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  • Five Ways to Keep Cool at the Festival

    As we head into a sweltering weekend, we have a few tips for visitors to stay cool and comfortable on the National Mall. Don’t let the heat keep you home when the circus comes to the Smithsonian! Remember to bring along a hat and protect yourself with sunscreen.

    Photo by Hatum Saenz-Painemilla, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    1. Catch a performance in the Big Top
    This year our landmark venue is an honest-to-goodness circus Big Top, and it’s air-conditioned! Nearly every day at 12, 2, and 4 p.m., three of the country’s top circus troupes will take turns in the ring: Sailor Circus, UniverSoul Circus, and Circus Juventas. Each group brings their own dazzling brand of talent, and you can enjoy from stadium seating in the cool, dark tent—a complete transformation from under the summer sun.

    Photo by Elisa Hough

    2. Enjoy a gelato in the On the Move shade
    Guillermo’s Artisanal Gelato has stands throughout the Festival grounds, offering five frosty flavors: cherry, chocolate, mango, mint Oreo, and mojito. Take it to the On the Move section under the heavy shade of elm trees, where you can see art demonstrations at the Mural Truck, hear poetry and music in the Story Circle, and tell your own stories in the Mixing Room.

    Photo by Elisa Hough

    3. Fill up on free filtered water
    There are two filtered water stations, on the gravel walkway near the Wall Trampoline and the Flying Trapeze. Bring a water bottle from home and refill throughout the day.

    Photo by Elisa Hough

    4. Shop and relax in the Arts and Industries Building
    This historic building is the second oldest Smithsonian museum, now closed most of the year but wide open during the Festival. It’s home to the Marketplace, where you can take home Festival T-shirts, folk art, and traditional crafts—including beautiful handwoven fans from Kenya. Inside you’ll also find the Circus School and the Jubilee Stage, presenting performances and demonstrations all day.

    Photo by Elisa Hough

    5. Pink lemonade and lime fizz and circus beers, oh my!
    Visit the beverage stands for tall cups of pink lemonade—which, legend has it, was invented in the circus—limeade, smoothies, and lime fizz. At the Fly Bar, located next to the Big Top, those 21 and up can try draft beers inspired by the circus arts: Magic Hat Circus Boy Hefeweizen, Big Top Circus City IPA, and more.

    Stay cool, and we’ll see you on the Mall!

    Elisa Hough is the editor for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, equipped with a goofy wide-brim straw hat and a Kenyan straw fan.

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