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Whether you object to the treatment of animals or you’re just bored with the usual dog and pony show, check out one of these animal-free alternatives to the traditional three-ring circus. For more amusements, visit cheaptickets.com/events. Use promo code TICKETS10 to get 10 percent off event tickets.

La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil is big on artistry. Credit Walt Disney World and Cirque du Soleil.

La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil is big on artistry. Credit Walt Disney World and Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du SoleilThe Quebec-based company started in 1984 and now showcases its stunts in 17 countries. Stateside, there are Cirque shows from California to Rhode Island. O at the Bellagio in Las Vegas adds water to the mix for a show that’s anything but washed up. Sin City is also how to Cirque shows celebrating the music of both Michael Jackson and the Beatles. On the kid-friendly end, La Noube in Orlando’s Downtown Disney lets families experience top-notch artistry without the top-tier theme park ticket price.

Circus Smirkus:
In this Vermont-based performance troupe, kids don’t just watch the circus; they are the circus. The cast features children ages 10 to 18 who spend summers touring New England in their one-ring, big-top circus tent. If young audience members are inspired by what they see, they can enroll in Circus Smirkus Camp to learn acrobatics, juggling and other circus skills.

Circus Center: This San Francisco training center offers adult and child classes in everything from flying trapeze to aerial (remember Pink at the 2014 Grammys?) to clowning around. If you’d rather just watch, then check out the venue’s monthly cabaret series. These professional, 21-and-up shows offer an intimate, speakeasy-style setting; a drink ticket is included with each entry for a circus experience that’s truly intoxicating.

Acrobats of China: This show is a lotcloser than it sounds. The New Shanghai Circus in Branson, Missouri displays feats of strength, flexibility and balance, including diving through hoops, juggling people and an entire family riding a single bicycle. Arrive early to see the “show before the show,” a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.

Circus Arts Conservatory: You could say Sarasota, Florida, is the circus capital of the world, being home to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art to daredevil high wire walker Nik Wallenda. The conservatory brings performances yearround, from the kids’ Sailor Circus to Cirque des Voix, which combines circus acts with choir and full orchestra.

For more things to do, check out cheaptickets.com/events. Use promo code TICKETS10 to get 10 percent off event tickets.

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Tagged: California, City, Events, Family, Florida, Las Vegas, Tips & advice

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In this age of online shopping, it’s easy to forget that our favorite goods come from actual, you know, places. See where everyday items are born during one of these made-in-America factory tours.

Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Frances MacLeod

Crayola Experience, Easton, PA

Let your imagination run wild through four floors of colorful fun at this attraction about a 90-minute drive from Philadelphia or New York City. Watch a live-action theater show that explains how crayons are brought to life, create custom crayons and run wild in the two-story color-themed playground.

Photo courtesy of Darah Thomas

Photo courtesy of Darah Thomas

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour, Louisville, KY

This bat factory will score a home run with baseball fans. As you enter the building, you’ll walk past the world’s largest bat—a 120-feet-tall replica of Babe Ruth’s own Louisville Slugger. Then it’s onto the factory and museum, where you can watch bats being made, hold bats used by Major League Baseball legends and test out the batting cages. At the end of the factory tour, take home a free miniature bat or order a full-size personalized Slugger.

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company

Jelly Belly Factory Tour, Fairfield, CA 

You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store at this factory located between San Francisco and Sacramento. See what goes into making jelly beans that taste like buttered popcorn, toasted marshmallow and A&W Root Beer, and discover why it takes up to 20 days to create a single bean. But don’t fill up on the free samples; save room for bean-shaped burger or bean-shaped pizza in the Jelly Belly Cafe.

Stuffington Bear Factory Tour, Phoenix, AZ

Before there was Build-A-Bear, there was Stuffington Bear. Watch bears and other stuffed animals come to life as they are cut, sewn and stuffed, and learn about the history of teddy bears. After the tour, stop by the retail store to take home a cuddly companion of your own.

Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour in Vermont

Photo courtesy of Nick Caruso

Ben and Jerry’s Factory TourWaterbury, VT

How could an ice cream factory tour not be fun? Learn about the history of the company, watch as sweet treats come to life on the factory floor and, yes, indulge in free samples. Find even more sweet treats in the Scoop Shop, which offers traditional ice cream treats and specialty desserts. 

Photo courtesy of: linearclassic | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of  linearclassic | Flickr Creative Commons

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, DC, and Fort Worth, TX

Anyone can make money, but not everyone make money. In each of these tours, you can stand above the production floor as millions of dollars roll off the printing press, watch a video about the production process and, ironically, buy souvenir currency in the gift shop.

Photo courtesy of Becky Musgrove.

Photo courtesy of Becky Musgrove

Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory Tour, Avery Island, LA

The hottest tour in the South starts with a visit to this lush Louisiana island. Watch a film about the history of the spicy condiment, see where Tabasco is aged in white oak barrels and look on as the sauce is bottled and packaged to begin its journey to kitchen tables across America.

Photo courtesy of Harinder Singh

Photo courtesyof Harinder Singh

Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing TourEverett, WA

Take your knowledge of air travel to new heights during this rare public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant just north of Seattle. Interact with exhibits, walk through tunnels and ride a freight elevator to a balcony high above the factory floor as you watch 747s and other aircraft being assembled.

Photo courtesy of Tillamook.

Photo courtesy of Tillamook

Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook, OR

Tillamook ages its cheeses for up to three year,s but you won’t need to wait that long to sample the goods during a self-guided tour of its Pacific Coast factory. Get a bird’s eye view as milk is transformed into 171,000 pounds of cheddar, pepper jack and more every day. After the tour, nosh on grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream and other dairy delights in the on-site restaurant.

