Children's Moscow

There are a lot of places in Moscow for children. So, if u want to have a good time with your children u may go to circuses and children’s theatres. The place of honour traditionally awarded childhood in Russian culture is reflected in the range and quality of the performance arts aimed at a younger audience. Many form of entertainment which have elsewhere faded from the limelight are here as popular and prestigious as ever, not least the thriving tradition of circus art. Particularly for younger children, Moscow's theatres offer a number of treats, the talent and originality of which should delight parents equally. 

Moscow State Circus:

When it's at home, the Moscow State Circus is two separate circuses, the Big State Circus on Prospekt Vernadskogo, and the Old Circus or Nikulin Circus on Tsvetnoi Bulvar. Unlike the touring version, the circus in Moscow includes a number of animal acts which may offend some people's sensibilities. However, the inventiveness and professionalism of the performers is astounding, and children are bound to be delighted by the dazzling variety of acts. Although there are some differences in presentation, both circuses maintain the same extremely high standards, and are undoubtedly some of the best entertainment available for children in Moscow.

The Nikulin Circus

The Nikulin Circus is one of the oldest in Russia, and the traditional home of the world-famous Moscow State Circus. The original stone building was founded on Tsvetnoi Bulvar in 1880 by the rider and gymnast Albert Salamonsky. Initially, the circus was most famous for its trick riding acts, but an increasingly wide variety of performers joined the repertoire, and later the stars of the show became the clowns. In 1946, the Clown Studio was established, and its alumni included the great clown and comic actor Yuri Nikulin, who performed at the circus for over twenty years and became Chief Producer there, as well as starring in a number of extremely popular Soviet-era film comedies. The circus has been renamed in honour of this much-loved performer, and a statue of him stands in front of the building. Although it's called the 'Old' Circus - to differentiate it from the Big Circus on Prospekt Vernadskogo - it was in fact completely rebuilt in the 1980's, and the building and the auditorium seem more like a theatre than a big top, with a plush red interior and comfortable seating.

Address: 13, Tsvetnoi Bulvar, Moscow, 103051, Russia
Transport: Tsvetnoi Bulvar Metro Station
Internet: www.circusnikulin.ru

The Big State Circus

The newer half of the Moscow State Circus, the Big Circus is a showier prospect than the Nikulin Circus, housed in an extraordinary purpose-built big top in the south of Moscow that dates from the seventies. The circus has 5 different interchangeable rings, including an ice ring and water ring, moved by a vast revolving mechanism that takes only about 5 minutes to transform the performance space completely. The atmosphere is somewhat less reverent here, and the costumes and setting are pleasantly tacky. The skill of the performance is never in question, with breath-taking aerial acrobatics and pitch-perfect clowing guaranteed. The circus on ice, in Russian specialty that you are unlikely to see elsewhere, is particularly spectacular.

Address: 7, Prospekt Vernadskogo, Moscow, 117296, Russia
Transport: Universitet Metro Station
Internet: www.bolshoicircus.ru

The Durov Animal Theatre

The Durov Animal Theatre was founded in 1912 by the great clown and animal trainer Vladimir Durov, and still run today by his octogenarian great-granddaughter Natalia, the Durov Animal Theatre is  much-loved and genuinely unique Moscow institution that has been enchanting and amazing children for almost a century.

Eccentricity and a love of animals have been characteristic of the Durovs, an old noble family, since Nadezhda Durova ran away from home and disguised herself as a man to fight as a cavalry officer against the French in 1812. She became the first woman to be awarded the St. George's Cross, and her autobiography was championed by Pushkin himself. She was also famous for her love of animals, and the menagerie of pets and strays she kept at her country house. Her great grandsons, Vladimir and Anatoly, spurned their aristocratic roots to become the most famous circus performers in Russia in the early years of the last century. Anatoly concentrated on clowning and satire, while Vladimir turned his attention to animal taming, and developed a revolutionary technique that based the training of his charges on a system of rewards rather than punishments. He invested a huge amount of time into study of the movements of the different species he trained, and developed acts and tricks that exploited and extended the animals' natural behaviour. The technique was famously used to teach sea lions to "juggle" by working with the movement they use in the wild to toss and swallow fish.

