Few things have the ability to make me go weak at the knees as quickly as the sight of a big top.  Lion tamers, tight rope walkers, and dancing poodles do the trick as well.  In fact, as a kid, I first told my parents that when I grow up, “I want to be a Chinese acrobat,” which stunned them into silence… They told me I could be anything I wanted!

It is with that highly-biased introduction that I take great pride in presenting Atlas Obscura’s Guide to Circus and Vaudeville in San Francisco.  We’re all big fans of ye olde-timey revelry, and hope you enjoy the following three amazing attractions as much as we do!  

…And of course, if you know of any contenders we’ve overlooked, please tell us about them either in the comments section, or by suggesting it for inclusion in the Atlas!

Zeum Carousel

Zeum Carousel - San Francisco CA - Atlas Obscura Blog


Located within the San Francisco Children’s Museum, the Zeum Carousel arrived in San Francisco in 1913, at the peak of Vaudevillian revelry.  Classic calliope circus music accompanies riders ‘round and ‘round as they bask in simpler times, when the mechanical feats of such a contraption were as mind engaging as the ride itself.

Full details on the Zeum Carousel can be found at its complete entry in the Atlas.


San Francisco Circus Center

Circus Center San Francisco - California - Atlas Obscura Blog


If only my parents had known where to send me to capitalize on my Chinese acrobat phase!  Originally founded under a different name in 1974, the San Francisco Circus Center is the United States’ only training facility for aspiring circus performers, young and old.

Find out more about visiting the Circus Center through its full listing in the Atlas.


Lotta’s Fountain

Lotta's Fountain - SF CA - Blog Atlas Obscura


After honing her craft dancing on barrels in saloons during the gold rush days, famous Vaudevill performer Lotta Crabtree donated this 24-foot-tall cast iron sculpture to the city using the gold nuggets miners bestowed upon her as payment for services.  Since its erection, the fountain has survived earthquakes, fires, and born witness to a grand, operatic eff-you. 


More information on Lotta and her fountain in the complete entry in the Atlas.