous Barnum and his museum of living wonders by almost 60 years. John Bill Ricketts, an accomplished English equestrian, established the first circus in North America at the southwest corner of 12th and Market streets on April 3, 1793. "Rickett's Circus" featured horse acts, juggling, rope-dancing, tumbling, and a clown, thus initiating the city's long-standing fascination with the circus and its curious arts.

Join Atlas Obscura in continuing in this tradition with the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts (the largest full-time circus arts school in the entire mid-Atlantic) for an engaging and fun-filled afternoon of circus antics. You will learn about Philadelphia's unique place in circus history, the history of the circus arts school (which now operates out of a historic Roman Catholic church and school), and enjoy a short performance by the professional staff. Participants will each experience an introductory workshop overseen by fully-trained instructors in various circus arts: aerials (rope, static trapeze, silks), juggling (including balancing objects and spinning plates), and balance (tightwire-walking, rolling globe, and rola-bola). 


  • Please dress in appropriate attire that allows for physical activity: long leggings and a comfortable top. You'll be working barefoot. Bring a water bottle with you!
  • Participants will be expected to sign waivers from PSCA.
  • You can, of course, decide to opt out of any interactive experience, but no refunds, in partial or in full, will be offered.
  • Ample parking is available in the school's parking lot behind the church, but the school is also conveniently located one block from the Upsal Station on the Chestnut Hill West regional rail. 
  • Event will be held rain or shine; the performance may include a demonstration of the outdoor Flying Trapeze!


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Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.