Durov's principles are kept alive in the theatre today, where it is the proud boast that no handler has ever used a whip or a cane. Although modern attitudes to animal welfare may nonetheless condemn the use of bears, tigers and hippopotami for performances, there's no denying the obvious affection for the animals and concern for their well-being demonstrated by Natalia Durova and her co-workers. Equally commendable is the commitment, also established by Vladimir Durov, to keep theatre tickets no more expensive than a loaf of bread. And, all that aside, it's a rare child that wouldn't thrill to see the chimpanzees' tea party, Fenya the monkey trying on hats or Tishka the raccoon doing her laundry.

The theatre has a big and a small stage, and also a museum which charts the history of the theater, and contains a number of past performers preserved for posterity with sawdust. Particularly for younger children, the Durov Theatre is a genuine treat.

Address: 4, Ulitsa Durova, Moscow, 129090, Russia
Transport: Tram 7 from Prospekt Mira Metro Station or Bus 24 from Tsvetnoi Bulvar Metro Station
Internet: www.ugolokdurova.ru

The Yuri Kuklachev Cat Theatre

This extraordinary theatre, founded and run by clown Yuri Kuklachev, has become enormously popular in Moscow and abroad in the fifteen years of its existence. A family-run operation, the Cat Theatre has a company of over 120 cats (and four canines) who perform alongside human mimes in a variety of shows including The Nutcracker and Cats From Outer Space. Kuklachev says that cats cannot be trained - they will only do what they want to - and the performances have a pleasantly ramshackle feel, with the cats occasionally refusing to do what's expected of them, or deciding to do something completely different instead. That said, with no more than soft words and gentle hands, Kuklachev can coax his feline performers into doing some amazing tricks, including handstands and aerial acrobatics.

The performers are often rescued from the streets by Kuklachev, and he employs techniques similar to those used at the Durov Animal Theatre, spending long hours examining each cat's natural behaviour before developing tricks to incorporate this into a performance. Alongside the cat acts, there's a great deal of traditional clowning by Kuklachev and his cohorts, and a lot of audience participation.

There is, of course, a limit to the tricks even Kuklachev can make cats do, and the shows are occasionally a little repetitive. That said, these good-natured performances are guaranteed to delight young children, and have enough inventiveness and humour in them to keep adults entertained as well.

Address: 25, Kutuzovsky Prospekt, Moscow, 121151, Russia
Transport: Kievskaya Metro Station
Internet: www.kuklachev.ru is a site devoted to the theatre's US tour in 2005, but has plenty of information about the theatre and some excellent clips.

Children's Musical Theater

This acclaimed and unusual theatre was the brainchild of Natalia Sats, a woman who devoted her life to children's theatre as a producer and director. In 1918, when Sats was only fifteen years old, she oversaw the founding of the first theatre in Russia specifically for children, the Mossoviet Central Children's Theatre. She played a huge part in developing a repertoire for children's theatre, not least by prompting Prokofiev to compose Peter and the Wolf. As the wife of Marshal Tukhachevsky, one of the eight top Red Army commanders purged by Stalin in 1937 for supposedly collaborating with the Nazis, Sats was condemned to sixteen years in the gulag, but returned to Moscow in the late fifties with her enthusiasm for the theatre undimmed.

Her plans for an opera and ballet theatre were somewhat hampered by the lack of works composed for children and the reluctance of singers and dancers to commit themselves to such a project. Her indefatigable energy triumphed, however, and the theatre was founded in 1965, developing a strong repertoire from close work with contemporary composers. Originally housed in a tiny concert hall, the theatre was eventually given a fitting home in its present location, a purpose-built space with two stages, the main stage roughly equal in size to that in the Metropolitan Opera House, and almost as well equipped.

Sats' ambition with her theatre was both to create new productions specifically aimed at a younger audience, and to present the classics in a way that made them accessible to children. The repertoire today reflects her plans and, alongside new versions of fairytales such as Puss in Boots, Snow White and The Frog Princess, there are also productions of 'adult' operas like Madame Butterfly and Evgeniy Onegin. The company has an international reputation for the high quality of its performers, often younger singers and dancers on their way to greater things. Every effort is made by the theatre to create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for younger children and, while it may not be that easy to get kids enthusiastic about opera and ballet, it's well worth the effort to catch one of the skilled and charming performances here.

