Sharks and cats and acrobats – things to do with the kids in Moscow
Visiting Moscow with family, and looking for something to keep the kids entertained? Then here are a few suggestions…
The new, ocean-size aquarium at VDNKh, which opened in summer 2015, presents eight thousand species of saltwater and freshwater fish and water creatures of every size and colour in 80 aquaria. Sharks, killer whales, octopi, piranhas and crustaceans … you name it, you’ll find it at Mosquarium!
As well as the colossal display of sea life, there’s a theatre for shows featuring sea lions, walruses and killer whales, and a pool for swimming with the dolphins. In a separate room, you’ll find a ‘petting aquarium’, where you can touch a stingray or a starfish.
Wheelchair accessible, open 10.00 am to 10.00 pm Monday to Sunday, closed last Monday of the month. More info on the website.
The old Moscow Zoo – the fourth biggest in Russia – was founded in 1864 by the Russian Imperial Society for the Acclimatisation of Animals and Plants. Its mission was not so much to amuse the people of Moscow, but to study animals and plants.
Today, it’s a sprawling scientific and educational complex covering 22 hectares, with rare animals, research labs, a children’s zoo full of animal characters from Russian folk tales, and numerous study groups for children. Among the many animals who live there, you’ll find jaguars, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, walruses and bears. Then there’s the Night World pavilion with its nocturnal rodents, the Bird House with its rare birds, and the Exotarium full of rare fish.
Wheelchair-accessible, the zoo is pretty crowded most of the time, but less so on weekdays. Open 10.00 am to 4.00 pm Tuesday to Sunday in winter, 10.00 am to 8.00 pm Tuesday to Sunday in summer. More info on the website.
Nikulin’s Circus at Tsvetnoy Boulevard
This is one of the oldest circus companies in Moscow, which was run for many years by the great Russian actor and clown, Yuri Nikulin (it’s currently run by his son, Maksim).
All the acts are hand-picked, for the most part covering the standard circus classics: trained lapdogs in pink leotards, an elephant rolling on a ball, and so on. And there’s a special programme every New Year’s Season, featuring Ded Moroz and Snegurochka (equivalent to Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden).
Open 11.00 am to 7.00 pm, or see the website.
Yuri Kuklachev’s Cat Theatre
This is one of Moscow’s oldest theatres for kids, invented and led by renowned animal handler Yuri Kuklachev.
Kuklachev’s cats fly in spaceships, sing in chorus, wear old-time starched dresses, play musical instruments, and do a whole range of other incredible things. Some shows may involve as many as 40 cats at the same time.
Kuklachev has spent years working with his cats. His approach is that you don’t ‘train’ cats; you play with them, detecting and nurturing individual talents in every animal.
Ticket office open 11.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Sunday. See the website for full details.
Circus at Prospekt Vernadskovo
This is Russia’s biggest circus, known for its staggering shows. Dozens of acrobats fly high above the ground, lions prance proudly in front of the breathless audience, feathered divas dance the cancan while gymnasts and jugglers perform seemingly impossible tricks.
The arena is sometimes converted into a giant pool, with amazing light and music shows unfolding on the water, featuring human and animal performers. The circus changes its programme twice a year, and frequently hosts circus festivals involving foreign artists.
Open 10.30 am to 7.30 pm, disabled access. See the website for details.
Durov Theatre of Animals
Moscow’s oldest menagerie theatre was started in 1912 by Vladimir Durov, the great Russian animal handler, clown, writer, animal psychologist, and founder of a famous circus dynasty.
With its humane method of animal handling (no whips or sticks), the theatre holds a special place in the hearts of Moscow’s residents. The ‘Railway of Mice’ is as popular today as it’s always been, as is the large space with its elephants, hippos, lions, tigers and seals, and the small stage with its furry actors.
Ticket office open 10.00 am to 7.00 pm, Monday to Sunday. More info on the website.