Photo courtesy of: ooitschristina | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of ooitschristina | Flickr Creative Commons

Gibson Guitar Factory Tour, Memphis, TN

First come the instruments; then comes the music. Watch and listen as the legendary guitars are bound, neck-fitted, painted, buffed and tuned on at this famed Beale Street factory. After the tour, stop by the retail shop for a guitar of your own, and start singin’ the blues.

Photo courtesy of: Matt Lehrer | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Matt Lehrer | Flickr Creative Commons

Budweiser Brewery Tour, St. Louis, MO

Before the craft beer phenomenon took off, there was good ol’ Budweiser. Learn about the company’s century-old brewing process as you walk through its historic building. Save room for a cold one at the end of the tour. Additional tours are available at these Anheuser-Busch factory locations: Fort Collins, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Merrimack, New Hampshire; and Fairfield, California.

Tagged: California, Family, Food & drink

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The Big Easy might be “it” when it comes to Mardi Gras. But it definitely isn’t the only. Colorful celebrations happen across the U.S. — and they come with a lot of the same bells and whistles you get in the French Quarter. We’re talking Zydeco bands, great Cajun food and parades that seem to go on for days. Oh, yes, and beads. Lots of ’em. If you can’t hop a flight to New Orleans, save some cash and hit a party near you. Here are six of our top picks.

mobile alabama mardi gras

MOBILE, ALABAMA
NOLA’s southern neighbor hosts a dizzying 39 parades over 19 days. Standing idly byisn’t an option; onlookers clamor for beads or go for the ultimate catch: moon pies (chocolate-coated graham cracker cookies with marshmallow in the center). Apart from parade mania, touring the local Carnival Museum is a must and puts the partying in perspective by showcasing the history of Mardi Gras and how it originated in Mobile. For a real insider feel, grab a ticket to a Mardi Gras ball. It’s not uncommon for Mobillians to have a closet full of ball gowns and for men to own a set of tails. Most balls are invite-only, but some bigger groups, like Mystics of Time and Stripers, may open ticket sales to the general public. Mardi Gras celebrations are held through Feb. 17.

universal orlando mardi gras

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT – ORLANDO, FLORIDA
If you’re traveling with kids, this tamer celebration is the one to hit. After all, it takes place on Universal Studios property — home to the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The spirit of N’awlins sweeps in from February 7-April 18, when days in the theme parks are capped off with Cajun food, a parade and live concerts. Every week there’s a major headliner, and this year’s lineup includes Jessie J, Kelly Clarkson and Trey Songz. On a smaller stage, New Orleans bands bring Bayou sound to the scene.

st louis mardi gras

SOULARD – ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
On any given day, jazz and blues music steams from the many nightclubs in St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood. It gets especially happening during Mardi Gras, which the historic French district actually turns into a month-long affair (January 6-February 17). Parades wend past the Anhauser Busch Brewery, Cajun cook-offs add sizzle, and even dogs get involved; on the second Sunday before Mardi Gras there is a pet parade (yep, the pups get dressed up, sparkly boas and all). Anyone is free to have a float in the parade, as long as you register your “krewe” (organizations, clubs or groups of friends). That said, it’s just as fun standing on the sidelines, cheering on the drag racers, musicians and costumed merry-makers.

MAGIC HAT – BURLINGTON, VERMONT
For 20 years, local brewery Magic Hat has thrown a Mardi Gras shindig, which is known for its parade down Main Street. Trumpets blare, jugglers wow, floats roll by and drums keep the beat as hundreds of people look (and drink) on. The parade is followed by after-parties on Church Street and throughout downtown Burlington. For true local flavor, venture a few minutes from downtown to Magic Hat’s Brewery and Artifactory, where tours are led and revelry is at a peak. Not only is this Mardi Gras a fantastic party, but it’s one with a purpose: This year’s proceeds benefit the Vermont Foodbank. Held Feb. 27-Mar. 1.

gaslamp district mardi gras

THE GASLAMP QUARTER – SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
The second largest Fat Tuesday celebration in the U.S. is more street party than cultural immersion — but it’s alluring all the same. The GasLamp Quarter, with blocks of bars, clubs and restaurants, is San Diego’s major entertainment district. On February 17, it kicks into overdrive with five outdoor stages, DJs and a night parade with bands, floats, classic cars, belly dancers and Brazilian entertainment that could rival that of Carnival. Snoopadelic headlines the event, so crowds are expected to be thicker than a bowl of gumbo.

breckenridge mardi gras

BRECKENRIDGE MOUNTAIN  – BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO
More than 15 years ago, a group ofNew Orleanians moved to this mountain paradise and brought a little bit of NOLA with them. Their modest celebration has expanded to the whole town of Breckenridge and includes live music, fire dancers and snow play. On Fat Tuesday, several blocks of Main Street shut down for a street party featuring Chris Daniels & the Kings, a jazz and swing act that’s performed with B.B. King. Larger-than-life puppets and harlequin-masked bon vivants light up the night as the sun sets behind the peaks of Breckenridge Ski Resort. New Orleans-themed food and drink specials are available at restaurants throughout town. Held Feb. 17.

Story by Kelly Aiglon

CTIXblog CTA _ cheap of the week

Tagged: California, Cheap Tips, City, Events, Festivals, Florida, FREE!, Holidays, Last minute travel, Music, Off-season, Seasonal

Kelly Aiglon

Kelly Aiglon

Kelly Aiglon

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