The history of the traveling circus lives in Peru, Indiana at the International Circus Hall of Fame and Museum. This exciting Indiana attraction makes a great day trip or family getaway, located less that 70 miles north of Indianapolis. The museum is open in the summer months, during circus season, from May 1 to October 31.
A spectacular event wows Hoosiers each July in Peru, as the Big Top Circus brings internationally famous performers together under one tent. The City of Peru takes great pride in its circus history, which dates back to the late 1800s. Every summer since 1960, Miami County residents have been celebrating their circus heritage. The nine-day Circus City Festival turns Peru into an amusement park with rides, games, performances and the second largest parade in the state (second only to the Indianapolis 500 Festival).
Since 1958, the likes of P.T. Barnum, James Bailey and the Ringling Brothers have been inducted to the International Circus Hall of Fame and Museum. Several internationally famous circus stars have made the selections, including Lillian Leitzel, a well-known German aerialist. Hundreds of circus performers have made the hall of fame, and museum visitors can learn a bit of history about each inductee. This educational experience is a great day trip for Indianapolis kids.
The museum is located in the old winter quarters of a traveling circus. Animals, equipment and circus personnel lodged on the site during the off-season. The quarters were originally owned by Peru businessman Ben Wallace, who bought his first circus in 1882. Unlike many other circus shows of the time, Wallace insisted on buying only quality animals and employing only the best performances. For that reason, his circus was advertised as a high class show with beautifully carved wagons, great horses and top notch performers. In 1913, a huge flood destroyed many homes and businesses in Peru, including a portion of the Wallace Circus. The show kept trudging forward, until the Great Depression hit and ended countless circuses. After the show was bought by a larger company, many other circuses wintered in the quarters, which is why the town is often called the Circus Capital of the World.
The rich circus history in Indiana continues to this day. The summertime in the Circle City is packed full of circuses all over town, including at the Pepsi Coliseum, Indiana Convention Center, Conseco Fieldhouse and several other locations throughout Indy.
Only small tidbits of the original winter quarters still exist today, including some standing buildings. The International Circus Hall of Fame and Museum opened to preserve the circus history in Peru, and it’s now an Indiana Historical Landmark. Bring your family and friends on a fun day trip this summer to visit the remains of the greatest shows on earth.
International Circus Hall of Fame and Museum
3076 East Circus Lane
Peru, Indiana 46970