Address: 5, Prospekt Vernadskogo, Moscow, 117296, Russia
Transport: Universitet Metro Station
Internet: http://www.teatr-sats.ru/english/index.htm is a comprehensive version of the theatre's site, which includes regularly updated listings, and clips from many of the productions.

Amusement Parks

The traditional Soviet "Park of Leisure and Culture invariably had a rather dismal funfair attached to it, and some of these have been updated in recent years with the addition of faster, scarier and safer rides. While Moscow is yet to get a full-scale amusement park, there are still a number of places near the centre that can provide an hour or two of entertainment for children weary of sightseeing

Gorky Park

Gorky Park is Moscow's most famous funfair, and attracts big crowds in the summer months. For toddlers, there's the well-equipped lunapark, with a number of simple but safe rides. For older children, there are rollercoasters, a house of horrors, the gravity-defying 'Fly Machine', and the Buran, a genuine space shuttle, shelved in the eighties, that now contains a flight simulator. In winter, the huge outdoor skating rink is extremely popular, but not recommended for younger children, whereas the pedal boats that come out on the ponds in summer are a staid but safe way to kill a half-hour in the sun.

Address: 9, Krymskiy Val, Moscow, 117049, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 237-07-07
Transport: Park Kultury or Oktyabrskaya Metro Stations

Poklonnaya Gora

This section of Victory Park has long been popular as a gathering place for Moscow youth. Although nothing special, the funfair has all the usual rides: carousels, a ghost train, dodgems, etc. There's also a 3D cinema, and Europe's largest ocean aquarium is now under construction nearby.

Opening hours: Daily from 12:00 to 21:00.

Address: Park Pobedy, Kutuzovskiy Prospekt, Moscow, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 236-65-89, +7 (495) 237-07-20
Transport: Kutuzovskaya Metro Station

Entertainment Centers

If all else fails to keep them happy, you may have to admit defeat and allow your kids a few hours of mindless fun in one of Moscow's burgeoning range of entertainment centers. Although the industry is very young in Russia, Moscow is doing its best to catch up with its Western counterparts in the provision of slickly packaged cheap thrills for children, and the choice is getting broader all the time. The possibilities include go-karting, rollerblading, and a lot of bowling.

Atriland

Inside the Atrium shopping mall near Kurskiy Station, the 12,000 sq.meter Atriland claims to do the largest entertainment centre in Eastern Europe, and has a wide range of attraction for kids, including karting, a shooting gallery, an adventure playground, and a number of fairly hi-tech rides. There are also a children’s disco, children’s bowling and children’s disco, children’s  bowling and children’s cafes on offer.

Address: 33, Ulitsa Zemlyanoi Val, Moscow, 103064, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 775-23-57
Transport: Kurskaya Metro Station

Roll Hall

Part sport shopping mall, part entertainment complex, Roll Hall’s main attraction is – as the name suggests – its 1,500 sq.m. rollerblading rink. There are also a Q-ZAR laser game, a six-lane bowling arcade, and a toddlers play area with slides and a maze.

Address: 3, Kholodilnyi Pereulok, Moscow, 113191, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 771-68-39
Transport: Tulskaya Metro Station

Lokstrim

Based around a large rollerblading rink with various zones for fitness, stunt skating, and figure skating, Lokstrim also has a special children’s rink manned by qualified instructors, and climbing frames.

Address: 125a, Bolshaya Cherkizovskaya Ulitsa, Moscow, 107553, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 161-86-30
Transport: Cherkizovskaya Metro Station

Downtown

Conveniently located in the Okhotny Ryad shopping centre, just opposite Red Square and the Kremlin, this large amusement arcade with over 120 video games is an ideal pit-stop for children grown fractious from too many museums and cathedrals. It also offers an "autodrome" race-track and a reasonably priced kids café.

Address: Lower floor, Okhotny Ryad Trade Complex, 1, Manezhnaya Ploshad, Moscow, 103009, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 737-83-82, +7 (495) 737-83-83
Transport: Teatralnaya or Biblioteka im. Lenina Metro Stations

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