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Guess whose 50th birthday won't be celebrated in Las Vegas?

Guess whose 50th birthday won't be celebrated in Las Vegas?
Circus Circus at 50 is a sprawling resort with two hotel towers beside Adventuredome, its indoor amusement park. The hotel's original, low-rise Manor Motor Lodge, can be seen at the lower right. (MGM Resorts)

You would think that a 50-year run in Las Vegas would be cause for celebration. Not so for Circus Circus, the hotel-casino along the Las Vegas Strip that promised a new type of theme-driven entertainment when it opened Oct. 18, 1968.

“Like a big top, the huge casino will have numerous circus acts performing around the cavernous room, trapeze and high wire acts performing over the heads of gamblers and bevies of showgirls dancing and singing throughout the casino as well as in each of the 14 bars and restaurants in the building,” the Las Vegas Review wrote of the opening.

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Since then, the oldest of parent company MGM Resorts’ properties in the city, has become viewed as the dowdy stepchild to the company’s modern and upscale Aria and Bellagio. In an email, the company said: “Circus Circus isn't doing any consumer-facing celebrations for their 50th.”

Circus Circus opened in 1968 with clowns, a ringmaster and the elephant Tonya.
Circus Circus opened in 1968 with clowns, a ringmaster and the elephant Tonya. (Milt Palmer/Las Vegas News Bureau)

The hotel and casino at Circus Circus (its Adventuredome play land would come later, in 1993) opened with clowns and a ringmaster as well as Tanya the elephant, popular with kids. Its famous Midway appeared in the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.”

“Family-friendly Las Vegas hit its first critical mass with Circus Circus,” David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, wrote in a 2017 article. “[Las Vegas developer Jay Sarno] figured that plenty of other gambling men would like to bring their children to the casino with them. Those children, he thought, should have something to do while their dads shot craps.”

Clowns and jugglers still perform each day along the Midway inside Circus Circus.
Clowns and jugglers still perform each day along the Midway inside Circus Circus. (MGM Resorts)

Billed as “the world’s largest permanent circus,” the hotel-casino’s Midway continues to amuse with daily performances by acrobats, clowns, jugglers and others. Entertainment starts at 11:30 a.m. and continues into the early morning hours. All the acts are free.

These days, the Adventuredome adds neon “glow” nights on Fridays and Saturdays, which includes neon face-painting and a neon disco roller skating rink.

Rooms (there are more than 3,700) at Circus Circus are often one of the best deals around.

A recent online check turned up stays starting at $28 on midweek nights from Sunday through Thursday, and $23 for some midweek nights in November. The rooms, which are in the hotel’s original Manor Motor Lodge, cost less than the nightly resort fee of $32. (Prices exclude taxes too.)

Despite the bargain room prices, Circus Circus is home to one of the Strip’s best-reviewed restaurants, the Steak House, where the prices are far from cheap. Yelp puts the cost of a meal at $31 to $60.

Info: Circus Circus, (800) 634-3450

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